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The Human Condition: Anger About Unmet Needs in Childhood

The Human Condition: Anger About Unmet Needs in Childhood

Photo Credit: Harper’s Bazaar

This morning I read an article that has inspired a new category of Blog Post for Whole Self Therapy: The Human Condition. In The Human Condition, I will be sharing stories that illustrate what we humans all share: feelings, experiences, unmet needs.

One of my favorite shows over the last few years has been HBO’s Succession. It’s a fabulously written and acted series about a super-wealthy family consisting of a patriarch, Logan Roy, and his four entitled adult children. In Succession we watch each of Roy’s children struggle in their intimate relationships and vie for power as well as their father’s approval. Each character is so complex that it is hard to make a clear judgment about any of them; they are all nuanced and relatable in some way.

The elder, Logan Roy, is played by the seventy-five-year-old actor Brian Cox. In his recent interview published by the NY Times, Cox speaks about his mutuality with the authoritarian character he plays:

He’s quite angry. That’s something that probably he and I have in common.

Why are you angry? I’m angry about my childhood, in retrospect. I look upon it now, and I go, “Jesus, that was [expletive], and there was nobody really to help me.” I had to do it all on my own. I felt I needed some parental help. I needed some guidance. My son will tell you. I’m quite angry at times.

As a Schema Therapist, these words jumped out at me. Here is a man, a well-established and successful actor who is self-aware enough to know that his anger stems from his unmet childhood need for guidance.

We all have unmet childhood needs. 

This is the human condition. 

In psychotherapy, we often work together to explore and express those needs and the feelings associated with them. We do this because our experiences from childhood don’t leave when we turn eighteen; they stay with us for a lifetime.

For Cox, there is unresolved anger. While knowing and expressing it are both positive things, what is unfortunate is that it sounds like the anger is being expressed in the wrong direction: toward his son. When we carry around feelings that have not been fully resolved we all can “take it out” on those we care about the most. And very few of us do that intentionally.

This is why it is important to “do your own work” so that you don’t inadvertently hurt those closest to you in your life now with the wounds that were bestowed by ghosts from your past. This is how we end the legacy of relational trauma. 

 

Check out the full New York Times article here: 

What is Complex Trauma?

What is Complex Trauma?

Most of us have heard about Post-traumatic Stress Disorder and many of us associate PTSD with the military and experiences of being in combat. Post-traumatic stress disorder indicates a psychological response to an acutely traumatic situation. It was coined and popularized in the 1970s after veterans were returning home from their deployments in Vietnam exhibiting the effects of the extreme stress that they’d been under. This stress was often the result of a moral injury. I’ll be diving into moral injury in an upcoming blogpost, so stay tuned for that! For now, let’s dive into CPTSD.

Complex post-traumatic stress disorder, which is also known as slow trauma, complex trauma, or developmental trauma, is trauma that occurs over a longer period of time, and happens during our childhood. It is a more recent development in the psychology world and in 2015, Pete Walker released his seminal book Complex PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving. 

In his book, Walker takes us into the world of this all-too-common phenomenon and clarifies what it is, where, when and how it happens, and what we can do to heal.

CPTSD is a more severe form of post-traumatic stress disorder. – Pete Walker

CPTSD is often caused by growing up in a severely abusive and/or neglectful family system. This includes abandonment and abuse on a physical, emotional, verbal, and/or spiritual level. While many adults who have CPTSD were physically hit/beaten in childhood, that is not a mandatory factor.

The core wound in CPTSD is emotional neglect. This occurs when there is no safe adult to turn to for comfort or protection in times of real or perceived danger.

Five pernicious qualities of CPTSD are:

  • social anxiety
  • triggers that create intense emotional overwhelm/emotional flashbacks
  • a vicious inner critic
  • toxic shame
  • self-abandonment

 

Here’s a list of factors that, if present during your childhood years, may indicate your possible exposure to that Complex PTSD:

  • extended periods of physical or sexual abuse
  • ongoing verbal or emotional abuse (this includes being intimidated, threatened, shamed, or name-called)
  • being treated with contempt by a caregiver (with denigration, rage and/or disgust)
  • emotional neglect (not providing support, safety, education or advocacy during intense emotional experiences)
  • feeling that you didn’t have a voice, or that your voice/values/desires were not honored by your caregivers
  • your attempts at healthy self-assertion were met with resistance or retaliation/being called “selfish,” ignored, or punished by a parent

The good news, as Walker states, is that:

CPTSD is a learned set of responses, and a failure to complete numerous important developmental tasks.

In other words, CPTSD is something we can heal from.

If these words resonate for you, and you are ready to heal, reach out. Let’s get it going.

5 Core Childhood Emotional Needs

5 Core Childhood Emotional Needs

According to Schema Therapy, all of the psychological problems we encounter as adults have their roots in childhood and adolescent experiences. Specifically, there are 5 Core Emotional Needs that all children have, and when those needs are not met, what results is any of a number of different long-standing beliefs and patterns of relating to others aka schemas, technically termed Early Maladaptive Schemas.

Schemas are thoughts, feelings, sensations, core beliefs, images and memories that serve as organizing principles to interpret information and solve problems. They create the condition that we go through life encountering the same types of relationships, or we repeat the same crappy scenarios again and again. Sound familiar? We’ve all got them. As is often discovered with some pain in adulthood, these schemas are dysfunctional and self-defeating.

Schema Therapy aims to increase psychological awareness, increase conscious control over the schemas, and reduce the frequency, intensity and duration of schema-triggers.

I’ll be sharing more about specific schemas including what they look like and how they work. In this post, I am sharing those 5 crucial childhood emotional needs.