We know that children experience trauma in many forms, some more serious than others. In this continuation of our series on trauma, we look at the types of experiences that could cause trauma in childhood and how someone who has experienced trauma can become a resilient adult. In this episode we explore:
How Children with Trauma Can Become Resilient Adults
Debra Maldonado, Robert Maldonado
Robert Maldonado 00:07
Hello, welcome back to Soul Sessions with CreativeMind.
Debra Maldonado 00:12
Welcome. What is today's topic?
Robert Maldonado 00:16
We've been doing a series on trauma. We wanted to do this one on childhood trauma, and how children with trauma can become resilient adults.
Debra Maldonado 00:28
The topic is how children, no matter what happened to you, or even if you're a parent, and you have a child that's been through something tough, they can become a resilient adult. It's not a life sentence, anything that happened to them.
Robert Maldonado 00:44
It's more of a discussion that we're having from the point of view of coaching. It is our opinions, we’re looking at the research, we're looking at what's been going on, and putting our spin on it from our perspective of coaching, positive psychology, of Jungian psychology definitely, and Jungian coaching.
Debra Maldonado 01:10
Not really talking about treating it, but more of the resilience aspect of trauma.
Robert Maldonado 01:16
But of course, we still have to define what is trauma?
Debra Maldonado 01:21
How would you define childhood trauma and resilience? How would you define it?
Robert Maldonado 01:28
We start with what traumatizes children, first of all. In today's rapidly changing world, some of the factors that we could overlook, sometimes would become dramatic because of that speediness of change, and often people don't have the opportunity to slow down and to think it through as to what does the child need after moving three or four times before they're seven.
Debra Maldonado 02:07
Getting pulled out of school with their friends, having to start over. Teasing and bullying, also now with social media, kids are at a very young age exposed to trolling and all the things that when we were kids, we didn't have to think about.
Robert Maldonado 02:24
All those factors, including the fact that most of us assume that technology is good for them. We just assume that because they need to learn it. Schools are now doing those kinds of things. But it hasn't been well researched, what the impact of a lot of this technology, especially social media has on children's brains as they're developing.
Debra Maldonado 02:52
With the pandemic for the past two years, a lot of kids are pulled out of school and doing zoom classes, they don't have that social connection with students. But I also think, I don't know if you're going to talk about this later, but you had mentioned in our discussions about this, that you're not supposed to have this perfect, bulldoze life. I think a lot of parents want to bulldoze their children's experience so they don't have any tough times. It's not that we should make them have tough times. But it almost makes people stronger, to deal with the challenges of life.
Robert Maldonado 03:34
There's a popular book called The Coddling of the American Mind. It's this idea essentially that research shows that we are meant to experience not traumatic experience necessarily, but challenging experience. A little bit of failure, a little bit of knocks on the head is perfectly okay. Our brains are designed to learn from those experience and use it to build our resilience.
Debra Maldonado 04:06
We learned that when we tried to walk, we had lots of failure when we first rode our bike, and then all of a sudden everything else from that point on we can struggle with studying at school or struggle with making friends and all those things. But when we talk about trauma, we're talking about something even more serious.
Robert Maldonado 04:29
It is a spectrum. You can run from having a critical mother all the way to being physically abused severely or neglected.
Debra Maldonado 04:42
So someone who had a critical mother, you would say is traumatized?
Robert Maldonado 04:45
They can be, absolutely, but not everyone. Again, those resilience factors play an important role in how we deal with those situations.
Debra Maldonado 04:56
How would you define trauma in a child, where it gets to the point where it's traumatic.
Robert Maldonado 05:03
So in general, trauma is when a situation overwhelms the child's or the person's ability to cope with that situation. The situation is so overwhelming that their natural response pattern or behaviors in that situation, their coping skills are overwhelmed, so they can't deal with a situation. That becomes a traumatic experience.
Debra Maldonado 05:37
What are some examples of that?
Robert Maldonado 05:41
Let's go down the line. Certainly, abuse and neglect. If you have physical, emotional, sexual abuse in your childhood, or neglect, which means your needs are not met by your parents or caretakers.
