Women are not the only victims of the inter-generational cycle of trauma. The New York Times (02/22/18) reported: “A new national online survey reports that 81 percent of women and 43 percent of men say they have experienced sexual harassment or assault over their lifetimes. The survey sought to illustrate the scope of the #MeToo movement.” Children are present in 80% of violent homes and 40% of these children experience abuse themselves. The incidence of child abuse is 15 times higher in homes with spousal abuse.
Boys who witness their fathers’ violence are 10 times more likely to act abusively in adulthood, thus creating a cycle. Men are socialized to express their emotions in anger or not at all, resulting in high alcohol/drug addiction, high-risk behavior, and crisis-oriented living. Women are socialized to express their emotions in depressive self-blame with high levels of learned helplessness and isolating shame, which increases the risk of substance abuse, self-harm, and eating disorders.
Both men and women often lack self-care, self-soothing, and grieving skills. Without the self-care and soothing skills, we are not equipped to identify and process our losses. Losses aren’t just people we have lost in the circle of life, but gaps we’ve had in interpersonal development, dissatisfaction in key relationships, and failure to achieve life goals or dreams.
Grieving is a natural process that many have avoided because they confuse sadness with depression. Without grieving, we never feel deserving of things that were missing in our earlier lives. These are skills that our parents may not have been able to teach us. Unless we are taught by our families, we are not skilled in developing trust in our own judgement, identifying feelings, expressing emotions, setting boundaries, facing conflict, negotiating resolutions, and fostering intimacy. These skills provide us with the tools to be effective successful individuals in our world.
Since 1986, Dr. Chang has worked with trauma survivors, including sexual harassment, domestic violence, sexual assault, childhood physical/sexual abuse, victims of crime, disaster survivors, and veterans’ combat. Additionally, she has worked with many men and women of different ethnicities, who do not present with trauma but need a similar path of recovery. We all experience emotional wounds that are deep, painful, and require targeted recovery.