Dummies guide to early complex childhood trauma (a child’s perspective)

Posted: 24th March 2021

Things you REALLY need to know, understand, and accept about my early experiences of trauma:

  1. I am STILL scared pretty much every moment of my life.
  2. My terror began in the womb and wired me to feel and be afraid of everything.
  3. My survival system is chronically stuck in emergency, life threat mode so every sound, movement, smell, taste, touch, sensation, sight and signal from my body and other people’s bodies, feelings, and expressions AUTOMATICALLY triggers my inner fight/flight/freeze/shut down/over-befriend reactions.
  4. I am intelligent but can rarely access the rational, reflective, choice-making, impulse controlling parts of my traumatized brain.
  5. I often zone out of my life NOT by choice but because my survival system leaps in and shuts me down.
  6. I am rarely aware of what I am doing or saying.
  7. I struggle to clearly hear, see, remember, or process incoming information of any kind.
  8. Mostly I hate myself.
  9. I am scared of everything, everyone, and myself.
  10. I am very, very lonely.
  11. I have subconsciously adapted to survive things I should NEVER EVER have had to experience.
  12. My body has stored all the information from every moment I was under threat of harm, and being hurt, abused, and frightened…every single one.
  13. I can’t think differently to behave differently, but I wish I could.
  14. Your words are like daggers in my already bleeding heart.
  15. Your belief that I just need…is very disrespectful to my early traumatic experiences.
  16. I am desperate to be like the other children.
  17. I am always disappointed with myself.
  18. I am not lacking self-esteem. I am devoid of any sense of safety.
  19. I believe I am bad, rotten, unlovable and a problem.
  20. I am desperate to be unconditionally loved, accepted, and believed in for all the goodness and love I am.
  21. I have no intention of hurting anyone or anything.
  22. I would love to be able to control myself.
  23. My nervous system is NOT under my control. It leaps into protect me every waking and sleeping moment of my life…I am permanently exhausted.
  24. I crave connection and am terrified when I lose it.
  25. I connect in ways that gave me tiny moments of connection in the midst of my trauma. They don’t fit in normal life.
  26. I hate being in trouble.
  27. I can’t sit quietly, listen, follow instructions, remember, make good f*&King choices, pause, and think first, explain myself, simply change my behaviours, follow rules, care about rewards, tolerate any form of rejection or disapproval…there’s more, it’s a long sorry list I wish I didn’t have dragging me down and ruining my life.
  28. I’m not dysfunctional, I am functional for a life of emotional abandonment and ongoing threat.
  29. I would be so glad if you could pause and see me, not my behaviour.
  30. I am a wonderful, loving, beautiful, precious being.


What I need from you:

  1. Unwavering kindness.
  2. Compassionate curiosity to at least want to get why I am struggling so much.
  3. Unwavering acceptance of me (I get that you can’t accept my behaviour)
  4. Willingness to always want to hold me in good regard.
  5. Belief in my ongoing state of overwhelm, fear, disconnection, and hypo/hyper alertness.
  6. Your calmness.
  7. Less talking at me and more respectfully being with me and all of my fears and feelings.
  8. Time spent studying the impact of early childhood trauma – there is a huge amount of research and science out there. Go to YouTube and find Bruce Perry, Bessel van der Kolk and Gabor Mate for starters.
  9. Humility as you don’t know me.
  10. A strong desire to see me as doing my best and in need of a safe adult.
  11. Resist analysing, assessing my f*&king ACES, or diagnosing
  12. Listen to the people who are raising me, they are often huge experts on me and my needs.
  13. Avoid speaking or thinking disrespectfully or negatively about me as I can sense you are.
  14. Hold a strong belief in me.
  15. Get my Mum, Dad, Kinship or Foster Carer the emotional and physical support they need so they can be my constant.
  16. When you feel overwhelmed, disappointed, disgusted, disillusioned, and totally fed up with me. Ground yourself and reconnect your heart to mine so I can feel you still care about me.
  17. Put yourself in my one-year-old shoes and imagine my terror and aloneness. Try to momentarily feel my fear, sadness, isolation, confusion, hunger, stinking nappy, overwhelm, coldness and much more.
  18. Know that I want to connect with you and most probably am desperate to please you.
  19. Understanding that I can’t switch my trauma reactions off at will, even if it seems that I can and do.
  20. A commitment to keep yourself well so you can be the safe person I need right now.



Recommended foundational reading:

The boy who was raised as a dog by Bruce Perry and Maia Szalavitz

The body keeps the score by Bessel van der Kolk

Attachment, trauma and healing by Terry Levy and Michael Orlans

Inside I’m hurting by Louise Bomber

Help for Billy by Heather T. Forbes

Source: Jane Evans
Categories: News