Debra Maldonado 05:59
It could be that your physical needs are met, such as food and shelter, but the emotional needs are not met. No one asks you how you're doing or hugs you at the end of the day, or tells you they love you. Just here is your food, I’m sorry, I have to rush off to my meeting or my tennis match. And the child is alone. A lot of times people think this only happens to people that don't have means, this terrible childhood, terrible family. It could be this perfect family on the outside. But there's no talk of feelings.
Robert Maldonado 06:36
In fact, child abuse goes on everywhere, at all levels of society, as we know from the news, even in churches, the Boy Scouts and the Girl Scouts, and even in Olympic teams, so it's very prevalent. We shouldn't think of it just as something that the poor experience or the underprivileged.
Debra Maldonado 07:03
Like it happens in bad neighborhoods and not in good neighborhoods. I've worked with a lot of people whose parents were over achievers, they really were hard on their children to be the best. After a while, that can be exhausting as well. Judgy, highly critical, punishing them if they don't win the medal or whatever. They live through their child in sports.
Robert Maldonado 07:37
Think of it like a scale. If you put that on a scale, that neglect or criticism or whatever it is, then you add other factors, there's not only criticism, but emotional abuse, then there's lack of support, there's other traumatic experiences.
Debra Maldonado 07:59
Uncertainty too plays a role, you don't know when, unpredictability.
Robert Maldonado 08:05
All of those start to weigh in the favor or in the direction of trauma, instead of having that bounce back resilience, which we're going to talk about.
Debra Maldonado 08:20
It overwhelms the system where the person has a hard time responding and feels unsafe.
Robert Maldonado 08:28
They feel unsafe, insecure, and traumatized. Family violence, we know it's a big one.
Debra Maldonado 08:36
You can witness it, you don't have to experience it yourself but you can witness it.
Robert Maldonado 08:41
Especially if the mother is being abused, younger children will experience it as a threat to their own life and safety, because they're connected to the mother emotionally and physically, they're dependent on their mother. The feeling with them is that if my mother is hurt, killed, it's a threat to me directly. Community violence, if you live in a rough neighborhood, you're going to pay attention to it as a child, even though you might not remember it or be able to process it cognitively. Just the stress of the adults around you. School violence, which for modern societies to tolerate is incredibly ironic. Why would we tolerate that? Yet we do as a society, we know it happens, schools aren't safe anymore for kids.
Debra Maldonado 09:59
A lot of times they have metal detectors to get in the school now, and it just seems we had such a different world, we were worried about the jock bully to beat us up at school, running home, but this is life and death they have to deal with. And some have dealt with it.
Robert Maldonado 10:20
Accidents and medical procedures, these can be traumatizing for children. Because often in hospitals, the focus is so much on helping the child with this medical problem they forget there's a child in there.
Debra Maldonado 10:38
Doctors talking to the parent and saying “Jimmy” in third person and not telling Jimmy directly, this is what's happening. I'm sure it's changed a little bit compared to the old days when we were kids.
Robert Maldonado 10:51
There are painful procedures also that sometimes are required in medicine. If the child is not prepared, doesn't have that support system in place, they experience those things as traumatic experiences. Extreme poverty. Extreme is a spectrum. But I would say where people don't have enough food.
Debra Maldonado 11:25
Where you go to sleep hungry, you don't have dinner.
Robert Maldonado 11:29
You don't have dinner, you're uncertain if you're going to have to move from your home. There's always that tension of not knowing if you're able to stay in your home or not.
Debra Maldonado 11:42
That transient feeling. Now everything's about fashion, having to wear the same clothes every day because you can't afford food. There's a social trauma as well, if kids look at you like something's wrong.
Robert Maldonado 12:00
Those are fairly common and fairly easy to identify, let's talk about some of the hidden ones that we often don't consider, don't see as potential stressors and traumatizing experiences for children. Having a parent with mental illness. Often it's invisible because we don't know people's private lives and what's going on their lives.
Debra Maldonado 12:30
A lot of mental illnesses are undiagnosed, so the parent could not be diagnosed or treated, or having any therapy, they're just exploding or depressed. A lot of my clients have told me over the years that their mother was depressed when they were younger, it just felt like they had to do everything, they had to become the mother. That would be a form of trauma maybe because you're forced into a role. You’re a child and should be nurtured. You don't really have that nurturing.
