You know the line “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas”?
Unfortunately, what happens in childhood doesn’t stay in childhood. Childhood trauma and adversity linger long into adulthood.
After working with thousands of adults over the years, I’ve come to understand that the vast majority of their issues were rooted in childhood.
A 46-year-old police officer developed a fear of driving over bridges. We traced the fear back to a childhood experience while in a car. A 62-year-old woman wanted help with her weight. Her root cause was when she was 5 and her father brought her home a present and her mother screamed and yelled.
Finally, there is more and more evidence based research that backs up what I’ve known all along – our childhood traumas (whether Trauma with a capital T or small t) doesn’t just get left behind in childhood.
Childhood Trauma & Adversity- The ACE Study
There was a groundbreaking research study done back in the 1990s that is only now really coming to light. It’s called the ACE study (Adverse Childhood Experiences) and was done in partnership between the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) and Kaiser Permanente. It PROVES a direct correlation between childhood abuse, neglect and dysfunction and physical and mental health problems as adults .
17,000 adults were asked 10 questions about their childhood adversities. Researchers then lined that information up with their current physical and emotional health as well as behaviors like smoking, drinking and drugs. The results were astonishing! The more ACEs you have the greater the risk of chronic health conditions like depression, anxiety, heart disease, obesity and diabetes. Also a greater propensity for risky behaviors like smoking, drinking and drug use.
I was shocked to see what my score was – this is one test you DON’T want to get a high score on.
The good news is, you CAN turn things around! I know from firsthand experience in my own life and from observing my clients that childhood trauma and adversity can be resolved.
I have this sign on my office door:
Rewiring The Brain
There is more and more research coming out proving that our adult brains are more malleable, changeable and able to be re-wired than previously thought. The old belief was that by the time we reach adulthood, our brains had become “fixed” or “static”. While it’s true that our brains are more malleable (think PlayDoh) in our youth, our brains continue to have the ability to change and adapt until we die.
I’ve seen over and over again, adult clients break free of whatever their issue is and re-wire their brain to create the freedom they have been trying to achieve for most of their lives…
While I (truth be told) fall a little in love with all my clients, I’ve always had an especially soft spot for adolescents, teens and young adults. In 2016, a cover of Time magazine said teens are anxious, depressed and overwhelmed. The author, Susanna Schrobsdorff, tweeted “The hardest story I’ve ever had to write”. It was very hard to read too. The number of teens and young adults experiencing depression, anxiety and self-harming is rising at an alarming rate and they need help!
A recent survey by American College Health Association of over 63,000 students found 61% of them reporting they felt ”overwhelming anxiety” in the past 12 months. A 2015 survey by the Child Mind Institute reported “80% of children with anxiety do not receive treatment.”
Skills and Techniques Are Essential
I have said for many years that we need to be teaching skills and techniques for managing emotions in schools. We are starting to see some of it slowly trickling in, but it’s not enough!
I have an initiative that for every copy of my book “Goodbye Anxiety, Hello Freedom” sold, one is donated to a school or organization that will teach the skills to children and young adults.
I’ve put together a special report with five simple skills and techniques from the book to help manage everyday stress and anxiety better. It has 5 deceptively simple and yet incredibly effective techniques you can begin using now.
CLICK HERE to request your copy
Recently I helped a 14-year-old cheerleader completely re-wire her brain and eliminate her debilitating lifelong fear of dogs. After our first session, she was able to land a backward handspring for the very first time! After our second session, she earned a spot on the competitive cheer team as a freshman! She knew that, while we were working on her fear of dogs, these accomplishments were a direct result of the re-wiring of her brain! When we got to the “root cause” or initial event, it had NOTHING to do with dogs! (Not all childhood adversities are rooted in horrible calamities or tragedies). After our third session, I received this email from her mother:
Good morning Stephanie
I am so excited to tell you how wonderful Juliana did last night at the party. She was dropped off and I kept looking at my phone for texts from her. I didn’t get any. When I arrived at the party. There were not 1 or 2 but 3 dogs walking around and Juliana was standing in the same room. Not afraid,not anxious !! It was amazing for all to see. My heart is so full to see how “free” my daughter is now from the fear that has held her back for 14 years. Thank you just doesn’t seem like enough to say to you. I am forever grateful for what you have done for us. Bless you Stephanie.
This wise mother knows that we just changed the whole path of her daughter’s life! And what a gift to her two younger daughters too – who are witnessing firsthand that it is possible to overcome anything!
Another great example of changing the trajectory for a young person is Sarah, who came to me at 19 for her crippling fear of flying. She was absolutely refusing to go with her family on vacation to Mexico. After a few sessions, we got to the root cause (which was not at all what she and her mother thought it was) and she enjoyed her family vacation. Five years later, I saw this posted on Facebook ==>>
Sarah has now traveled to all 7 continents and has her own business called The Five Foot Traveler. Talk about changing a path!
Both of these are great examples to help you understand what I mean by childhood Trauma with a capital T and trauma with a small t. The ACE study focused on capital T Traumas, but the small t traumas follow us into adulthood too.
I truly believe it is never too late. The oldest client I’ve worked with (so far) was 82 and her anxiety was crippling her health. At 82, she could no longer stand it. When we traced back to the root cause – yes, it it was rooted in early childhood. Unfortunately, she had experienced a great deal of childhood trauma. We were able to re-wire her brain and install new healthy patterns along with some new strategies and techniques to help keep her from sliding back into old patterns.
The key is that, just as fantastic musicians and athletes have to practice and practice in order to become great, we need to consistently practice our new healthy emotional habits over and over again.
Life WILL throw us curve balls – adversity, like good luck, is a natural part of life. But when we know that and have tools at the ready, we can maintain our balance – just like tree pose in yoga!
Help Me Help Others
I’m on a mission: adolescents, teens and young adults need our help more than ever. If you have a connection to a school, college or university and would like me to come speak to students, staff or parents and guardians, please click here.
Finally, I would greatly appreciate if you would share this with friends and family. I believe EVERYONE can benefit from these skills.
Love & blessings…
Originally published at stephaniedalfonzo.com