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JLeslie's avatar

Adults over the age of 35: how often do you think about pain during your childhood?

Asked by JLeslie (48208 points ) December 24th, 2010

The sad, emotionally painful, and insecurities you went through in your childhood, does it stick with you and come up a lot in your life? If it does, do you believe yourself to by a happy adult? I had some difficult times in childhood, like most people I would guess, went through a depression in my teens. But, when I look back on it, I feel like that was then, and this is now. I have someone in my life trying to tell me I am in denial and blocked off, a part of me is dead. I don’t feel like that at all. I have memory of everything, can remember being sad if I want to put myself back in that place in my head, but I don’t live it in my life as an adult. Sure sometimes something triggers an old insecurity, or sadness, but I don’t feel I need to carry those things with me.

Also, whether you do dwell on it or not, do you hold onto feeling cheated as a child? Like you had a raw deal growing up? Whether it be how you were treated, unhappiness with how you looked, or some sort of bad event. Or, do you feel like everyone goes through difficult times, or at least many do, and it is part of the process of becoming an adult?

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25 Answers

marinelife's avatar

Holding on to childhood wounds is a recipe for unhappiness in the present.

I worked though all of my childhood traumas in therapy and groups. Now, I am at peace with them.

SuperMouse's avatar

I don’t give it much thought. Like @marinelife I worked mostly through it in therapy. If I am being totally honest with myself I have to admit that sometimes things happen that trigger a memory and I am a terrified 12 year-old, but for the most part it is water under the bridge.

Over the past year while extricating myself from the horrible patterns of my marriage I have encountered some thoughts, feelings, and ideas that were long buried but were planted in my youth. Those things have been interesting to review and fuel for personal growth, but I cannot say I have spent my time lamenting or even dwelling on them.

I do not feel as though I was cheated as a child. Everyone has their trials and what might look trivial to one person may look like the end of the world for another.

marinelife's avatar

@SuperMouse Hurray for you for getting out of the marriage!

Kayak8's avatar

I think I have worked through various childhood traumas (in therapy, talking with friends, meditating and journaling), but even now (at 50) I find that I still have some triggers. These most often come up in some of the more difficult conversations in relationships. I think some of it, for me, is having lost a parent as a teen and the years of his illness before his death and how that dramatically changed some family relationships (people were doing jobs that were out of their traditional relationship roles). I am the oldest and found I spent more time parenting than being parented.

Some of the impacts of childhood trauma just get incorporated into our personalities until they are seamless (to us), but are often obvious to others in close relationships. These are some of the harder things to work with, particularly if we have already done “a lot of the work” already in our earlier lives. In my experience, I am usually able to see patterns in my behavior, even if I am unsure of the root of the patterns—I just try to deal with the behavior these days rather than trying to churn up the cause (the “what” has become more important than the “why”).

SuperMouse's avatar

@marinelife Thanks! That divorce was the best thing I have ever done for myself! Even my kids who are supposed to hate the thought of their parents being apart are happier and more relaxed.

aprilsimnel's avatar

I think my childhood situation was extreme, but I have been slowly letting go of the idea that my childhood is representative of my entire worth as a person and that people will judge me based on what happened to me. As a teen and young adult, I lied about my childhood because I was so afraid of being judged for my shitty background.

Lots of therapy. Being in a group setting for a while helped me to realize that I needn’t put others on a pedestal, that no one has the life you think they have. I had clung tenaciously to the idea for a long time that the vast majority of people knew what they were doing in life and had it all together and that I was just a blundering twit, as my guardian repeatedly told me I was, but in much harsher language. Intellectually, I understood that wasn’t true, but emotionally, it took a long time for that childish thinking to subside.

I have plenty of work to do, still. Do I feel cheated? Less so as I talk to other people, and less so as I realize that my adult caretakers at the time really, honestly, truly couldn’t help the way they behaved. Any child in their care would’ve been treated poorly. That can’t be changed now, so there’s no need to hash over that again. I wasn’t a special snowflake. I just happened to be there, you know? I had some experiences in those days that came from traits I had that were good and had nothing to do with my family or their abuse. I look to those now to remember that even then, I was my own person, had some agency and made choices that benefited me.

I think deep down, we all know we’re worthwhile from the get-go, but we were bombarded by the misguided (and usually unwell and unhappy) voices of those from childhood when we hadn’t been able to build defenses. I know I feared any show of liking myself, because it pissed certain “powerful” grownups off. Well, I don’t have to hide that anymore. I don’t need to self-protect like that now. It’s a good thing.

janbb's avatar

Sometimes a damaging relationship in the present will bring up the feelings and trauma from my childhood and I will relive them. For the most part, I have worked through a lot of the feelings, but there always seems to be another level that sometimes hits me in the face.

tinyfaery's avatar

Whenever any sort of occassion occurs that has a heavy focus on family I am reminded of what I have never had. When I hear abuse stories I cannot help but think of my own. But I think I have been able to detach emotionally from my trauma, for the most part, and now the pain is just a memory.

JLeslie's avatar

If you have worked through most of the feelings, are you willing to still be in relationships now with those who hurt you?