Robert Maldonado 13:07
Of course, it depends on whether there are other adults in the environment who can take up the slack. If a child has somebody else to support them, they often do okay. But if your mom is the only one that you're depending on, your father is the only one, or both parents might have mental illness of some sort, then the child's in trouble.
Debra Maldonado 13:33
People that have anxiety disorders, where they really can't regulate their emotions, and it's genetic too. The child most likely will have something, maybe genetically passed down. The parent is acting out. And the child is learning how to cope in a very not typical way.
Robert Maldonado 14:02
A loss or the separation from parents and loved ones. Children that lose their parents early on, maybe they get put in foster homes. Sometimes they luck out and get put in a good foster home. But other times they're there temporarily, they have to be moved to another foster home and another. Some kids end up going through four or five different foster homes before they start to feel settled.
Debra Maldonado 14:37
I feel sad for all these kids, I want to take care of them, I want to be their mother. I had such a great mother, she was always so nurturing and there for me. I can't imagine if she wasn't there, how I would be. It’s hard. A lot of compassion for people who've been through that.
Robert Maldonado 15:00
Our message to people is simply that we can do better. We have resources, we have educated people, we have ways of understanding these things now.
Debra Maldonado 15:14
Schools have counselors now, people are more open to coaching, even therapy for the kids. I think the teachers are a little more aware. I really wish they would pay teachers more because they have such a responsibility for these kids, they spend probably more time with them than anyone else. They could really have such an impact. If we paid them more and gave them more resources to work with these kids as well.
Robert Maldonado 15:45
Natural disasters, which have been more and more in the news. More hurricanes, more flooding, more earthquakes.
Debra Maldonado 15:57
Destruction of your home, what does that do to your psyche, you lose everything. We lived in Colorado, they just had that fire over Christmas, right after Christmas. The whole neighborhood went up. All I thought about were those little kids who just got all their toys. I know it seems so superficial. But to that child, Christmas is everything, and everything’s gone. I can imagine what those kids are going through.
Robert Maldonado 16:28
If that wasn't enough, manmade disasters. Wars, oil spills, all kinds of disruptive and destructive tendencies that play out on mass scale. Kids are often caught in the middle, it's hard to protect kids in those situations. But definitely, kids are resilient, human beings are resilient. We're going to talk about how we can help build that resilience. A couple last ones. Displacement, which is refugee status, we hear more in the news of people that have to migrate. It's not by choice, they're forced to migrate, to emigrate somewhere else, to pack up and just get out of town because it's untenable where they're at, they cannot stay there anymore. They have to take their little kids along with them. It's traumatizing for kids. And then discrimination, often not spoken about in the media, but discrimination is felt by children.
Debra Maldonado 17:59
Racial discrimination, social discrimination, religious.
Robert Maldonado 18:09
Racial, cultural, immigrant status, all these things. Kids, even though they might not be in the center of it, the parents are stressed out because of that.
Debra Maldonado 18:22
The kids at school repeat what their parents believe in. Even though they're not hearing it on the news, it's carried over, the children are repeating the discourse in the school and teasing the kids.
Robert Maldonado 18:37
In general, kids are very resilient, but they need to have some kind of support system. Even if it's just one person in their environment, in their family or extended family, that they can look for support and say “This person is a source of comfort for me.”
Debra Maldonado 19:07
I've always found that the most common one is the grandmother or the caretaker, like the nanny or someone was there for them. Is there a certain age, you're very well versed in child development, a certain age where the child is more resilient or less resilient? What are the consequences of trauma based on that? We hear that before eight years old, a lot of us are forming our ego. Is it better before eight or after eight? Is there a difference?
Robert Maldonado 19:48
There is a difference, of course, it depends, again, on the type of trauma. Obviously, if it's a physical trauma that injures the brain or, for example, neglect, which prevents the brain from fulfilling its developmental role because of lack of nutrients, and they miss really important sensitive periods in their development. Some of the milestones are not reached. A milestone means by a certain age you should be doing something, speaking, walking, self care. If there's not enough nutrients given to the child in those early years, the first three or four years when the brain is really rapidly growing, it's hard for the child to catch up after that. Even though they might get proper nutrition after that, those sensitive periods are gone and the impact has taken hold on the child. In developmental psychology, early intervention is really important. It's considered key to helping kids, the earlier you can help them get the nutrition, get the support, feel secure, all those emotional and psychological well being factors. If you can get them in place early on, they'll do fine, they’ll do okay, even though it's rough later.
