Ivanka Trump was right when she said there is a special place in hell for those who prey on children. What she isn’t aware of is the hell this administration creates every day for those who were abused as children. Let me explain.
Especially those who were (or are) abused in their family home live in hell. This hell involves several types of trauma, though not all of them need to be present to leave a legacy of post-traumatic stress and disturbance.
- the trauma of feeling helpless and being overpowered or overwhelmed during any type of abuse, especially if it feels life threatening. This is true in sexual and physical abuse, but can even be with emotional abuse.
- the trauma of being continually exposed to harm and living in an unprotected state. Nothing induces more hypervigilance and anxiety or brings more futility and collapse for a child than to feel like an ongoing target. Yes, there are grown-ups around, but in terms of protection, they are worthless.
- the trauma of threatened revenge, often involving violence. (This threat is perhaps greatest in cases of incest.)
- the trauma of isolation, holding a secret, or of not being believed. We saw some of the pain of this in the #MeToo Movement, but carrying the burden alone is even more difficult for children.
I see all of these types of trauma present in the current political situation.
- Overpowered and helpless. I wonder, how do our DACA recipients feel? The undocumented immigrants in danger of being rounded up and whisked away from their homes and families? Others of us may be safe from deportation but wake up each day wondering when this mad man will provoke an attack or start a war.
- Unprotected. People have been clearly warned now of the danger of President Trump (consider the best-selling book, The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump), but we don’t see much happening to protect us from him. Instead we see much minimizing, attacking the messenger, or what many of you know as enabling.
- Revenge. Donald Trump is famous for that. To speak up against Donald Trump is to be threatened with lawsuits, firing, humiliation, verbal attack of all sorts, and even images and words inciting violence against you (think tweets about CNN). It’s not just Trump, but our highly polarized times, when people who want to run for office are getting death threats and a Roy Moore accuser’s house was burned down in what at this time is suspected arson.
- No-tell rules. What about Trump’s notorious no disclosure contracts and the gag rules on thousands of hard-working civil servants? I would say this aura of secrecy extends far into the political system, like the midnight ramming through of legislation that no one even has time to read. It is like being bulldozed, which is exactly how abused children feel.
We live in highly traumatizing times that are restimulating themes many of us lived out earlier. Trauma experts understand that trauma stacks up on previous trauma, further straining one’s system. I write this blog as a way to call out to those whose systems live in the double hell I describe above. I know it’s hard.
One other legacy left by ongoing childhood trauma is the crushing question, Will it ever end? I certainly feel that as each week brings to light more danger, more abusive behavior, and more willful neglect or cover up by Congress. How can it get worse than this, I wonder? Will it ever end? Whether I consciously connect the dots or not, that does at times bring up hopeless feelings from my childhood.
If you believe the current political situation is made worse for you by a trauma history or are having an accentuation of previous psychological symptoms, I encourage you to find a good trauma therapist (or at least do what reading you can). Sorry, I don’t have referrals for you and am not taking new clients. You might read the recommendations in my book, Healing From Trauma for finding a good therapist as well as tools for dealing with trauma.
You might also refer to my earlier blogs, Trump Era Mirrors Abusive Family, May Trigger Childhood Trauma, and Trump and Your Reptilian Brain.