Siitting on the grass

Sharing – The Importance of What Wasn’t Provided

I saw Todd’s newsletter this morning, and it stuck with me as I read it. This quote sums it up, but you should read it at the link below.

“When we think of trauma or abuse, we often focus on what was done. But what is just as important is what wasn’t done, provided, or allowed for.”

I realized that in all the years I’ve been writing about childhood abuse, I’ve been looking at what happens in terms of childhood development in the wrong way. Not entirely, but I wasn’t considering what he talks about.

I’ve written often about how living in trauma or an abusive situation can short-circuit the development cycle of childhood. I’ve always focused on how surviving the trauma and chaos generally means there wasn’t time to learn the things you should learn as a child. What I’ve not focused on enough is that loss by itself. I have used the abuse as an excuse as to why I didn’t learn how to be a functional adult in society until I was 30. Still, I hadn’t considered that the emotional and social development skills weren’t on offer either. It wasn’t just that many of us were too busy surviving trauma; it’s that the development that helps us find our way in the adult world wasn’t provided.

Survivors will often talk about not being able to show emotion, cry, or act in any way displeasing to an adult due to the risk of violence. We speak of it in terms of violence, but rarely do we talk about the lack of emotional expression as an injury in itself. Yet, that’s precisely what it is. Whether there was a threat of abuse or not, this was a dysfunction of childhood that caused damage. When I talk about the development I had to do as an adult instead of before becoming an adult, it’s not just because I was in an abusive situation. That lack of development was a unique form of trauma, one that we share with many people whom we might not identify as child abuse victims.

They are tough. The impact of what you weren’t given as a child can be just as real as the impacts of physical and sexual abuse. The struggle to navigate relationships and work, emotional immaturity, the lack of trust, the inability to be vulnerable, etc. Those are all things we should be learning throughout life, and they are all something we can learn throughout life. It sure would have been nice to have been able to start that process in childhood, though.

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