We did not fully develop our identity without fully accepting the damage of our trauma
It is common for people who had experienced childhood trauma to develop addiction in their lives. Since the pain from their childhood trauma is longstanding and unbearable, people tend to suppress these pain and resort to addiction to cope with their negative internal experiences.
For instance, a lady who had chronic insomnia due to her emotional disturbance related to her childhood trauma developed alcoholism. She had a mother with narcissistic personality disorder and emotionally abused her throughout her childhood. She was constantly depressed and had very poor self image. Because of this, she faced a lot of problems in her career and interpersonal relationships. She experienced a lot of bullying in her workplace and did not know how to handle all the company politics. These difficulties in life contributed to her chronic insomnia. As a result, she drank every day so that she could be drunk and fell asleep. The addiction in alcohol was a way for this lady to avoid experiencing her pain from her mother’s emotional abuse.
On the other hand, she had a successful career as a photographer. She obtained a lot of awards from many competitions and had high status in her field. In the eye of her peers, she was very successful and she identified herself as a competetent photographer throughout her life. However, she felt depressed all the time deep down and escaped from her pain through alcoholism. The split of her identity as a photographer and her pain from her childhood trauma actually contributed to her longstanding psychological problems and addiction.
Usually, we identify ourselves with our external phenomena, such as our profession, our family of origin, or our race. If we have a successful career in our profession and we come from a well-off family with harmonious relationships, we normally identify ourselves as good and healthy. On the contrary, if we have failed in our career and we come from an abusive family environment, we may identify ourselves as bad and unhealthy. We may perceive ourselves as inferior than others with all the bad qualities adopted from our family of origin. In fact, we may let go of identifying with our external phenomena and define our identity as the accumulation of our experiences. In this way, there is no good or bad, healthy or unhealthy. Each of us has an unique identity given our unique experiences in our lives. Therefore, we do not need to compare ourselves with others.
For those with experiences in childhood trauma, it is important for them not to avoid their pain and emotional disturbance. It is the avoidance of such pain that causing our addiction and other psychological problems, not the pain itself. To be able to fully develop an identity, we need to experience the pain caused by our childhood trauma if any. We need to feel our body and our emotional experience without judgment and with acceptance. Paradoxically, if we are brave enough to face the pain, the pain are more likely to lessen gradually. Furthermore, it is also important for us to accept our flaws due to our deprived family background. In face, we are not defined by our flaws or our strengths, we are our accumulated experiences. In this sense, the lady described above has experiences in her childhood trauma as well as in her successful career. This is her uniqueness. With acceptance and nonjudgmental attitude, this lady can embrace all of her experiences in her life as who she is without feeling inferior than others. By embracing her pain, she does not need to resort to alcohol for sleep and coping with her emotional disturbances.
We need to know ourselves through our internal experiences instead of defining ourselves with external phenomena.