Have you ever been in an argument where the person you are arguing with, or perhaps you yourself, began to sound like a teenager? “You started it!” “No, you started!” Does this remind you of seventh grade?
This is obviously not normal adult speaking or thinking. But it can be explained by old wounds that are triggered and prompt us to behave in more childish ways, typically the way we felt at the time the wound was created. People who have had traumatized lives can adapt, but under stress the Wounded Child reappears.
In a familial or caregiving environment of totalitarian control, abandonment, or enmeshed helplessness, violence or betrayal, children can develop pathologic attachments to their abusers that propel them into adulthood and unfavorably color their lives. Instead of feeling precious, they feel shamed and defective. Stable adult relationships, nurturing marriages, and loving parenting become highly challenging or impossible. Events around them –– ones that you may not understand and that may be completely unconscious — can trigger early wounds and manifest as behavioral coping mechanisms that were protective in childhood but are wholly inappropriate in adult situations.
These trauma triggers, seemingly irrational to friends and family, distort daily interactions and complicate adult relationships.
This is the complex mechanism that can facilitate self–harming habits or addictions (including addiction to plastic surgery), and that makes some behavior so hard to understand. I explain these mechanisms of development, and how they appear in adult life, in my new book, Childhood Abuse, Body Shame, and Addictive Plastic Surgery: The Face of Trauma. It is a book for trauma survivors and those affected by them, as well as for their professional caregivers — available everywhere.