Have you had this experience? … Something happens in your day-to-day life, often in an interaction with someone, and it’s as if you’ve gone back to the past. You’ve probably seen it happen with others too. You may feel a physical response, such as a lump or a closing in your throat, an energetic rock dropping to the pit of your stomach, your breathing gets shallow, and you instantly feel more watchful, alert and vigilant. At the same time, all kinds of emotions such as fear, anxiety, shock, anger, feeling hurt, betrayed, abandoned and others, may come flooding in, as if from out of the blue. All of this happens within seconds of whatever that thing was that just took place in the present. Your body is still in present time, but emotionally, mentally, and energetically you instantly went somewhere else.
What in the world just happened?
You were triggered into re-living the physical, emotional and energetic experience of some unhealed painful event or trauma from your past. You have just experienced the wound of your inner child.
Many women have learned how to pull themselves out of these trauma triggers and go on functioning in their lives, at least outwardly. We pick ourselves up and dust ourselves off and keep moving forward. We may shake our heads, and brush it off, or talk or laugh about what happened with our girlfriends.
But is the trigger really finished? And is the trauma and its effect really done? Are you really over it?
Trauma can happen throughout a woman’s life, including before you were born. Even trauma in previous generations can affect you. And just because a traumatic event or experience is in the past, that doesn’t mean it is over.
We’ve learned a huge amount about trauma and its lingering impact in the last 30 or so years. Before I share some of what we have learned, particularly about the effects of unhealed childhood trauma in adult life, first it is good to clarify what trauma is, since using this word has become fairly common in everyday conversation.
What is Trauma?
“Trauma is more than challenges, obstacles or set – backs. Trauma is different than learning through contrast or experiencing opposites. Trauma happens whenever the body-mind perceives being in a situation of life-threatening danger; this includes physical as well as emotional or psychological danger or threat. This is an intentionally broad definition, and includes directly experiencing this danger, as well as witnessing it. Trauma includes experiences such as natural or human-caused disasters, war, child abuse or violence, as well as emotional or psychological danger, such as emotional or psychological abuse or neglect, loss of a spouse, parent or important loved one through death or divorce. It can include the loss of a pet or moving .
Anything that is experienced as life-threatening danger or loss of safety or security can be experienced as trauma.
The Trauma Response
“When these kinds of experiences happen, the fight/flight/freeze stress response kicks in and the body is mobilized to get into action – QUICKLY – for safety’s sake.
Pulse, breathing rate and blood pressure increase.
Blood flow shifts from the cerebral cortex to the limbic brain - (from the thinking brain, to the emotional, reactive brain.)
Blood flow shifts from internal organs to arms and legs.
Muscles tense and prepare for action.
Digestive, immune and reproductive systems slow down.
“What happens mentally is that the event/experience and your immediate emotional reactions and unconscious beliefs/conclusions/decisions about it get isolated and “imprinted” in a packet so to speak on a neural pathway. This is also part of the safety/survival mechanism to help you protect yourself and get to safety as quickly as possible. These imprinted mental-emotional memories on a neural pathway are ideally to be processed and released later. However, when they are not, they become frozen, trapped, unhealed trauma memories and reactions; people then become hyper-sensitized, and easily triggered by new events that somehow feel and seem the same. This is in combination with new traumatic events that are stored on neural pathways. If they are similar in nature, they are stored in layers on the same neural pathway. The more trapped, unhealed trauma memories that are encoded and stored, the more sensitive and easily triggered a person becomes.
The Effect of Trapped, Unhealed Trauma
“This is in combination with stress hormones that are released when the stress response is activated. When stress hormones continue to be released and incompletely discharged, and the stressful events and body-mind memories not processed and released, unhealed trauma accumulates and begins to take a toll. Unhealed trauma disrupts normal brain and cognitive development. Unhealed trauma interrupts normal social-emotional development as well. These traumas can happen before a child can speak. They can become encoded before a baby is born, and they can even be passed down the DNA from one generation to another, as research is describing. Unhealed trapped trauma becomes a blockage or obstacle that impedes a woman’s growth and forward movement on her Soul Journey.
