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Thought Traps that Block Healing from Childhood Adversities


           Glenn R. Schiraldi, Ph.D. Psychology Today blog post, April 17, 2024

This post is part of a series on adverse childhood experiences. Read the other parts at

Fortunately, there are effective new treatments that heal hidden inner wounds from trauma, even when that wounding happened long ago in childhood. However, there are common mindsets that keep survivors of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) from finding the help they need to recover fully. This article explores seven of these thought traps.

1. I’m an adult. I should just get over it. If willpower were all that is needed to heal, there would be far fewer emotionally wounded adults. Trauma, by definition, overwhelms one’s present coping abilities. Traumatic memories become lastingly imprinted in the brain, largely beneath conscious awareness. Inner wounds from ACEs are even more likely to persist because they occur before the brain has matured enough to cope with deeply disturbing events. The normal coping skills learned in adulthood are typically insufficient to soothe, modify, and settle deep hidden wounds. Skills that lastingly change the disturbing memory, however, can be learned from a skilled trauma therapist, sometimes from a good written guide, or sometimes from a combination of both.

2. Time will heal my inner wounds. You might ask yourself, “Has it?” Deep emotional wounds tend to persist over time, and often become worse, perhaps surfacing during times of stress, loss of control, or aging. Rather than passively waiting for time to heal, resilient survivors actively seek and apply healing methods.

3. I should just “soldier on” alone. Actually, effective soldiers have a broad support system, ranging from teams, to buddies, and a wide range of other supports. They are trained to call in needed support. Recognizing that help is needed is a sign of wisdom, not weakness.

4. No one who hasn’t been through what I’ve been through can understand or help me. Those who have been through what you have can often relate. They might be very helpful, especially once they have learned how to heal their own inner wounds. On the other hand, some people seem to have a natural gift for compassion, and can empathize even when they haven’t experienced what you have. Think, for example, of a compassionate trauma therapist, who is trained in the healing arts and has acquired comfort and experience with treating the kinds of inner wounds you have experienced.

5. People will reject me if they knew my secrets. Secrets keep us sick. It’s possible that some people might reject you if you disclose your secrets. It’s also possible that others will admire your courage for persisting despite your wounds and will respect your desire to overcome your past, including unwise decisions you made in trying to cope with your pain. In AA, for example, individuals seek a trusted support person to help them through the recovery process. An experienced trauma therapist also helps clients heal, without judging or shaming them. Resilient survivors know that mistreatment and mistakes made in the past do not define them or disqualify them from creating a satisfying life.

6. I’ll never feel happy again. Trauma and emotional upheaval can numb feelings and the ability to feel happiness. Many are surprised to find that on the other side of processing painful memories is the ability to feel much greater happiness.

7. I tried therapy before. It didn’t help. The wrong therapy or the wrong therapist may lead one to conclude that all therapy is useless. For example, therapies that rely primarily on talking about thoughts and feelings might not be the best choice, at least initially. Recall that trauma memories reside in the non-verbal right brain, with its strong connections to the emotional and survival regions of the brain. Trying to talk about such memories (a left-brain process) might be difficult, ineffective, or even retraumatizing. Newer bottom-up strategies might be the better starting point. These strategies start by gently processing bodily sensations, emotions, and/or images in ways that minimize unpleasant reactions. Eventually, the survivor can recall, and even talk about, the original memory without undue emotional disturbance.

If you are one who has suffered excessively for years as a result of unresolved ACEs, be assured that highly effective help can be found. Releasing the seven mindsets can open your mind to finding the right help. The search to find and use it is well worth the effort.


Schiraldi, G. R. (2021). The Adverse Childhood Experiences Recovery Workbook: Heal the Hidden Wounds from Childhood Affecting Your Adult Mental and Physical Health. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications.

About the Author

Glenn R. Schiraldi, PhD, has served on the stress management faculties at The Pentagon, the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation, and the University of Maryland, where he received the Outstanding Teacher Award in addition to other teaching/service awards. His fourteen books on stress-related topics have been translated into seventeen languages, and include The Adverse Childhood Experiences Recovery Workbook, The Self-Esteem Workbook. The Resilience Workbook, and The Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Sourcebook. The founder of Resilience Training International (, he has trained laypersons, emergency responders, and clinicians around the world on the diverse aspects of stress, trauma, and resilience.

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