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Inspiring Success on the Road to Recovery

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Understanding Trauma, Abuse and Deprivation

The purpose of this article is to give meaning to the word Deprivation. Many times when we share our childhood stories we talk of the trauma and abuse of our experiences and can be unaware of the resulting deprivation that occurred. The 12-step program of Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACA) was established for men and women who grew up in an alcoholic or otherwise dysfunctional home. The consequence of being raised in an alcoholic or otherwise dysfunctional home undoubtedly leaves adults to face recovering from the effects of trauma, abuse and deprivation. To face it, we must first understand it.

Defining Trauma and Abuse

Trauma is damage to the psyche that occurs as a result of a severely distressing event that shattered a personal assumption. It is an extreme stress that overwhelms a person’s ability to cope. Trauma is defined by the reaction of the survivor of the event and varies between peoples experience to the event. Examples are: accidents, surgeries, death, violent events, and so on. Abuse is a form of mistreatment where there is intent to cause physical, mental, or emotional pain or injury. Abusive events include: domestic violence, name calling, threats, confinement, isolation, verbal assault, humiliation, or being denied integrity, dignity, self-worth, value or esteem, and many more.

Understanding Deprivation and Attachment Difficulties

When we experience abuse and/or trauma, we not only interpret the attack of our psyche, but we also experience the loss of our ability to be attached. When an attachment is expected and then broken deprivation occurs in our psyche. Examples are a child neglected by a parent, or an abusive spouse. As the receiver of abuse and trauma we often times struggle with wanting to correct the attachment separation. We comply with the abuse in order to hopefully find a path of attaching, to be accepted in order to belong. As we review our life of trauma and abuse, the age we were abused and or traumatized defines our ability to attach in a healthy manner. If separation occurs early in the first few years of life, the broken bond leads to disturbed emotional bonds later in life. As an adult, it can lead to aggressiveness, being ‘clingy’, social maladjustment and issues with attachment and detachment as an adult. 
As adults we tend to look at the past and tell ourselves to “Get over it” or “It was a long time ago.” As we grow intellectually, we’re able to see and express our experiences of trauma and abuse. I add the word deprivation because we need to discuss the attachment difficulties that occur with trauma and abuse. A child neglected or beaten can be an adult fearful of intimacy. A child who can only comply with the abuses of life develops a fear of rejection and abandonment as an adult. A person living with domestic abuse lives as an abusee, trying to figure out what to do to be loved. All three examples send the message, “If I can just …, then I’ll be loved.” 

Healing Through Healthy Attachment

The truth is trauma and abuse result in deprivation and the inability to discover healthy attachment. How many of us go to Co-Dependents Anonymous, Adult Children of Alcoholics, Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous or any 12-step program seeking attachment lost as a result of the deprivation we experienced in our history of trauma and abuse? 
We are born to be relational and in order to be relational we attach to others; creating the sense of being loved. Learning attachment is learning to face our fears, mainly our fears of intimacy and rejection. Learning to be vulnerable to ourselves and then with others is risky. It carries with it the fear of rejection or the fear vulnerability will give the other something to use against me, which is fear of being intimate. The second step states, “Came to a believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity,” is a measure of hope. From the view of trauma, abuse and deprivation, the power greater than us requires that we resolve our deprivation, and learn to attach to a higher power. 
If I am a person who has experienced trauma and abuse in my life, and live today in deprivation, then attachment to a power greater than me is critical for long term recovery. By recognizing our fears and acknowledging our deprivation, we can recover by learning to attach. First, internally attach to the child we were, finding comfort in knowing we did nothing wrong. Next, find God, a higher power, a power greater than ourselves to achieve sanity or soundness of mind in recovery. By understanding the deprivation resulting from trauma and abuse, we can also practice vulnerability and learn to have relations with healthy attachment. 

Michael is the co-founder and Clinical Director of North Pointe Counseling Center. Michael holds a Master of Arts in Professional Counseling, and a Bachelor of Science in Electronic Engineering and Technologies. Visit www.npccaz.com/