The effect of childhood trauma


As a child I discovered a little black box in my head.

I was trying to find somewhere to escape – a place I could go to hide that was away from everything. A place that was safe for me and where no one could find me, touch me, hurt me. A place where I didn’t have to feel anything, physical or emotional.

I found a little black box.

When I needed to I would go into my head and climb into the little black box. I would stay there until it was safe to come out again. As time went on I spent more and more time in the little black box.

Eventually the real me hid there most of the time.

I liked my little black box. It was safe and no one knew about it.

One day, when I was at University, when I had just got together with my hubby he decided he would try a sort of hypnotic relaxation on me (what a charmer!)

I lay on the floor and he talked me through relaxing.

Within a minute or so tears were streaming down my face. Not the result he was expecting. Needless to say we didn’t do it again.

Many years later I began training as a Cognitive Hypnotherapist. Something that often requires going into a trance state. On weekend 2 of my training, when we were doing positive trance work with a partner I found myself freaking out as my partner tried to take me into a trance state. I left the room confused, upset and shaken.

Meanwhile I went on this amazing journey with the help of Trevor Silvester, founder of Cognitive Hypnotherapy. I reached a point where I was happy and was able to feel those emotions I had kept locked away for my whole life. I was able to be myself.

I visited the box less and less. In fact, I almost forgot it was there.

Then I went on another course where we were being taught Self Hypnosis. Again within minutes of starting I had tears streaming down my face and I was shaking.

I thought the work I had done with Trevor had sorted this.

But we had never been near the little black box.

Then a fellow Questie and lovely lady called Michala and I were chatting one night. She made a statement that maybe for me going into a trance state had a different meaning/purpose.

And whoosh! just like that I returned to the time I first went looking for and found my little black box.

And I realised that every time I had tried to go into a trance state it had reminded me of going looking for my little black box. For needing to escape.

And so I went back to Trevor. I told him about my black box. I told him how I used it. I asked him to help me get rid of it.

Trauma is not created by an event. Trauma is created when the event is so emotionally overwhelming that your only option to cope is to shut down (to escape into something like the black box). This is why each of us will process events differently. For some they will be traumatic, for others they will just be horrible.

The problem with triggering a traumatic episode in your brain, is that it then creates a barrier, a void. Everything that went before the void is cut off. And whilst those things before the void are outdated and primitive, they at least provided some structure; some guidance, for how to deal with life events.

Everything after the void becomes uncertain, a risk. Without rules there is no structure and without structure, nothing is safe.

This is what trauma does.

Trevor worked with me to help removed the black box. It was one of the hardest sessions I have ever had. It was also one of the most transformative. Even now, over 4 years after that session, I notice things that are safe that didn’t used to feel that way.

There is a trend right now to define child abuse as trauma. Clients often come to me with a PTSD label after being diagnosed by mental health professionals.  They then work with the symptoms of the trauma. This can detract from the root cause, the traumatic moment.

That traumatic moment is not what you might expect. It is often not the worst act or event in a stream of abuse. It is usually a moment that you simply can’t bear to think about. A moment that your brain won’t allow you to go near: A person walking into a darkened room, a bag left on a chair, a sound of breathing, a physical moment. It was for me. It has been for many of my clients.

When a client comes to me that has clearly got a traumatic memory, we first clear that. I recognise that while I can do other stuff, as long as the void/barrier/black box remains, they will remain on alert. And the great thing is, the work I do doesn’t require them to tell me anything about the moment that created the trauma. All the work is done in their head with me as a guide.

A traumatic event does not have to create a lifetime of trauma. It can be changed. Email to learn more.

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