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Speaker Addresses Trauma

February 14, 2012

ST. MARYS — One in four people have experienced some form of trauma, says Aaron Kuhn of Counseling & Consulting Services Inc.

“Trauma is existent in this world,” he said. “If you’ve been alive long enough, you’ve likely experienced some sort of trauma.”

Kuhn, the second of four motivational speakers in the Grand Health Challenge lineup, spoke Monday night to area residents about trauma and how to deal with it. Family of origin, he said, is where people grow up.

“Unfortunately, sometimes we experience awesome things in our family of origin and sometimes we experience a lot of pain,” Kuhn said, noting that he has experienced a lot of pain with an alcoholic father.

Kuhn noted trauma experienced from a family of origin has an impact on attachment style. Securely attached people are more likely to have had a positive upbringing — one without substance abuse or violence and the parents got along.

“You vicariously learned all these wonderful things,” Kuhn said of the positive upbringing. “The research says if you experience that, you describe your family more positively, you have more happiness in your current family, are more self confident, you deal less with psychological issues, you’re higher functioning in your workplace, you’re comfortable with intimacy and closeness and you usually have experienced a democratic parenting style.”

Kuhn said there are three types of parenting styles — democratic, laissez-faire and authoritarian.

“Democratic is rules and boundaries and you listen and validate one another,” Kuhn said. “Laissez-faire is whatever you want to do, do it — whatever will make you feel good. That promotes a lot of diffused boundaries and we get impulsive people. And then we have authoritarian, which is you need to be seen and not heard.”

Authoritarian style parenting, Kuhn said, involves negative influences on a person’s family of origin.

“This is where you have domestic violence, substance abuse and you feel like you’re walking on egg shells,” he said.

“If you’ve experienced verbal, emotional, sexual or physical abuse, we have higher rates of addictions across the board. Substance addition, sexual addictions, eating addiction. If you’ve experienced trauma, then you have a high rate of addictive eating.”

The parenting style will likely lead to a fearful attachment style.

“You’re uncomfortable getting close to others, you have difficulty trusting others, you have chronic worry that you’re going to be hurt over and over again,” Kuhn said.

“Based on the trauma, it’s almost impossible for you to have a positive view of yourself and anybody else.”

Parents that raise children under a laissez-faire style are disengaged.

The parents, Kuhn said, may not fight, but they also may not sleep in the same room.

“They didn’t see their parents or family talk, trust feel or touch appropriately,” he said, noting that the four things are important in a family dynamic.

The disengaged parenting can lead to a dismissive attachment style.

“You’re comfortable without close relationships, you don’t want be dependent on others because you learned vicariously not to, high level of independence, you avoid attachments and intimacy pretty much altogether, you view yourself more positively than your partner or your family, you suppress your feelings and you distance yourself from others,” Kuhn said.

Kuhn also discussed the overindulged child, the opposite of a disengaged parenting style. Overindulged children are used to getting everything their way, and the overindulgence usually facilitates an anxious-preoccupied attachment style, Kuhn said.

“They want complete devotion at all times,” he said.

“If you’re not always up and giving them that attention, they’re afraid that they’re not loved. They seek constant approval, they’re clingy, they have a negative view of themselves but a positive view of their partner and they’re used to everybody giving them whatever they want.”

Kuhn said overindulged people are impulsive.

“They’re impulsive eaters, spenders, they’re impulsive sexually and a lot of that is to get unmet needs,” he said.

To manage addictions and negative effects of trauma, Kuhn recommended seeking counseling.

“The No. 1 goal is to seek counseling and to get this trauma out,” he said.

Kuhn compared catharsis that can be achieved through counseling to the feeling of a bad stomach ache where a person just needs to vomit. The feeling of relief after getting sick, he said, is similar to catharsis.

“For some reason, psychology and therapy works,” Kuhn said. “When you vomit it out, catharsis, you get yourself free. It’s amazing. It works. So, my tip for you is to find a support group.”

Kuhn said there are several kinds of support groups, including celebrate recovery, overeaters anonymous and alcoholics anonymous, among a slew of others.

Kuhn also advised attendees to forgive those that may have wronged them.

“It says in the Bible, ‘Forgive and be forgiven,’ and I can relate to that personally,” Kuhn said.

“I hated my father for years for what he did. When I let that weight go, I can’t explain how freeing that was.”

To guard his life from his family of origin trauma, Kuhn said, he has developed a hierarchy in his life.

“The best way I’ve found that I’ve grounded myself from my own trauma is I try not to budge in this hierarchy,” he said. “God No. 1, my marriage, my wife No. 2, my kids No. 3, then I go through my family of origin — work, friends.”

Kuhn stressed the importance of seeking counsel and keeping in mind the effects of unresolved trauma.

“Proverbs says the wise seek counsel, and make sure it’s Christian counsel,” he said.

“You can get some bad advice from individuals. Remember unresolved trauma can ruin relationships, your health, your finances — everything. So, get it out. Get that emotional vomit out.”

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