When we lose touch with our feelings and needs, we lose our selfhood and vitality.
One of the major consequences of developmental trauma is that your self-development may have been significantly derailed. The home is the place where a fundamental developmental drama takes place for each and every one of us. In most cases, your home was either an emotionally validating and supportive environment that allowed you to fully experience and express your feelings, needs, and perceptions and thus become fully yourself or it was an emotionally invalidating environment that denied you the opportunity to experience and express your feelings, needs, and perceptions. The latter environment is a traumatizing one for children and derails their self-development. In a nurturing emotional environment, where children feel safe and understood, they can grow, differentiate, and develop strong identities and feelings of self-empowerment. When feelings and needs are not respected and validated, children grow up with weak identities and a sense of powerlessness. This may manifest itself in one of the following personality styles:
- A life of wrenching indecision and non-commitment. This personality style is the result of being endlessly torn between one’s own true inner aspirations and one’s need for love and support from caregivers which seem irreconcilably opposed to one another.
- A life of isolation and estrangement. This personality style is the result of attempting to preserve and protect one’s core individuality by choosing to distance oneself from others thereby adopting a pattern of defiance and rebellion.
- A life of submission and chronic depression. This personality style results when one gives up any hope of being one’s true self in an effort to preserve the love of caregivers and others.
If you are trapped in one of the above patterns, you probably feel more dead than alive. You are likely to struggle with depression, identity confusion; fear of intimacy and closeness, emptiness, anger, and oversensitivity. Generally, you will never feel that you are the pilot of your ship. You may often have trouble identifying your desires and values. Many people in this situation turn to spirituality to escape from inner turmoil and as a means to find inner peace and happiness.
Unfortunately, in such cases, spirituality often turns into another type of slavery that will only serve to keep you more imprisoned. But if it’s not religion, you may turn to anything that will relieve your deep inner anguish, such as drugs, dependent relationships, and a variety of other addictive behaviors. It is also quite probable that you find yourself in a marriage that compromises your individuality and self-expression.
A primary goal of therapy is to put your self-development back on track. The key to directing your growth in a more fulfilling way is to discover, experience, and understand your feelings, needs, and values. When you begin to experience your feelings and assert your needs without shame, guilt or fear, you will discover who you are. This will result in a new, liberating sense of personal power, authenticity, and vitality.