This research tells us that what doesn’t kill you doesn’t necessarily make you stronger; far more often, the opposite is true.
Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) (link is external)—which include emotional or physical neglect; verbal humiliation; growing up with an addicted or mentally ill family member; and parental abandonment, divorce, or loss — can harm developing brains, predisposing them to autoimmune disease, heart disease, cancer, depression, and a number of other chronic conditions, decades after the trauma took place.
Adult survivors of child abuse and trauma, are often given the message that we are supposed to be ‘stronger’ as a result of what has happened to us. Of course, this is for everyone else’s benefit, not the survivors.
Fact is, severe child abuse often does not make the survivor stronger and it is shame inducing to demand it should.
Survivors of severe child abuse and complex trauma, can deal with ongoing health issues, both physical and psychological, that impact life greatly. This requires empathy and compassion, not being shamed to be ‘over it’ and be ‘so strong’. Survivors need good support, adequate therapy and good medical care and many do not have this.
The healing process also requires many factors to be possible and each person is different, including their capacity to heal.
And understanding what works for some, does not work for others. E.g. EMDR can work as a therapy for some, but is not a cure for PTSD/C-PTSD, and does not work for some and is not suitable for some.
This all needs to be understood and no pressure or shaming placed upon the survivor.
The platitude of ‘what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger’, is unwise and incorrect. I appreciate when I see more rational and appropriate thinking applied to trauma and child abuse.
September 1, 2015 at 8:16 am
Thank you so much for this post. Last month I stumbled across several medical journals on the internet, that stated that childhood abuse predissposses you for autoimmune diseases. Imagine my surprise that my lupus can be related to an abusive parent. It reinforced my need to remain no contact with a dysfunctional family.
September 1, 2015 at 8:24 am
Yes, staying no contact with (ongoing) abusive, dysfunctional family , is healthy self care many of us need for our emotional and physical wellbeing and I support that for those who make that courageous choice.
It is interesting how it is being continually proven that physical illness in adulthood, can be caused by childhood trauma, particularly when caused by parents/family and complex trauma.