As an undergraduate, I took a course on African-American Psychology and my professor, Howard C. Stevenson always ended each class with a touching aphorism. The one that remains with me to this day is “Don’t minimize your trauma”. This phrase is especially relevant for racial minorities in a society that privileges whiteness while simultaneously denying the existence of that privileged status. It also has relevance for those who have been forced to contort their experience in order to make sure that their relationship with their parents stayed intact.
Consider this scenario
A four-year-old boy’s mother sometimes treats him he’s the apple of her eye and other times like he’s terrible. What’s worse is that he never knows which way she’ll act towards him. This makes it hard to know how he should think about himself: is he a good kid or a bad kid?
The answer becomes: “I am however mommy thinks I am.” This way mom’s not wrong for yelling at him – he’s just a bad kid. He must not blame his mother at all costs because he desperately needs to believe that she is a kind, good and protective presence for him. Children can’t survive without this belief.
As a prominent psychoanalyst put it: “it is better to be a sinner in a world ruled by god than to live in a world ruled by the Devil”.
For adults who grew up like this little boy the need to remain loyal to our parents makes one want to minimize their trauma. Unfortunately this loyalty can lead to problems later in life when one is capable of surviving on one’s own. In these cases the “tricks of mind” used to remain loyal earlier can make it extremely difficult to:
- Feel like they are living their lives from the inside
- Know what they want for themselves
- Feel safe in relation to other people
- Feel capable of asserting themselves to others.
My approach to psychotherapy is founded on the principle that one need not minimize their trauma anymore. With enough trust in the therapeutic relationship and experience of support, the legacy of childhood mistreatment need not live on.[/x_text]
Contact me to restore your sense of predictability and safety in life.
Jay Reid is a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC).