The Body Keeps The Score

When your caregivers regularly ignore your needs, you learn to expect rejection and withdrawal. You cope by tuning out their hostility or neglect and pretending it doesn’t matter. But the body keeps score: it remains in a state of high alert, ready to ward off blows, deprivation, or abandonment.

One of the most devastating effects of this, Van der Kolk found, is “not feeling real inside.” When you don’t feel real, nothing matters. It’s impossible to protect yourself from danger or pay attention to your own needs. You can go to extremes to feel something – even cutting yourself with razor blades or fighting with strangers.

And all of this continues into adulthood. It doesn’t just go away on its own. A child who has been ignored or chronically humiliated is likely to lack self-esteem. Children who weren’t allowed to assert themselves have trouble standing up for themselves. And many adults who were abused as children carry a smoldering anger that they struggle to suppress.

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