Thursday, September 1, 2016

Does Our Past Impact The Choices We Make?

Does our past really impact the decisions and choices we make, or is that just an escape route someone dreamed up because they didn't want to accept accountability for their actions? 

  Think about it, if our current reactions to situations reflect on our past experiences, the way we are parenting our children and relating to others is serious business. Now I want to clarify that we can and do heal from traumatic happenings, we can "rise above them," so to speak but they still have an impact on how we respond to the situations in life.

   My daughter beginning Kindergarten is what triggered this whole thought process for me. How are those two things linked you ask? Almost three years ago, we learned through another source that CYS was not happy that we placed B at TAP. CYS felt we were "getting rid of him," as they said, and as a result they wanted to move Lia. We were working on the adoption process at the time and thought we had a good relationship with CYS so when we learned this we were stunned to say the least. The next months were a nightmare, in fact I don't remember much of them besides the heart ache and disbelief that we were so badly misunderstood. If CYS would have moved Lia, I would have been home alone and I was beginning to mentally prepare myself for that possibility during the months we were being investigated.

  It is now 2016, Lia is ours and she went to Kindergarten, leaving me home alone. Guess what emotions came to the surface? Panic, desperation, loss... I am reliving it all over again. This morning as I was picking up the clothing Lia left lying on the floor, I found myself mourning the loss of my little girl. I mentally walked through the grief of losing her and hugged her clothing to my heart. That quickly I snapped out of it but it was another reminder for me to give my children grace when they are obviously reliving a painful experience. 

  The only difference between my experience and my children's is that I am an adult, I can defend myself and do things to change my circumstances, plus I understand why I am triggered by certain things, my children can't.

  This is why the beginning of a new school year is so difficult for many children from hard places. Change means pain, a new school term means learning to know a new teacher, it means figuring out if she like me and accept me. When my children thought of a new school year, they thought of leaving the comforts of home and that thought made their body "remember" another time they left home and never went back. Imagine the fear they feel? The fear that they will never see mom and dad again... Except my children don't know that is where the very real terror they feel originated, they only know that the thought of school unleashes a load of mixed emotions doused with fear.

   One of our children reacts to new situations by acting ignorant and being defiant. Another child needs to me to spend time holding her and rocking. They are reacting to the current situation, a new school year, in light of their past experiences. Dean and I can explain why they feel what they do but they have to be willing to walk through that pain and reach the comfort on the other side, something that is overwhelming and scary.

  If a child has always been secure in his parents love and acceptance of him, he will usually face things like a new school year with ease because he expects people to love him. If he has been uprooted, endured prenatal substance abuse or other forms of trauma, he is much more likely to view the world as an unsafe place. What does a wild animal do when it is cornered? It snaps and snarls, looking as fierce as possible in an attempt to keep you at bay. Our children react to new situations the same way because they feel unsafe, threatened.

 Some of our children default to lying and raging when something doesn't go their way. We used to think they could stop this behavior if they wanted to, but we have learned that this is a trauma response. They are reacting to things that happened years ago and many times they can't tell us what triggers them. Consequences don't work, connecting with them, calming them and helping them figure out the big feelings behind the reaction empowers them to conquer the next battle. 

   Just this morning I saw this explanation for trauma reactions/PTSD:
 “Trauma causes the brain to malfunction. During a traumatic experience, memories cannot be processed correctly. So a person with PTSD is still carrying those traumatic experiences around in their body. Because those experiences were never filed away into the ‘past tense,’ the brain continues to operate as if the trauma is happening in the ‘present tense.’ It’s like a computer with a program that's running constantly in the background. The idle is way too high. And it’s an exhausting way to live. So those memories need to be revisited and processed. And we have an amazing way of doing that. It’s called EMDR. I won’t explain it here, but it works. It takes away symptoms. It won't turn you into a yogi who sits on the beach. But it will take away panic attacks. It will take away insomnia. And it will take away suicidal idealizations. We aren’t changing anyone. But we are getting people back to their best self.”

You can find the link here.

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