The Pain & Harm Of Growing Up Gay In A Straight World…
… This harm is the pain of growing up in a world where all the messages coming out of the dominant culture, the culture we are immersed in and unable to avoid, tells us we are not OK.
Car accidents, child abuse, domestic violence, war, and sudden death of a loved one cause a type of trauma we now call PTSD. However,
There is another kind of loss that many people experience, yet…
… they don’t understand it as a loss. Nor do they realize how these losses affect their ability to live a fulfilling life. This kind of loss is called developmental trauma, the loss of childhood innocence.
For GLBT people this is also the loss of a healthy self-identity.
Any child exposed to violence or loss at too young of an age can experience psychological and emotional harm. Common examples of this type of trauma are the death of a parent, witnessing or being the victim of domestic violence, sexual abuse, physical abuse, and ongoing emotional abuse.
GLBT people experience these types of trauma more frequently then other children.
This may be due to the fact that adults may sense the child is different and be uncomfortable with that feeling. Emotional abuse happens to children and teenagers when they receive ongoing implicit or explicit messages that they are not good enough…
i.e. being told that being gay or bisexual is bad, sinful etc.
As adults traumatic loss may show up in many ways. Some examples are:
- Continually repeating some self-destructive pattern of behavior even though you try not to
- Alcohol and drug abuse
- Being unhappy and not knowing why
- Sadness and depression
- Feeling stressed out
- Difficulty maintaining meaningful relationships
- Having a sense that something is missing or wrong
- Experiencing difficulty with money, career or other maintenance activities of modern life
- Any of the PTSD symptoms listed in the first paragraph above
Successful treatment of trauma requires that a therapist and client to work through the following:
- Acknowledging the pain caused by the trauma and that it is OK to feel bad.
- Understanding the environment that the trauma took place in, and what causes and conditions allowed it to happen.
- Realizing on a gut level that you are entitled to a better life; to be happy, to not be afraid all of the time, and to have meaningful relationships.
- Recognizing self-defeating thoughts due to low self-esteem and work to change them.
- Clearheadedly looking at what happened and see what you can learn from it. This is an opportunity to make something good from a bad situation.
- Releasing the holding patterns in the body, the tight muscles, digestive problems and other associated physical symptoms of trauma.
A holistic approach to trauma work that includes working with thoughts, emotions, the physical body and sensations, as well as relationships to self and other can bring lasting relief and healing from trauma. Body-centered psychotherapy combined with kind compassionate and skillful talk therapy is the leading approach to healing trauma.
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