“Not only do traumatic memories not just go away with time, and get triggered when similar events happen in current life, we know the impact of unhealed trapped trauma can affect all areas of a person’s life; their relationships, their health, their ability to form lasting secure bonds with spouse and children, their employment, they ability to earn the income they are trained and capable of, their ability to live joyfully in the present, and to fulfill their highest purpose in life. Living with unhealed, trapped trauma can make life significantly more difficult, while making learning through experiences of contrast much harder, in part because learning itself is negatively impacted by trauma. 11. As a client once said, “Unhealed trapped trauma makes you feel like you’re living one long Groundhog Day movie experience, only it’s your own life.” 1
When this is your situation, your inner child is stuck in the past, and your adult self has a hard time living and manifesting the joyful, fulfilling life, marriage and work in the world that you want, and know you are capable of, now.
Your Wounded Inner Child, Childhood Trauma, ACE’s Research, and What It May Mean for You.
One of the largest series of research studies about trauma in childhood and its lingering impact into adulthood, is the ACEs Study and subsequent research. ACEs means “Adverse Childhood Experiences.” This term was coined from a large demographic study completed by the Centers for Disease Control and Kaiser Permanente. The original research was completed between 1995 – 1997, and there have been several follow up studies since. The original research is one of the largest studies of childhood abuse and neglect and family challenges, and later life health and functioning.” 2
17,000 people participated in the original research. They were mostly white, middle and upper-middle class, college educated with jobs and great health care.
“ACEs are adverse childhood experiences that harm children’s developing brains and lead to changing how they respond to stress and damaging their immune systems so much that the effects show up decades later. ACEs cause much of our burden of chronic disease, most mental illness, and are at the root of most violence.” 3
ACEs research is comprised of these broad categories:
The original CDC-Kaiser Permanente ACE Study and subsequent surveys that show that most people in the U.S. have at least one ACE, and that people with four ACEs have a high risk of adult onset of chronic health problems such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, suicide, and alcoholism.
Brain science (neurobiology of toxic stress) — how toxic stress caused by ACEs damages the function and structure of kids’ developing brains.
Health consequences — how toxic stress caused by ACEs affects short- and long-term health, and can impact every part of the body, leading to autoimmune diseases, such as arthritis, as well as heart disease, breast cancer, lung cancer, etc.
Historical and generational trauma (epigenetic consequences of toxic stress) — how toxic stress caused by ACEs can alter how our DNA functions, and how that can be passed on from generation to generation.
Resiliency research and practice — Building on knowledge (of the neuro-plasticity of our brains) and that the body wants to heal, this part of ACEs science includes evidence-based practice, as well as practice-based evidence by people, organizations and communities that are integrating trauma-informed and resiliency-building practices. 4
ACEs results rocked the research world, because the study was able to clearly show the correlation and impact of unhealed childhood trauma on a person’s adult physical health, mental health, relationship health and stability, and even their ability to fulfill their professional and income potential.
Childhood Trauma’s Smoking Gun: The General ACE’s Study Results
Six main findings were distilled from this first massive study. The results include:
ACEs are common…nearly two-thirds (64%) of adults have at least one.
They cause adult onset of chronic disease, such as cancer and heart disease, as well as mental illness, violence and being a victim of violence
ACEs don’t occur alone…. if you have one, there’s an 87% chance that you have two or more.
The more ACEs you have, the greater the risk for chronic disease, mental illness, violence and being a victim of violence. People have an ACE score of 0 to 10. Each type of trauma counts as one, no matter how many times it occurs. You can think of an ACE score as a cholesterol score for childhood trauma. For example, people with an ACE score of 4 are twice as likely to be smokers and seven times more likely to be alcoholic. Having an ACE score of 4 increases the risk of emphysema or chronic bronchitis by nearly 400 percent, and attempted suicide by 1200 percent. People with high ACE scores are more likely to be violent, to have more marriages, more broken bones, more drug prescriptions, more depression, and more autoimmune diseases. People with an ACE score of 6 or higher are at risk of their lifespan being shortened by 20 years.
