Do you feel as it's your fault that you are feeling anxious?
Do you ever find yourself dealing with anxiety, worries, stress, feeling of emptiness, or even having panic attacks? And, now on top of all of that, you may be feeling guilty for not feeling well? You may even feel like an imposter because you don't recall any trauma in your life, and yet you are struggling with these difficult feelings. Early childhood trauma you don't remember doesn't need to be horrific to cause adult anxiety or depression.
Are you ungrateful and guilty of lacking positive thinking that would help you magically with these feelings? After all, it must be your fault. Your current life may look like a dream to so many people. You may have a lovely family, success in your profession, and your economic situation is better than for many people.
And yet, in spite of all of this, you feel sad, empty, anxious, stressed, or guilty. You hope this is temporary, and you may not want to talk about this. You may be thinking that revealing that you are feeling less than joyful will make you look ungrateful for all these good things universe is giving you. You also may try different remedies, such as positive thinking for instance. This may be helpful temporarily, but the deep hurt that comes from the past still remains. This may prevent you from seeking help until it's really difficult to manage.
Early childhood trauma you don't remember may affect you even if your parents weren't monsters
Although you may not recollect some horrifying events happening in your life, it's not excluded that you may have had early traumatic experiences. Trauma doesn't occur only when we experience some horrible violent attacks or disasters. Early childhood trauma also occurs when our parents are unable to meet our needs due to various reasons. None of this has to be horrible, but for a little baby, these events may feel like life threatening situations. A little baby doesn't have the capacity to reason and soothe herself. Although you don't remember them, early childhood trauma experiences have profound effects on you.
Does this mean that my parents didn't love me?
Absolutely not. Your parents could have tried to raise you to the best of their ability. It could just simply be that they were so anxious to be good parents, that they couldn't be attuned to you for instance. They may be overwhelmed with daily responsibilities or going through some scary situations themselves, so it may be very hard for them to be completely present and soothing for you. Parents are limited human beings, and they all make many mistakes.
Basis of infant emotional needs is to feel safe
Providing the baby with clean clothes, food, and shelter will not be sufficient to keep the baby feeling safe. As mammals, we are designed to attach to other human beings, and the first attachment figures are usually parents. If parents for whatever reason aren't able to provide the safe space for the baby to feel soothed, this can lead to adult anxiety.
Have you ever seen a crying baby unable to stop in spite of mother trying to hold her, rock her, or feed her? The mother seems to be at the end of her capacity at this moment because nothing that she does can soothe the baby. Then the grandmother or the father comes and just by taking the baby, the baby stops crying. If the mother was alone and didn't have support, the child could be traumatized due to the mother's struggle to feel calm herself and inability to soothe the baby at the moment.
Magic of internal connection
This second caretaker was not exhausted and had the capacity to soothe the baby at the moment. The actions were the same, but the capacity to soothe the baby comes from within. The mother just couldn't feel calm when the baby needed this. This is why it's important that caretakers have support.
This example also illustrates how providing basics, isn't enough. Babies need caretaker's presence and soothing that comes from within the caretaker, and sometimes parents are just not capable of it. When babies are not comforted, they perceive the situation as life threatening, as they don't have the mental capacity to understand the proportion of the threat. Read more about the examples of unintended early childhood trauma.
There are so many ways in which you as a baby could be traumatized without experiencing any horrific events. And, this is not to blame your parents. They've possibly done the best they could with resources they've had. What matters here is that you don't feel guilty and worse about the fact that you don't feel well.
Our upbringing contributes to adult anxiety and stress
Rewards for feeling guilty and punishment for expressing authentic emotions
Besides potential early childhood trauma, our upbringing can contribute to feeling anxious, empty, unhappy, and so on. The issue is that we women are not raised to be happy, but we are raised to be "nice girls" and "get along." Nothing wrong with being nice and getting along. The problem is that we were rewarded for feeling guilty and punished for expressing our true feelings. This kind of upbringing leads to an inability to know ourselves and read our own emotions. Living an authentic life isn't possible if you don't know yourself. And, when you live an inauthentic life, you can develop these difficult feelings and symptoms of anxiety, depression, stress, irritability, addiction, and so on.
Women are raised to be in tune with others and their emotions, but now with their own
In addition to this, we women are raised to be caretakers, and not to pay attention to our needs, and avoiding self-care can deplete you drastically. Have you ever seen articles where they have to tell you of the importance of self-care? They basically explain that if you don't take care of yourself, you will not be able to be there for your family. Where did our upbringing go wrong when our own well-being is not a sufficient motivator to make us women do something for ourselves?
Lack of self-care can affect your relationships negatively
You can carry on like this for some time. Your life may continue as it has been going, but these feelings will eventually erode your capacity to handle stress and other difficult situations. Your relationships with loved ones may start suffering too. If you don't take care of yourself, you may not be able to be there for your partner or children in the way they need you. Similarly, they may not be able to be there for you. If you are not in tune with yourself and able to let them know what your needs are, they may think everything is OK. In this way, you don't provide your loved ones with the opportunity to give back to you, and they'll feel powerless to please you.
Focusing on your personal struggles may be hard, but it's so liberating
What can you do for yourself right now? It may be hard to start dealing with all those difficult feelings. This may be the reason why we distract ourselves with so many things. It may feel like going through some scary caves where you may encounter some strange monsters. But what if you had a competent guide? This guide can show you that these monsters can be tamed. A good therapist can guide you through this safely, so you start feeling more and more empowered.
Help is available, and you have a great capacity to get through this. You've been the rock of Gibraltar for so many people in your life. Imagine how it would be if you paid a little attention to your own needs? I bet you, you could make a big difference in your life. Just think how it would be if you didn't need to pretend that everything is OK when you feel ailing inside. This alone leads to a great relief. From this place, you can start the path of healing.
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