Debra Maldonado 21:27
Let's talk about resilience. I think we can all say that at some point, we've had some traumatic event, maybe not severe trauma, but we've all been teased at school or been in a car accident or felt the death of someone we love, or feeling stress of pressure to get good grades, or a parent who loses their temper. We've all had some level of that. What makes a child resilient adult?
Robert Maldonado 22:09
It's pretty common sense. If you think what makes us happy is unconditional positive regard, which means love. You're accepted and loved for who you are. That is a very powerful force in children's lives, if people around you accept you and you feel it, that itself is a great resilient factor.
Debra Maldonado 22:43
In coaching, a lot of times for me, early on, because I'm a nurturer, a lot of times I work with clients who've never had anyone care for them. Just me caring for them and being that care, concerned and giving them love in a way, showing them love is very healing for them. Even not doing energy work on them or anything, but just being present for them and being supportive for them. It is so powerful having been that in someone's life.
Robert Maldonado 23:17
Unconditional positive regard has been used in psychology for a long time, since the 40s. It was part of the humanistic psychology movement. It was seen as human beings, we're not just processing things cognitively. We're processing things emotionally, holistically in a sense.
Debra Maldonado 23:44
A lot of times we're not aware of how we are feeling our way through life.
Robert Maldonado 23:49
It's definitely important to think about what our thoughts are, are we thinking negative thoughts or positive thoughts. But it's more of what does this mean to us? How do we find a meaning in things?
Debra Maldonado 24:01
Do we feel that unconditional positive regard is that feeling of worthiness or a feeling that you're worth something. This trauma is if no one's there to support you, there's a message of you're not worth being cared for, you’re discarded. Socially, as a human beings, we want to belong. That's the root of it, do you think? You're worth something in life, there's some reason why you're here, there’s meaning to your life.
Robert Maldonado 24:36
That's certainly one of the ways that we try to make sense of trauma or traumatic events in our life. We try to understand why me, that's one of the questions we ask, why me. As children, they're not an exception to this. They want to know what this means. Why did this happen, is God punishing me, is universe punishing me?
Debra Maldonado 25:01
I hear people say over the years, there's something inherently wrong with me, why would this stuff happen? Then there's the whole concept of Karma. The reason that thing happened to you is because of some past karma. It makes the person feel worse, I don't find that very helpful to say “You're being punished for some past life that you've done." I think it actually hurts someone more to think of it that way. Who knows if that's true or not, maybe it is, but I don't find that helps with resilience.
Robert Maldonado 25:39
Let's talk about therapy. Then we can go into how coaching and coaches can help people work through these things. If you yourself suspect that you’ve been traumatized in your childhood, we certainly recommend that you seek out a mental health professional, first of all, to diagnose you properly. You don't want to be winging it with searching on the internet, or just listening to our podcast. Get a proper psychological evaluation if you can, if you can afford it, it's the best way to do it, because you'll get a proper diagnosis and recommendations for treatment.
Debra Maldonado 26:34
It'll give you a baseline of how you're operating, so you know where to go versus you’re trying to self treat and figure it out yourself.
Robert Maldonado 26:42
The same thing with children. If you know children that are in trouble, or you think they're in trouble, try to get them evaluated.
Debra Maldonado 26:50
Even as a parent, a kid who had something traumatic happened at school or was in a car accident and have been acting strange ever since, go and get them acknowledged by a medical professional. Make sure you know that you're doing everything you can to make sure they get the best support possible.
Robert Maldonado 27:15
Of course, I'm biased, but a clinical psychologist is the best to do a proper psychological evaluations. Psychiatrists often do not do the testing and the procedural evaluations, they will go more on their medical opinion of how the patient is showing up.
Debra Maldonado 27:37
What about a psychotherapist, they’re not trained in assessment?
