CHILDHOOD TRAUMA – THE INVISIBLE TYPE, by Art Smukler, author & psychiatrist

Often, childhood isn’t all that dramatic. No beatings, no sexual abuse, and no drunken binges with screaming and knife throwing. It’s quietly and confusingly more like a Chinese water torture — an intermittant trickle of devaluing words, missed chances to validate and unrecognized pleas for help. To others your life may look great, but not to you. Your pain is palpable, even though the cause is subtle and invisible.

You suspect that something’s wrong, but just can’t figure it out. You don’t know why you don’t love your parents like you’re supposed to. You don’t know why you’re miserable.

“What’s wrong with me?” you think. “Everyone else likes them. I’m a terrible person to feel this way.”

Then in 7th grade or 8th grade or college, you get depressed. You think, maybe I just need some Prozac. A pill should fix me. So arrangements are made and you see a psychiatrist or therapist. Hopefully, the doctor understands that in this case, pills aren’t the answer. He sees it as a chance to examine your life and really help you to get better. So with trepidation and more than a few misgivings you begin psychotherapy.

To use poetic license and a time travelers magic, I’ll quickly move therapy right along. You shed your guilt, become aware of your rage, and your depression begins to lift. It’s like bursting out of a quicksand pool and finally being able to spread the wings you never knew you had.

You can leave your troubled family on the ground below as you discover a world filled with adventure and new ideas. They may remain locked in their rigid, unchangeable world, but that doesn’t mean that you’re duty bound to continue to share that world. You can try to help them, but they have to be willing. As you’ve learned, it’s not easy to examine life from a foreign vantage point. Your family may be too damaged to change. But you’re not. You’ll never be the same again!

Do you believe that childhood trauma can be overcome? What started your healing process? What happened to your family when you changed?

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All through college and part of med-school, I sold battery cables, ignition wire-sets and jumper cables. I loaded up the trunk of my car with hundreds of feet of cables and hawked them to gas stations and small auto accessory stores.

“Buy a dozen battery cables and I’ll throw in two packages of wire-sets. Plus I’ll give you 20% off,” I’d say, standing under a leaking auto chassis with a sweating mechanic.

“Are dees any good?” one brawny station owner asked.

“They’re great,” I answered. My father had a small factory and made them. They were actually quite good.

“Oh yeah?” He took a jumper cable, held one end in his huge fist and the large clip in the other fist. He  grunted, and ripped the large clip off the end of the cable wire.

“What?” I yelled.

“I want 25% off and I’ll buy three dozen cables in all sizes.”

I nodded, ran to the trunk, and made my biggest sale of the week.

Somehow, my life as an author/psychiatrist has gone backwards. Now, instead of selling battery cables, I’m selling Art Smukler and his books. It’s a little weird. Maybe if I were Smuckers Jelly it would be less weird. Maybe not.

On the other hand, Art Smukler is a good product. If you pull hard enough the ends might come off, but they can be re-attached.

Will you lose 15 lbs? Maybe, if you deal with your mother and improve your relationship with your kids. Will you fall in love? Absolutely. Just read Chasing Backwards. If you don’t fall in love with Joe Belmont, you’ll fall in love with Karen Levine.

Plus, I’ll throw in 2 dozen blog posts!