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identity creation and trauma

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I have been working on a seminar about healing trauma and so it got me thinking about creating an identity and how that relates to traumatic experiences.

Identity formation begins in early childhood.  It has to do with the psycho-social stages identified by Erik Erikson.  How one resolves the conflicts of each of these stages imparts a special and unique spin on how one see himself.  This is very important and much has been written about these stages.

The use of mindfulness as a parent is very useful in assisting your child work-through these stages to a confident and positive conclusion or resolution.  (Read more about this in  every twelve years, and book Turning No to ON: The Art of Parenting with Mindfulness.)

This is further developed in adolescence where it has a crystallization effect until middle adulthood.  The crystallization process is confronted by different components for different people based on how each resolved the early stages of social-psychological development.  Mistakes or missed interpretations can become hardened in adolescence such that an individual has an inaccurate picture of self onto which she places her identity.

When a person is traumatized while in the process of working-through these stages, the trauma affects how she perceives herself.  This may be something that she inputs into the core of her identity.   This can have a strengthening or debilitating effect on the child depending on what message is imprinted from the trauma. If the child feels she has successfully dealt with the event and perceives the event has made her stronger, then she will be able to incorporate that into her identity.  If however the opposite is true she will incorporate a sense of insecurity.

Sometimes these misinterpretations are the basic foundation onto which the adolescent places her desires, goals, and personal expectations.  If these misinterpretations do not get corrected they can negatively affect what path the individual chooses and how she goes about completing goals and aspirations.  A person with excellent artistic skills may not go into an artistic field because he believes he has no talent.  Or a person with a high IQ may not attempt to go into college because she feels stupid.  Sometimes the resolution to the trauma leaves the person feeling as if he has no power; in this instance he may have difficulty consolidating his inner sense of self to make any attempt to participate in social, academic, and athletic ventures, and as a result his environment mirrors his inner sense of discouragement.

Specific interpretations developed in early childhood are required to help children work through trauma in a successful and affirming way.  Children need to feel that somebody cares about them, that they are significant or important to someone, that they are connected to a family that provides stability and belonging.  They need to  have a belief  in their innate, inner goodness, and to experience feelings of mastery and personal power and control.  These are all part of the early stages of Erik Erikson’s model of social-psychological developmental stages.

To assist your child through a trauma you want to align with him and create a loving, safe, and stable environment.  Many times a traumatized child will regress or lose skills previously developed.  Responding to this with understanding and providing opportunities to redevelop those skills offers an opportunity to increase a sense of caring, significance, connection, stability, and creation of feelings of mastery and personal control.

If your child tends to be more of a doer – offering projects to physically work on puzzles and build things will assist in the healing process.  If your child is a talker – offering projects to write, report, act-out or play-out puzzles and process the situation will assist in the process of healing.

If your child tends to integrate information in both ways allowing a choice and options to work-through redevelopment of skills and integration of the trauma into his inner landscape is most healing.

Having this information can help you feel prepared.  Knowing you can provide an avenue for your child to increase his sense of self and authentic identify when affected by a trauma can increase your sense of security.

This information is also applicable as we age.

Take the time to evaluate if you have built your identity onto a false foundation, a misinterpretation due to an early trauma.  Sometimes the way you suspect this is true is through an inner sense of emptiness or loss.  If you find that you have a false foundation use some of these techniques to see if you can discover a new sense of self and  a new perspective of your talents and skills.   It may open an avenue of work or enjoyment that you had closed long ago.

See you tomorrow.


Author: instinctivehealthparenting4u

Author, Integrative medicine practitioner, psychotherapist. Albuquerque, NM practice, focus on return to balance and the integration of spirit, mind, and body through meditation and mindfulness. Monthly trainings, & professional and personal development coaching. Find more on my website Read my books, Turning NO to ON: The Art of Parenting with Mindfulness, Turning ME to WE: The Art of Partnering with Mindfulness (, for increased internal wellness and alignment with your spiritual purpose, and to activate joyous love and light, bg

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