Neizvestnaya's avatar

It took a bit of time though, I’d say into my late 20’s for me to see myself as a full fledged adult and even longer (into late 30’s) to feel the change.

jerv's avatar

I am too much of an “in the moment” person to get myself bogged down by the past.

gondwanalon's avatar

My childhood memory is stored in a closed door room within me. I keep the door closed as it was a very sad time for me. There is no good from going there. I leave it be and It leaves me be and life is good.

Coloma's avatar

I’m with @marinelife

I spent the better part of the decade of my late 30’s to mid-40’s working on healing from my childhood wounds and a nasty divorce ( we were BOTH emotionally immature, just played out in different ways, same rope, different ends. )

I spent a year in therapy, and went on a major psycho/spiritual journey which included taking several years off from life and going deep into solitude and self reflection.

BEST thing I ever did for myself. ;-)

I recently had to let go of a longterm friend who’s unhealed wounds were staring to express themselves in unhealthy and emotionally abusive ways in our relationship.

I had to re-examine some of my co-dependent and rescuer traits and realize that who she was, simply, did not resonate with me any longer.

While my ‘core’ traits have remained the same, I have changed profoundly in the last decade, for the better and the healthier.

In my opinion most folks that are going to wake up, do so in their 30’s and 40’s…some later, but…if one reaches their 50’s without recognizing the need to do some psychic housecleaning and personal/spiritual growth ‘work’, the odds are that they will never go there.

This is not an absolute but an observation in many of my relationships.

Usually it takes some sort of life event/loss to really wake us up, and, there are two options at these junctures.

1. A breakdown of ego and desire for healing or..
2. Becoming even MORE firmly entrenched in one’s dysfunctions.

Gratefully, I experienced the former and was truly ‘born again’ in the purest sense of the word.

While empathetic and tolerant of others inner struggles I simply cannot be around certain energies anymore, oil & water. lol

downtide's avatar

I am a happy adult because I avoid thinking about my childhood. As soon as I start thinking about it I start getting depressed again.

JLeslie's avatar

Thank you so much to everyone who answered here. It really helped me.

YARNLADY's avatar

I carry my most painful experiences in what I call the Black Box. Every once in awhile, when something brings up the memories, I take some personal time, usually a long hot soak in the tub, and just wallow in pity. Then, when I’ve had enough – usually around an hour or so – I metaphorically slam the box shut and go back to my happy day.

filmfann's avatar

If I think about some of that stuff, it will all come flooding on me while I am driving, or thinking by myself, and I will find myself cursing at people I haven’t seen in 30 years. It isn’t healthy, and I try to avoid it.

Blueroses's avatar

I don’t fit the age bracket for this Q but I still feel qualified to answer.
Emotionally distant dad and the best mother in the world…. I pulled away (as you do) and live with my mom’s suicide after losing me.

Trying to think, every day that it wasn’t entirely my fault and that it would have happened anyway. I don’t believe in love any more.

Polite. Respectful.
Not love.

josie's avatar

Every day you wake up alive is one more chance. The day before that is not relevent. There are about a million ways to learn this lesson. I learned it in the military. Other folks, I am sure, learned it elsewhere. But it is true. If you are here right now, then that is good. The past is over and done. The only temporal things that matter are now, and tomorrow. Say what you want, that is the truth.

Supacase's avatar

There are things from my childhood that have been incorporated into who I am – insecurity, fear of abandonment, emotional pain showing itself as anger, etc. I continue to work on improving these things, but I am realistic in that they are never going to go away.

That being said, someone once told me something that became a turning point in my life. I was about 24 and crying about how my mom treated me, especially regarding my bio-father. They said to me that although things may have happened to me as a child, I need to deal with those childhood issues as an adult would and in an adult manner.

janbb's avatar

@Supacase I just was reading something that said it is because the traumas of childhood were processed by the older part of our brain the amadyglia and not the cerebral cortex or reasoning part they are very hard to process and put away.

majorrich's avatar

I had a very happy childhood, save for the time I was the only non-white kid in the entire school system. (Ohio was something of a backwater at the time. Wait a minute.. it still is) Kids can be cruel, but I find I don’t think about it much. I am very proud of my Asian heritage, and the kids I grew up with after moving here I believe have come to respect me it.

augustlan's avatar

A great, on-topic quote from @Sarcasm’s profile page:

“We should try to be the parents of our future rather than the offspring of our past.”
– Miguel de Unamuno

I had an extremely shitty childhood (most of you know my story, so I won’t rehash it.) Do I feel I was cheated? You bet your life I do, but what am I going to do about it now? It took many years and many attempts at therapy to get to the point where I could follow the advice in that quote up there, but I did get there. I have no control over what happened to me in the past, but I do control my reaction to it from here on out.

Honestly, my mother was the biggest ‘trigger’, and was a constant presence in my life. A daily reminder of the harm perpetuated on me in my childhood. In order to fully heal myself, I ended up cutting off all contact with her. (We’re talking about serious shit, here. Not just that she wasn’t the best mom, or made me feel bad about myself… nothing that minor.)

I don’t think about it often, but I can still experience great sadness about my childhood from time to time. It doesn’t last, and I move forward with my life.

josie's avatar

Not the intention of the question was to justify dwelling on unhappiness in the past- I am sure it was not. But…
I am always curious about discussions that involve a return to unhappy memories. What good does it do? What is the basis for believing that it has value? The past is gone. It does not exist in any material form. It may leave behind a lesson or two, or a clue about the future, but recycling pain can only fuck up the present.

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