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More on Trauma

As we learn more about the workings of the brain, it’s evident that childhood trauma often plays a crucial role in the development of lifelong emotional—and emotional management—problems. They manifest themselves not only through eating, mood, and anxiety disorders, but in addictions and unhealthy relationships. The greater your understanding of how trauma affects your sense of self, the better your chance of making changes in adulthood to overcome early dysfunctional influences.

In Children of Trauma: Rediscovering Your Discarded Self, author Jane Middleton-Moz makes a powerful point: “Children live out what they see reflected in their parents’ eyes. If what is reflected is the disdain and unacceptability of the developing self, that self will be discarded in order to meet the image in the reflective mirror of the world.” This means that if your parents regularly mistreated you, you may have come to believe that there was something intrinsically wrong with you and, therefore, may have thrown away your authentic, good self in order to match what they saw in you. Now, feeling defective and bad, you abuse food because you believe you deserve to.

Middleton-Moz adds that “Children of trauma live in environments that stimulate emotions and simultaneously block their release,” a compelling statement that speaks to trauma survivors feeling oversensitive and believing that their emotions are too much for themselves or others to handle. Not only were they overstimulated by excessive emotions such as fear, anxiety, guilt, confusion, disappointment, and shame, but the caretakers who should have been there to soothe these emotions were, in fact, the cause of them. Growing up in such a double bind, children of trauma easily become overwhelmed, and one way they soothe their stress and distress is through food.

Another point Middleton-Moz makes is that children of trauma are so busy staying safe, pleasing their caretakers, and trying to feel secure, that they have little or no energy left over for normal developmental tasks. They are so consumed with defending themselves that they don’t have opportunities to experiment and learn the life skills which are part of healthy growth and maturation. One of these skills is self-soothing and another is soliciting comfort from others. Instead of learning these tasks, they turn to whatever is accessible and available to ameliorate emotional pain. That something is often food.

One of the reasons you have difficulty overcoming food problems may be that you haven’t recovered from childhood trauma. If so, it’s time to make peace with the past.