Robert Maldonado 27:42
Some of them are, they might have some instruments like a questionnaire or a protocol that they follow, but for a really thorough evaluation, it's usually a clinical psychologist. Then you can go to treatment or therapy with other professionals, family therapists or child therapists, whatever they need. Definitely look for professional help. If you've done some of this work already, if you're an adult and you've dealt with some of the trauma issues already in your life, and you're ready to move on.
Debra Maldonado 28:26
There's a point of diminishing return after a while when you do this type of work. There's only so much you can do to keep rehashing the past, keep looking at it from all the angles. The ego loves to just stay in that place. To shift to “What do I do now? How can I become resilient?”, it takes effort on the mind to focus because the default is “There's still something here, I can't move forward with my life.”
Robert Maldonado 28:57
And if we start to identify with that history, it starts to become part of our identity. We think we can't let it go, that it's simply ingrained in us and that we can't move on.
Debra Maldonado 29:13
What I heard people say is if I let it go, it's like that person got off the hook or it didn't happen. Then all that suffering was for nothing. They want to bring it on, bring it with them, they don't want to deny it happened. I could see where a perpetrator hurt you, you don't want to forget, to say “It's gone, I cleared it, it's gone.” But you also don't want to carry the burden of it. Because what we're really doing is giving that person power to define you. Then you're only defined a lot of times by that experience.
Robert Maldonado 29:54
These are resilient factors that coaches can apply to help clients. Or if you're a parent, you can start to think about your kids. How can I build some of these things into their routines and their daily activities to make them more resilient? The first principle is making connections. As human beings, we're social animals. We thrive on connection, emotional, intellectual, physical, those connections with friends, with family members, with peers, with teachers, anyone that creates that sense of community for the kids, they're helping their kids be resilient. Whether you're a child, or you have children, or you're an adult that has already done some of their work in trauma and wants to move on and be stronger for the future. Because life is always going to throw something at us. It's not an option to live a completely stress free life.
Debra Maldonado 31:11
We think we’re weak or when things bad things happen to us. But it actually is a way to cultivate courage and strength. The intensity or the experience, we can meet it up with the intensity of our power. Let's talk about listening skills when you talk about peers. I know I have a hard time with listening because I like to chat.
Robert Maldonado 31:48
You mentioned you had a supportive mother and grandmother. If you think about what they were doing, they were listening to you, they were acknowledging you. When you observe them talk to other kids, or to other siblings, or to other strangers or other family members, what they were doing is modeling listening skills. They were showing you directly, this is how you treat a stranger.
Debra Maldonado 32:21
This is how to have a healthy relationship? What if you do have a parent that has a mental illness, they don't have really great social skills because of whatever they're diagnosed with, they are always fighting with people or something? That would impact the child’s ability, so she needs to seek out someone who understands and basically learn how to listen, basically cultivate that. Although in school, I think you can, if the child has someone that can guide them and help them like a teacher.
Robert Maldonado 32:58
I learned a lot from teachers, just observing how they treated other students.
Debra Maldonado 33:03
Again, we should pay our teachers more. They do so much for kids, they could save a child.
Robert Maldonado 33:09
Also taking care of pets, for example. I remember my mom told me how to take care of my little dog. My first dog was a chihuahua. She said “Here's what you're going to do, see these cans, you're going to open them up, put them in”, that kind of stuff. Those skills seem very simple. But they're great learning tools, resilient tools that help establish your sense of self and how you're going to deal with the world.
Debra Maldonado 33:50
What about little kids, like little girls playing with dolls and nurturing, cooking? I remember having my little doll, it just felt so good to take care of something, even if it wasn't alive.
Robert Maldonado 34:06
It's a little bit different but it's playing at things. Playing at things prepares you for the real thing. Now some psychologists have spoken of a play deficit. Children are not getting enough of those activities. Social play, which is playing with other kids, similar age, peers. Anyway, let's move on to the second one. Making connections is important. Here's an interesting one. Teaching kids to help others, to actively seek, to help another child, another adult, another person in need. That's empowering because it shows that you're not a victim, you might have gone through some difficult things but you have resources to help another person that is more in need.
