Trauma and Affirmations
Recently my friend told me that she was starting to manage her toxic relationship with her mother by repeating the affirmation “your shame is not mine” to herself. She said it was working and she was starting to be able to create boundaries with her Mum. It was helping with their relationship and her own negative feelings about herself. The reason it was working was because it was true. Research shows that affirmations can improve our mental health if they are true.
It made me wonder whether positive thinking and positive affirmation cards and resources could play a part in the puzzle of healing from trauma. Childhood trauma can create negative thought processes which become entrenched in the subconscious creating both physical and emotional responses. Trauma can change the wiring of the brain. It can put a person into a constant state of ‘fight or flight’. This has a knock on effect causing depression, anxiety, low self-esteem and many other neurological problems. It can also cause other physical symptoms such as headaches, migraines and even disease.
Child psychologist Linda Chamberlain said “We know more than ever before about how to help children exposed to domestic violence. Positive, supportive relationships are at the core of recovering from trauma. We need to instill hope while helping children to understand and express their feelings, validating their experiences and helping them to recognize and build on their strengths. Affirmations that help children to believe in themselves (confidence), recognize that they are good at something (competence) and encourage them to share their gift/skill with others (contribution) are essential building blocks of resiliency.”
Research shows that those who have experienced sexual abuse, neglect, domestic violence, job loss, divorce or illness cope better when they are naturally resilient. Resilience connects to character traits such as patience, self-love, self-belief, acceptance and perseverance. Experts now belief resilience can be learned through affirmations, not only in adults but also in children who have experienced trauma and abuse.
When a child experiences a trauma such as physical or sexual abuse they are told lies and manipulated. They internalise their abusers shame. A negative self-image is affirmed every time the abuse is repeated. They are told it is their fault, the abusers tries to control their thoughts and they are not able to feel safe.
These are some lovely affirmations for children and adults who have experienced trauma:
"Its not my fault"
"I am safe"
"I am in control"
"I control my own thoughts"
"I deserve to be happy"
"My past doesn’t have to control my future"
Affirming your child can be done with words and actions. Children need to feel accepted for who they are and loved. Children whose parents affirm them in this way do better in all aspects of life. Parenting styles such as attachment parenting, gentle parenting, hand in hand parenting and many others are based on the principle of affirming your child.
One of the tools which can help to unravel the toxic beliefs created by trauma are positive affirmations. We know that trauma can re wire the brain. But we also know that positive affirmations can start to change the way we think as well.
Nurture Cards are positive affirmation cards for children. They make a lovely kids gift or can be used by parents and professionals to support the mental health of our children.
* Gwinn, C., personal communication. (29 Dec 2014). Interview with Linda Chamberlain. See also www.fosteringresilience.org. Dr. Ken Ginsburg has done excellent work on the topic of fostering resilience in trauma-exposed children.