I experienced three consecutive traumas during childhood — the first living alone with my severely depressed and volatile mother whose moods terrified me, the second a long period of violent sexual abuse culminating in my rape at age 9, the third a very open rejection and subsequent abandonment by my father. I’m now 23 and my life is beautiful. I have dealt with most of my issues. But one that won’t leave me alone is that I feel I am stuck with the emotional maturity of a small child. It’s like I stopped developing at some point. I cry literally every day, often at things that most people would find ridiculous. I have so many emotions and I don’t know what to do with them. I am so embarrassed because I frequently find myself fighting back tears in public. I’m not depressed, I am very happy in general, it’s just that my emotional responses are childlike and it only takes the tiniest thing to set me off. I’m constantly struggling not to cry like a silly little girl, I can’t seem to control myself. I can’t really describe the things that upset me, because they are so varied. Is this something I will have to live with forever? Is there a certain type of therapy that you could recommend? My last therapist told me that I was just an incredibly sensitive person and that I’d have to accept this about myself, but I can’t bear the thought of being so emotional forever. I don’t feel that it’s normal. Did my childhood trauma stunt my emotional development? Did I get stuck? Is this fixable?
Thank you for taking the time to explain the details of your difficult situation. You are a resilient person who is displayed a great deal of courage in coping with events he couldn’t control. Anyone of these conditions would be a lot to handle, I admire your ability to cope with so much.
The conclusions you’ve reached about the possibility of this stunting your growth emotionally are worth discussing with a trauma expert. I highly recommend you find someone in your area with expertise in childhood trauma. The “find help” tab at the top of the page can locate someone nearby.
Dan Tomasulo Ph.D., TEP, MFA, MAPP teaches Positive Psychology in the graduate program of Counseling and Clinical Psychology at Columbia University, Teachers College and works with Martin Seligman, the Father of Positive Psychology in the Masters of Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP) program at the University of Pennsylvania. He is Director of the New York Certification in Positive Psychology for the Open Center in New York City and on faculty at New Jersey City University. Sharecare has honored him as one of the top 10 online influencers on the topic of depression. For more information go to: http://www.dare2behappy.com/. He also writes for Psych Central's Ask the Therapist column and the Proof Positive blog.
APA Reference Tomasulo, D. (2018). Stuck In Childhood. Psych Central.
Retrieved on July 17, 2019, from https://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2015/05/05/stuck-in-childhood/
Last updated: 8 May 2018 Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 May 2018 Published on Psych Central.com. All rights reserved.