Debra Maldonado 35:19
You could say “I've been there, and I want to help you. I had a tough life, but I can help you.” Then the fact that someone who's had a tough life is able to be resilient demonstrates to that person, it's like a ripple effect. Because then that person says “That person helped me even though they're not as fortunate as me either, but they were able to help me, so I can help others too.” It passes down the line, it's giving back.
Robert Maldonado 35:48
And it is a resilient factor. It empowers people. It empowers a child or an adult to feel that pride of “I can help others as well. I'm not helpless. I can help another human being through difficult things.”
Debra Maldonado 36:08
Do you think group therapy would count? Where you're sitting around and everyone is sharing their experiences, but also contributing, is that part of that factor? Is resilience built into that?
Robert Maldonado 36:29
Dr. Yalom, who did most of the research on the factors that make group therapy effective, says that sharing of the universality of it, I went through hard stuff, this other person went through this hard stuff, too. They're still here, and they're still working on it, that itself has a therapeutic effect. But in coaching, just helping people see the opportunities that they have to help other people.
Debra Maldonado 37:06
I've seen that too with our clients that have had tough times. They're helpful of other people, it makes them feel good. Then it builds strength and confidence in them, “I'm not just this helpless, wounded bird, I have the ability to help someone else”, there's some confidence in that and worthiness.
Robert Maldonado 37:27
This is a common sense one and a simple one to do. Depends, I guess. Maintain routines, maintain structure, rhythms into their lives. If you think about what trauma does, it disrupts our natural flow of routines. All of a sudden we have to move, there's a hurricane. Or some trauma happens, and we have to go off to different institutions and interact with strangers. So setting back some of those patterns.
Debra Maldonado 38:09
Will that also be therapy or coaching, depending on where they're at, having that person accountable for that consistent system they're in versus just trying a workshop here, then I'm gonna take time off and read a book, it almost contributes to more confusion than if you had someone structured and having a mentor, whether it's a therapist or coach.
Robert Maldonado 38:35
What you're talking about is commitment. The ultimate aim or goal of this resilient factor is so that you can commit to things, commit to doing something at the same time, over and over, be consistent.
Debra Maldonado 38:57
I also heard that commitment really instills confidence. Because if you commit to something and then follow through, you're not letting yourself down, where maybe in the past trauma, someone let you down, then you don't know how to really self nurture and take care of yourself. It's nurturing to say “I'm committing to this. I'm investing in this, I'm committed to my own growth and my own journey.” I think that's really powerful.
Robert Maldonado 39:27
Modeling self care for them. If you're a parent, and you want to build resilient kids, model self care for them. When you're stressed out, this is the best time to do it actually, because we're all, especially as parents, you're going to hit those points where you get to be stressed out. Include the child and say “I'm stressed out here. This is stressing me out, but here's how I'm going to deal with it.” You're showing them what you do when you get stressed out. Because they're going to be stressed out at some point.
Debra Maldonado 40:09
They can even pick it up from you. They'll think they did something wrong because the mother is stressed, they think they're in trouble, they don't realize it's something else.
Robert Maldonado 40:21
Modeling that problem solving self care, how do I take care of myself.
Debra Maldonado 40:31
Mom having wine? During the pandemic, they started drinking at noon. That's not good modeling for children? I'm making a joke. It shouldn't be fun but it was a joke. A lot of people don't realize the kid is always looking at the parent or the authority figure for how to do this, they're looking at us as adults. As a coach or a therapist, are you modeling for your clients resilience? Are you modeling self care?
Robert Maldonado 41:11
A lot of it is managing your stress. A lot of it is being transparent and being vulnerable with your clients, with your kids. Because we usually think, especially as parents, I want to protect my kids from the bad things in life. Therefore, I'm not going to tell them about this. I'm gonna hide that I'm stressed out, that I'm worried, and protect them. Makes sense. But in the long run, it backfires. Because the child picks up something's going on. They're going to assume the worst. If you don't explain it to them, if you don't let them in into what's going on, they assume the worst. And usually the worst is that it's their fault.
Debra Maldonado 41:59
I think a lot of coaches and therapists think they have to keep up that. In therapy, there's a privacy, you aren’t supposed to reveal as much, where in coaching you can, it's a different style. I don't know in therapy, if there's a rule that you can't let a client know anything about your personal life?