ACEs are responsible for a big chunk of workplace absenteeism, and for costs in health care, emergency response, mental health and criminal justice. So, the fifth finding from the ACE Study is that childhood adversity contributes to most of our major chronic health, mental health, economic health and social health issues.
On a population level, it doesn’t matter which four ACEs a person has; the harmful consequences are the same. The brain cannot distinguish one type of toxic stress from another; it’s all toxic stress, with the same impact”.5
What Does This Mean for You?
You may realize that you have had one or more adverse experiences in your childhood. And if you have had one, it is very likely that you have had more than one. The more adverse childhood experiences or traumas. the greater the potential there is to have the physical health, emotional health, relationship health and stability and even financial health impacts of trauma in your life now, as an adult.
Not all childhood or other traumas can be distilled down to the 10 items on the original ACEs test. Yet unhealed trauma from any cause, can keep you trapped in the cycle of trauma triggers and the cumulative effect of toxic stress, and the resulting increased vulnerability to the kinds of negative impacts in your life now, that ACEs discovered.
Finding out if you have unhealed childhood or generational trauma in your life and then taking your Heroine’s Journey of healing that trauma is crucial to healing your life, your health, your emotional health, your relationships, your money, and even fulfilling your professional potential. Ultimately, healing trauma is THE crucial key often hidden in plain sight, to creating the soul-satisfying, deeply fulfilled, joyous, radiantly loving life that your woman’s heart, soul and body craves.
Trauma Can Be Healed
Your First Steps
Your first step is to get a sense of the impact that trauma or adverse childhood experiences has in your life. To start, go through the ACEs test. The test will help you identify if you have experienced any of the 10 original Adverse Childhood Experiences.
There are more traumas in childhood or throughout life, than specified in the ACEs test, plus not all trauma is remembered, and any kind of trauma can leave a harmful impact.
So, it is also really crucial to find out if you have any symptoms or patterns in your life now that indicate if you have experienced trauma, whether or not they are the childhood traumas that ACE’s measures.
The Freedom to Flourish Self-assessment will help you discover this from your own inner experiences.
This is the main reason that I created the Freedom to Flourish Self-Assessment. This quick 20-item questionnaire will help you determine if you might have unhealed childhood or other trauma, whether they are the original ACEs or not. It will also give you a general sense of the degree of the impact of that trauma.
Your second step is to take the Freedom to Flourish Self-Assessment, which is available as my gift to you.. here.
Healing Trauma is the Crucial Need of Women in Our Time
Healing your inner child of trauma you experienced in the past, is the crucial need of a large majority of women today, even smart, educated, accomplished women, like the women in the original ACEs study. Thankfully, trauma can be healed, as hundreds of my clients and thousands of women worldwide testify.6 You can start your journey of healing trauma by requesting your free copy of the Freedom to Flourish Self-assessment, so you can find out if unhealed childhood trauma may be the hidden source blocking you from the fulfilling life and marriage you deeply Desire.
The deep joy, fulfillment, soul-satisfying love, and your highest-level contributions to the world that you crave are waiting for you on the other side of healing trauma.
My gift to help you start is the Freedom to Flourish Self-assessment. I lovingly invite you to request your free copy today to begin your journey of healing.
1. The Sophia Method™ of Energy Psychology and Spiritual Life Coaching: Essentials of Deep Healing and Spiritual Transformation. Debra Brown Gordy, MS MRET. https://www.thesophiawomensinstitute.com/the-sophia-method
6. Excerpted from “What is Energy Psychology?” The Association for Comprehensive Energy Psychology.
Debra Brown Gordy, MS MRET is the women’s Energy Psychology therapist & Spiritual Life Coach, & founder of The Sophia Women’s Institute. She specializes in healing childhood trauma, relationship coaching & intimacy counseling, & divorce coaching for accomplished, spiritually awakening women.
Through unique Energy Therapy & Spiritual Life Coaching programs, classes, workshops, retreats & Women’s Sacred Practices, she guides clients through the inner healing & transformation they need to reclaim their sovereign Feminine Souls & create the joyful and fulfilling lives, relationships and work in the world they deeply Desire.
Debra serves clients worldwide. To learn more, visit The Sophia Women’s Institute.