This article will talk about childhood trauma as a possible source of pain and disease. Most of the content here is based on a lecture by Gabor Maté, which resonated deeply with me because it reflects my personal observations in CranioSacral therapies and Holotropic Breathwork. Also, in homeopathy, we understand that trauma and imprints create disease. In most holistic approaches, this is the common denominator.
Source of disease
There are diseases that we can not put into a specific category. There are genetic diseases. If you have the gene, you have the disease. It has nothing to do with life or stress, although that can affect its course. But whether you get it or not is simply genetic. Those diseases are extraordinarily rare. Most conditions have little or nothing to do with genetic factors. It is what happens inside of you due to what happens to you. Accordingly, there is one primary source of illness, and I mean any sickness.
Whether that’s a so-called mental illness or a physical condition, that source of “dis-ease” is childhood trauma. And this is true whether we’re talking about:
- multiple sclerosis
- rheumatoid arthritis
- malignancy as well
Every disease is rooted in trauma
The statement is that just about everything, not everything, but just about everything that we call illness is rooted in compensations and adaptations that have to do with childhood trauma. The adaptations that children are forced to resort to in response to early stress help them endure that early duress and difficulty. But those same adaptations become a source of pathology later on and even threaten longevity.
Ideology in Western Medicine
To understand that basis, we have to consider how we look at human beings and how we look at the disease. Now, Western medicine perceives illness from a particular perspective. And you have to understand: it’s science, but it’s also ideology. And there is a difference between science and ideology.
There is a lot of science in it, and it’s a great science, but there’s also ideology. Ideology is a point of view. It’s, as the Germans state it, a „Weltanschauung.“ It’s a worldview that you’re not conscious of. You have hidden beliefs that you don’t question, and people who question the hidden beliefs are seen as outliers or mavericks. That’s an ideology that exists in all realms.
Biases of the Western Medicine
There are always ideological biases hidden in any system. The logic of the system operates within this framework. Now, what are the preferences of Western medicine?
The primary bias of Western medicine is that diseases have to have physical causes, in the sense of genes or external factors like bacteria, viruses, or toxins. Otherwise, we don’t know what the reasons are. So the causalities are physical, or the diseases are—what we call—idiopathic—we don’t know what the cause is.
The lack of holistic understanding
The second bias is that diseases happen to organs. So you can have heart disease, lung disease, or diseases of the connective tissue, liver, etc. Of course, we can specify the issue. There are specialties designated for in-depth analysis of the condition of these organs. Accordingly, we separate the organ from the whole person.
After that, we separate the person from the environment, from the social context. We might acknowledge the role of the physical environment, but we certainly do not recognize the part of the social environment. In Western medical terms, the average physician would not be able to explain to you why the more episodes of racism a black American woman experiences, the greater her risk for asthma. It’s just a documented fact.
Nor would the average physician be able to tell you very quickly the multiple times established fact that children whose parents are stressed are more likely to have asthma. This inability is not for the lack of intelligence but typically for the lack of training. A child’s asthma correlates with the degree of mental disturbance on the part of the parent. When you approach a physician with that condition, you get the inhalers. That’s all that happens.
Separation from context
Human beings can’t be separated from their environment. What happens inside an individual on a physiological level is very much determined, or at least affected by what happens to them on a social level. Nor would the average physician be able to explain, based on their training, why is it that if you look at lung cancer, the more adverse childhood experiences you have.
In other words, the more trauma you’ve experienced, the greater the risk of lung cancer. Stunningly this is true even if you cancel out smoking as a factor. Furthermore, the average physician would not be able to say a lot about the fact a Canadian study showed—that if you were abused as a child, your risk of cancer goes up by nearly 50%. Even if you have factored in or factored out things like smoking and drinking, abused people are more likely to do.
At the same time, we’ve always known that something can’t be separated. There’s always been this tussle, you might say, between a unitary holistic view of human beings and existence in general and the dualistic view that separates things.
About 2500 years ago, Buddha said:
“Look at a leaf or a raindrop and meditate. Meditate on all the conditions that are necessary for the existence of that leaf or a raindrop.”
Looking at a leaf, we realize it contains the sun, light, and photosynthesis. It includes the Earth in the form of minerals, and it retains the sky in the form of water and air. So the leaf incorporates Earth, sun, and sky. He says the birth of any phenomenon is dependent on the delivery of other phenomena. He says without the many, there cannot be one. Without one, there cannot be many. And that was the Buddha 2500 years ago!
An excellent writer, Susan Griffin, in her transcendent book “The chorus of stones,” wrote that we could not tell the story of one life separately from the narrative of other lives. To talk about this interconnectedness, we have to come to the question of who we are in the bigger context.
Who are we in the bigger context?
The question is not simple. We call the self part of a larger matrix of relationships in society. All the lives that surround us are in us. There’s a significant difference between an experience of a family physician and a specialist. Blessedly, the specialists know a lot about a particular organ and a specific system, but they don’t see the patient. And by the time they visit the patient, the patient is already sick, and usually, they already have a diagnosis.
At least we know in what area the disease is. A family physician gets to see the people before they get sick. So they know what their personalities are for years before they get sick. Also, one gets to see them in context with their family, including their multi–generational family of origin.
Your specialist does not know your trauma
How many times have you been to a cardiologist, gastroenterologist, dermatologist, neurologist, rheumatologist, or any specialist? Did any one of them ask you about childhood trauma? Did they ask you about the stresses in your relationship with your partner? About job-related pressure? And if, how long did the discussion last? The point is, all of you, who went to these specialists, went there because of childhood trauma—virtually everyone.
When you are reading, some of you are probably internally shaking your heads, looking at your life and saying, “I never had any trauma.” Of course, it all depends on how you use the word trauma.
So what is trauma?
Understanding trauma would require another article. In a nutshell, we can state that trauma is not what happens to you. It’s what happens inside you as a result of what happens to you. And things can happen inside you, for which you don’t need theatrical events. Trauma essentially is a restriction of your capacity. It’s a limitation. It is a constriction in the body, constriction in your mental ability to respond in the present moment from your authentic self.
Trauma creates restriction, creates disease
Essentially trauma is a restriction of your authentic self in the present moment. That’s what trauma is. I will leave you the Gabor Maté clip that inspired me to write this article for further information. Also, I will leave you a few links on my website that investigate the topic of childhood and even birth trauma.
Further articles on trauma
- Article about birth trauma from a holistic perspective
- Healing and transformation through holistic therapy
- Where can I find holistic treatment?
- Trauma from a homeopathic perspective