Robert Maldonado 42:18
Depends on the model. There's some models that you're not supposed to reveal your own history or your own experiences.
Debra Maldonado 42:29
There's something about being strong and not asking the client to coach you back. But when my father passed, it was tough time for me, I would cry. The first call I had, I said “I'm going to have to go to the funeral. I'm sorry, guys, it's tough.” I think there's something really endearing when someone can be vulnerable. I have tough times too. I have people that I love that leave. Then I come back resilient. It helps people see, you're modeling for your clients or modeling for your children how to deal with difficult situations. We don't always do it perfectly. I'm sure our parents didn't handle things the way they should but there's no harm in going back and saying “Sit down Jimmy or Mary, I really didn't handle that the right way. Here's what I'm committing to do from now forward.” It’s okay to correct yourself and be vulnerable with a child, be transparent.
Robert Maldonado 43:32
This one is not often mentioned in research, textbooks, psychology models. But we know spirituality is an important resilient factor.
Debra Maldonado 43:48
I think it's the most important one.
Robert Maldonado 43:51
It could be the most important one because it gives the parent or even the child if they have a strong understanding of spiritual principles, a very resilient power. It transcends the everyday, it transcends what your coping mechanisms are, what's available to you in the community, what support systems are there. It is something beyond your individual experience that can be very powerful in protecting you and helping you deal with difficult situations.
Debra Maldonado 44:34
Two very important people who've been through huge trauma, Viktor Frankl and Gandhi. Gandhi carried the Gita around with him. Viktor Frankl had that meaning and purpose, his faith in God to take him through understanding psychology. That spiritual element “I have to do this, this can't be for nothing, I have to do something.” That was an extreme example, to help someone guide them, even if it maybe at the time. But even at the time, if you didn't have any spiritual guidance or even insight or education, a lot of people aren't raised religiously anymore, spiritually, a lot of kids, there's no spirituality in the home. It’s okay to start now, even years later, cultivate spiritual practice, a connection to something greater than yourself.
Robert Maldonado 45:40
I guess that would be a good definition of it, you're connected to something greater than yourself. It's not necessarily religion. Because hopefully religion is the caretaker of that spirituality. But we know often religion is more like a cultural pattern that's passed on in the family. That's great but spirituality is more an individual thing.
Debra Maldonado 46:11
Like going through the motions. A lot of times religion is just repeating the rituals, where spirituality is something that you create, a unique direct experience with the divine in you.
Robert Maldonado 46:23
As a parent, we encourage you to model that for your kids. How do you start to think about something bigger than yourself? How do you transcend your ego self and connect to something deeper? Jungian psychology teaches us about that. It's a way to transcend ourselves and understand the psychology of that transcendence without necessarily having to express it in a religious way.
Debra Maldonado 46:59
I find that Jungian psychology, the spiritual psychology for people to understand their human self, and also what is beyond human, to have both understandings. Instead of just everything handed over to God, or just everything handed over to science and the medical therapy, it's that combination, that integration. He believes we're all spiritual in nature, we all have a spiritual nature, we just aren't aware of it. For me, it's always brought me to the best. Anytime I felt scared in my life, having that spiritual foundation, something to believe in greater than myself, always carried me through. If you think you're just this little ego, bouncing around in the world, it's a very precarious position to be in.
Robert Maldonado 47:52
I know the language is limited, so we say “believe”, but Jung says “I don't believe I know.” He is emphasizing that you have to have a direct experience of that ability to transcend your ego, so that you know it from the inside out. You're not just putting your faith in some doctrine or some idea, you know it is possible because you've experienced it.
Debra Maldonado 48:23
These are great. Let's go over them. It's building emotional connections with people, not just connections like networking, but emotional connection, real deep, intimate, meaningful relationships. Teaching your children to help others or if you're an adult, how can I help others? Number three?
Robert Maldonado 48:49
Rules and boundaries, structure, routine. Number four is modeling self help, self care, routines, skills.
Debra Maldonado 49:03
Five is finding a spiritual solution to every problem. Finding the spiritual foundation in your life. Your life isn't built on the things that happen to you in the events of your human life. There's something deeper that has never been harmed, has never been hurt, has never been touched by any of your human life experience. If we can connect with that and know that that's who we really are, we can be truly resilient.
