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Understanding Developmental Trauma


Michelangelo told us that "the beautiful sculptures he created were already there, inside the stones". He "simply removed the excess to reveal the precious essence that had always been there".


This made me feel deeply connected to the work I do with Developmental Trauma and Being Me Therapy and my beautiful clients, as we gently chip away to reveal the beautiful YOU that lies beneath. That's always been there, waiting to be uncovered.


SO WHAT IS DEVELOPMENTAL TRAUMA AND WHY DOES IN MATTER IN ADULTHOOD?


Please note, before continuing reading, while I have kept this reasonably light, this next part shares some potentially triggering information.


Firstly, Developmental Trauma is generally not about the one-off, big shock trauma events, such as being in a bad car accident, but more the consistent, frequent events that occur in the first years of our life, during our essential developmental stages. In this stage of life, we are fully reliant on our caregivers, and therefore safe attachment to our caregivers is instinctively essential for our survival.


As children, there are five core needs we all have which provide that safe attachment, which include connection, attunement to our needs, trust, autonomy and unconditional love. When these needs are repeatedly unmet, we have no other choice but to adapt.


Because of this, we often shut down or shut away parts of ourselves because when we lose this safe attachment, the feelings can be absolutely devastating for a child, so it is essential to adapt. We therefore sadly lose some of the beautiful, true essence of who we are in this process.


And pretty much everyone experiences it... just in different ways and at different extremes.


Sometimes it may be growing up with a physically or mentally abusive parent, living in and environment of fear and tension, which can lead us growing up having trust or control issues, fearing anger in ourselves or in others. It may be having parents who "don't do anger" and we learn to suppress the healthy emotion that anger truly is...


For others it may be only receiving praise for being a "good" girl or boy and learning love only comes with pleasing others, sacrificing your own needs or being "perfect"...


Perhaps it's having an emotionally or physically unavailable parent, so we need to detach ourselves from a need for connection as it's painful to not have it and we may grow up feeling like an outsider, not really fitting in and not wanted sometimes...


In some cases, it can come down to the position we hold amongst siblings, for example, being given too much responsibility at too young an age, having our own needs neglected.


Perhaps it's a little of many of these...or some of the thousands of other ways Developmental Trauma happens for us as children. If I was to summarise it in one succinct line, it would be that as children we find ourselves dealing with too much, too soon, too fast, and that, as a child, is incredibly difficult.



SO WHAT ARE THE ADAPTIVE BEHAVIOURS THAT CAN STEM FROM THESE EXPERIENCES AS A CHILD?


The most common adaptive behaviours we then see as adults can include the below, but often we experience multiple elements. They often go unnoticed for years, as we feel it is simply 'who we are', forming part of our identity. However, they create blind spots that can sabotage our relationships, careers, friendships and play havoc in family dynamics - often leaving us to think it is just how life is, wishing things could be different, but not really seeing how it could be... Do any of these resonate with you?


People Pleasing - Do you always wonder what others are thinking and feeling? Or often believe your own thoughts and feelings don't matter? Do you seek validation through pleasing others? What was missing for you may be an underlying need for autonomy, acceptance and approval.


Helping / Giving / Fixing - Are you always supporting others needs, sacrificing your own, no matter what? Or often find you are not even able to connect or recognise your our own needs? Perhaps you secretly resent needy people in your life and wish for once someone could see you have needs too. Do you seek validation through helping others? What was missing for you is often attunement to your needs, feeding an underlying need to be acknowledged and to feel seen and heard.


Perfectionism - Are you always striving for a level of perfection but never reach it? Or do you often feel nothing you do is good enough, so much so occasionally you don't even try. You may be highly sensitive to perceived judgement or criticism and compare a lot to others. Do you seek validation through recognition and praise? What you may be missing in your blind spot was an underlying need to simply to be accepted and loved exactly as you are.


Feeling like an Outsider - Do you always feels a sense of not fitting in or belonging? Maybe you often find it difficult to connect with people and feel misunderstood? You may consciously or unconsciously isolate yourself to avoid people. Do you feel validation by not needing anyone? What you may be missing is safe connection stemming from an underlying need to feel wanted and welcomed.


Hyper Achieving / Super Person - Are you always striving for excellence and achievement, constantly taking on more and more and more? Do you sometimes find it hard to trust others as they'll not do things 'right'? Do you struggle with vulnerability, in yourself and others? Do you feel seek validation by being capable, independent, in control and strong? What you may be missing is an underlying need to experience trust and safety in vulnerability and letting go of control.


Hyper Vigilance / Watchdog - Are you always focused on what could go wrong, feeling a sense of foreboding joy? Do you often feel anxious, skeptical or full of self-doubt? Do you struggle to rest? Do you find validation by protecting and looking out for others? Your underlying need may be for safety and security, especially in your body (nervous system).


The above are just a gentle insight into how developmental trauma can shape us as adults, impacting us in bigger ways that we often realise. When we start to see our blind spots and patterns, only then can we safely move forward in our own lives.


WHAT DOES DEVELOPMENTAL TRAUMA WORK LOOK LIKE?

Working to chip away isn't easy... I think Michelangelo, if he were around to tell us, would confirm creating the magnificent statue of David wasn't exactly a pain free, entirely enjoyable experience at every stage of the three years it took to create...


But my goodness, was it worth it...


Working on yourself through my unique approach which blends modern coaching techniques and developmental trauma practices allows us to really build our self awareness, see just how significant our childhood was on how we show up in the world today, explore triggers safely together to understand how we show up more freely and safely as our true selves, and of course support you to release any pent up, locked away emotions if needed as we go.


The work I offer is psychological, somatic and energetic, working not just with our thoughts, but our nervous system on a deeper level.


As many of you have heard me say before, our head accounts for just about 20%, from the neck down accounts for 80% :-) And our bodies have so, so much to reveal in our healing.


It is a gentle, safe and compassionate approach to making real transformation in life. To see your true essence, to break free from patterns that may be around for decades, to finally BE YOU.


HOW TO WORK WITH ME?


I'm excited to be offering more of my time dedicated to this area of my work. I offer retreats and one-to-one work, looking at our core adult adaptive behaviours, like people pleasing, giving/helping (but not receiving), perfectionism, hypervigilance, hyper performance, feeling like an outsider and more...


Exploring where they show up, like in our romantic relationships, work, friendships and, of course, families.


To find out more, get in touch for a FREE intro call where I will happily answer any questions and allow you more trust, understanding and confidence in this work. Or pop me an email at hello@clairekelly.ie



You deserve the life you really, truly want. I see you.


Love Claire


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