Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)
Catastrophic Inner Child Events - termed as Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) – are potentially traumatic experiences that can occur in childhood including
- Abuse (Physical, Emotional and/or Sexual)
- Neglect (Physical or Emotional)
- Parental Separation/Divorce
- Family member substance misuse
- Parental mental health
- Witnessing violence against parent
- Having a relative who has been sent to prison
When a child is exposed to multiple ACEs over time, especially if there are no supportive adult relationships to provide buffering protection, the experiences can trigger an excessive and long-lasting stress response, which can have a wear-and-tear effect on the body, similar to revving a car engine for days or weeks at a time.
These exposures can wreak havoc on healthy brain development, social development, immune systems, and lead to substance misuse and other unhealthy coping behaviours. Traumatic events in childhood can be emotionally painful or distressing.
The Inner Child Explained
The inner child is a part of us that has been with us since we were conceived, through infancy, and is the part of us that develops around the age of 4 - 9 years old. Many people confuse it with the ego, subconscious, and shadow self.
It is all of these things, and it pervades your entire inner being. You are at a very impressionable age in your early school age years, Your cognitive abilities are racing to keep up with your emotions. As a result, when you have a 'bad' experience, your young mind is unable to process it. There is no point of reference - This is what leads to formation of traumatic experiences.
You have no way of rationalising what has happened to you. You can't bring closure to anything that causes you pain. You have no choice but to file it away in your subconscious, place it in a box and close the lid on it.
But I can tell you from lived experience that childhood dissociation doesn't solve the problem. It only postpones the problem.... Your inner child is essentially your personality's seed bank, It is where you develop the vast majority of your preferences. It's the part of you that holds onto anything that you repress.... and yes of course whatever you push down must at some point be expressed; it can only be described as like a pressure cooker; one day, perhaps many years or even decades later, it will inevitably boil over, bringing all those negative experiences to the surface.
Why You Will Always Express What You Repress
Unresolved trauma is the root cause of ACEs wreaking havoc on people's lives. When you are exposed to trauma at a young age, it sticks with you. You're like a sponge, soaking up everything. Your mind is in an information-gathering phase at this point in life. It's taking careful notes on everything. On the inside, trauma alters who you are. It also shapes and sculpts the way your nervous system works. As a result, when you go through these difficult situations, they stick with you.
When you have unresolved trauma, your nervous system continues to function as if you are still in danger in a hyperarousal state. It does not want to let down its guard - its ready awaiting that next oncoming threat. This is how it tries to keep you safe, and it can go on unnoticed in the background. The traumas follow you around and eventually make it very difficult to ignore or push them away. You try to push them away because, even though you are an adult, you still carry the child who was scared and scarred deep within you, Then, when you see or hear something that reminds you of that time of trauma, Bang - those memories can resurface as flashbacks, fear, panic or anxiety.
Unresolved Trauma and Your ACEs
Unresolved trauma is frequently the cause of many people numbing themselves with alcohol, drugs, or other addictions such as excessive working, shopping or gambling - and OCD tenancies. It's the reason people feel like their lives are spinning out of control. Adverse Childhood Experiences can manifest as low self-esteem, emotional impairments, difficulties enforcing healthy boundaries, difficulties forming intimate relationships, risky behaviours, displaying a victimhood mentality, poor body image, eating disorders, self-harm, co-dependency issues, addiction, mental health, and or chronic health conditions..
ACEs and the harms they cause are avoidable. Creating and maintainingsafe, stable, nurturing relationships and environments for all children and families can help to prevent ACEs and help all children achieve their full health and life potential.
Evidence tells us that ACEs can be prevented by:
- Strengthening economic supports for families
- Promoting social norms that protect against violence and adversity
- Ensuring a strong start for children and paving the way for them to reach their full potential
- Teaching skills to help parents and youth handle stress, manage emotions, and tackle everyday challenges
- Connecting youth to caring adults and activities
- Intervening to lessen immediate and long-term harms