Robert Maldonado 49:37
We need it because we know the world is challenging all of us, especially now with the COVID. We didn't get a chance to go delve into that but we have a couple more shows on trauma and reserve.
Debra Maldonado 49:53
In one of our sessions, we're going to talk specifically about COVID and collective trauma, but you had a question.
Robert Maldonado 50:02
Someone asked “What's the cumulative impact on the mental health status of an adult person that was traumatized as a child?” Trauma does have this cumulative effect that you can have small little traumas like bullying, and if it persists for years, it's going to feel like a big trauma.
Debra Maldonado 50:31
When it comes into play, if you feel like the victim or have this experience. Then you keep having the same experience because it's what your mind is going to be drawn to, or as part of creating it. Unless you interrupt that pattern.
Robert Maldonado 50:51
Early experiences essentially give us a template for how we think about ourselves and what we expect from the world. Those two are the most important things in our lives. What do we feel about ourselves, meaning self worth, confidence, what I'm capable of doing, self efficacy. What can I expect from the world? Is it a friendly place? Is an accepting place? Or is it a hostile place that I have to defend myself?
Debra Maldonado 51:22
If you're conditioned to see an unfriendly place, you'll tend to not consciously be drawn to but it just seems like these things keep happening to you, in a way you interpret things.
Robert Maldonado 51:35
You'll pick out the things that match that assumption.
Debra Maldonado 51:40
You're at work, and you had a critical parent, then your boss is like “It would be better to do it this way.” Then you feel my boss is always criticizing me. Would that be a cumulative trauma?
Robert Maldonado 51:52
That's one of the ways it could play out. How does divorce affect children under five? Here's the difference. If somebody explains it to the child, gives them that support, acts as an anchor for that child and says “If you have any questions, I'm here for you. I'm going to walk you through this. Don't worry.”
Debra Maldonado 52:22
It's not your fault that mom and dad are divorcing.
Robert Maldonado 52:27
That kid is going to be okay. A lot of divorced parents often put the kid in the middle, they'll try to win them to their side against the other side. That can be very traumatizing.
Debra Maldonado 52:45
There's also the challenge of loyalty too. The child feels bad because they want to spend their time at dad's house because they have a new speedboat, and mom's working two jobs. The child is in the middle of that. Taking it personally that the child is preferring another parent.
Robert Maldonado 53:06
The child is not taken care of, no one addresses their needs and psychological understanding. They try to shield them from what's going on, then the child simply experiences abandonment. My parent left, therefore they've abandoned me essentially. Often as adults, people will have abandonment issues that they haven't dealt with that come from very early experiences. They don't see the connection. They think that happened so long ago, plus, I was fine, nothing happened. But now it's playing out in their relationship patterns.
Debra Maldonado 53:49
Another thing too, when we were talking about divorce, is the transference, the parent transferring their own personal fears onto the child. Parents tend to project onto the children their fears, then the child feels a burden of living up to something that the parent expects of them.
Robert Maldonado 54:17
The bottom line from our talk, if you take anything away, is that children are resilient, but they need our help in developing those resilience skills, so that they can grow up to be resilient adults. If you're an adult and have a history of trauma anywhere in your past, you can consciously cultivate these skills. Think about what makes me resilient, what's going to help me change my patterns. Coaching can be a powerful force in helping people in your situation.
Debra Maldonado 54:58
It's not treating trauma, coaching is helping someone who's had that experience be more resilient. That is the difference. What a great talk. We will see you next week when we talk about another deep, this is heavy topic, but we're going to make it also positive and filled with possibility. It is PTSD, how to transcend it, people who've had PTSD, which is post traumatic stress disorder. We'll be talking about that. We’ve been getting lots of questions on this, so we thought we'd share our knowledge and hope you enjoy it. If you haven't already, subscribe to us on YouTube ,so you can get a notification every week when we go live. If you are on Spotify, iTunes, subscribe to our podcast, listen to Soul Sessions with CreativeMind. I'm Debra Berndt Maldonado and Robert Maldonado, we’ll see you next time. Take care. Bye bye.
Robert Maldonado 55:59
Thank you for tuning in, see you next time. Stay well.