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Your Childhood Trauma Is Ruining Your Relationship, Sis

"When a person heals from trauma...they can find joy and gratitude." - DeAvila Bennett

Wellness

If the 21st century has taught us anything so far, it has led us to study our past to have a content future. There are two terms that have been repeated on our journey to healing, and they are "toxic" and "trauma." We are all on a journey to wholeness by facing our fears and healing childhood traumas. After some time spent doing inner work, you find yourself feeling as though it's time to open up and invite new people into our lives. Whether that be new friends or a new bae, you are open-minded about the next chapter in your life.

While you are enjoying this new version of yourself, you notice an inevitable hiccup that you find yourself facing. New relationships bring new self-discovery. You've created boundaries, you speak up for yourself, and you have a detailed self-care plan that should be posted on xoNecole as we speak, but one thing that we seem to gloss over is how our childhood trauma can rear its ugly head in our relationships and wreak havoc on them. Especially when that trauma is left unaddressed. In order to begin the necessary work to get to that next chapter of our lives, millennial mental health therapist and author DeAvila Bennett, LCSW gives us insight into acknowledging our childhood traumas and five ways we can heal from those traumas.

What Is Childhood Trauma?

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According to DeAvila, childhood trauma is "a traumatic experience encountered during childhood that has negatively impacted an individual mentally, emotionally, and physically." Examples of trauma can be childhood neglect, physical and sexual abuse, as well as witnessing or being a domestic violence victim. "Untreated trauma can also leave you feeling disconnected from your support circle, numb, and can impact your ability to trust others," she adds.

Suppose you find yourself compartmentalizing, being emotionally detached, or becoming numb to certain situations. In that case, it's time to start focusing on your past to retire the habits stemming from those old wounds, and create some new habits instead.

How Childhood Trauma Impacts Future Relationships

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Now that you have a sense of what childhood trauma is, it's time to apply this to your own life. We are continually battling the childhood and adult versions of ourselves. Individuals can attribute anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress, and battles with substance abuse to trauma experienced in their childhood. Bennett states, "Individuals will often self-sabotage their relationships due to triggers from their traumatic experiences. For example, when parents have neglected an individual, so they often push people away out of fear they will leave anyway, or pour so much into an unhealthy relationship in hopes they will stay and not leave them as the caregiver did."

Why Therapy Is Essential to Overcome Childhood Traumas

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Therapy has become just as popular as a Beyoncé concert ticket (pre-COVID). Men and women of color are becoming vulnerable in expressing their experience and growth with a therapist. It provides a safe space to be seen and heard without judgment. It allows you to open up and dig a little deeper when facing traumas. "As a therapist, I aid clients in understanding their triggers associated with the traumas, understanding their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, coping with triggers, and creating healthy relationships," Bennett explains. "In regard to building healthy relationships, therapy allows the individual to acknowledge their role in toxic relationships (which is typically learned behavior from their trauma), identify how the triggers have impacted their relationships, and [forgive] any parties involved in the traumas."

Before you begin the negative self-talk and self-sabotage, Bennett has provided five steps you can take today to begin to heal from childhood traumas and get on the path to healthy relationships.

1. Seek Therapy

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Choosing to go to therapy was one of the best decisions I've ever made. Creating new habits and disposing of old habits is the real test in showing growth. "Recovering from trauma takes time. Allow a professional to aid you in processing through the murky waters of your trauma. They can hold space for you as you fall apart. Sometimes you need to fall apart. It is OK not to be OK," Bennett says.

2. Begin a Healthy Lifestyle

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Being mindful of what you put in your body and how you move your body brings a sense of confidence and reassurance you need in living a trauma-free life. Exercising for 30 minutes a day, making healthier food choices, and creating a sleep routine are great first steps to living a better life. Trauma impacts your body's natural equilibrium. You being more active aids in repairing the body's nervous system by releasing endorphins and burning adrenaline.

3. Try Mindfulness

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This past summer, I had the pleasure of writing an article on creating a coping kit and why it's crucial to have one to help get you through trying times. Bennett states, "Trauma keeps you inside your head while concentrating on negative thoughts and feelings. When you feel overwhelmed, take 60 breaths and focus on your breathing in and out of your nose and mouth. If you struggle with centering yourself, you can utilize free meditation videos on YouTube or purchase apps like Calm or Headspace." A coping kit is a great way to implement some of these practices and have these tools ready to use when you need a means to cope.

4. Ask for Support

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Who belongs to your tribe? Who can you call on to support you and your journey—a family member, friend, or mentor? Any human-to-human contact can help you stop living in your head. Trauma will have you isolating yourself. Connecting with others can assist you in the healing process. You don't have to discuss your traumas with them, but you can ask for support.

5. Learn How to Self-Regulate

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You have the power to calm yourself down and decrease your arousal response. Trauma makes you believe that you don't have control over feeling angry, anxious, or agitated. Unless you are suffering from mental illness, that is not always the truth. Learning how to self-regulate will help decrease anxiety and help you feel like you have a greater sense of control over what is going on. One technique you can use is grounding exercises. Sit down and begin noticing what you can see, touch, hear, and smell. Take deep breaths as you notice these objects. This exercise brings you back to the here and now.

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ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
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