Problems from the Past to Peace in the Present
By Dr. Martha Susan Horton
During this incredibly stressful time, some of us who are psychologically normal adults yet suffered Adverse Childhood Experiences in childhood or adolescence, may be experiencing overwhelming feelings of fear and anxiety triggered by those past traumas. AND, even if we know better, we may not be reacting to the current pandemic as age appropriately as we would like or hope.
These age inappropriate childish or adolescent reactions may actually be a good thing and help highlight the need to seek healing and growth.
However, even though we may think our age-inappropriate reactions to the pandemic are unique to us and this time, this worldwide crisis is hardly the first to expose childish or adolescent emotional responses in otherwise normal adults being triggered by earlier traumas.
During and after each World War and serious conflict, a number of soldiers, and others affected by the traumatic events, have been diagnosed with an emotionally debilitating disorder originally termed “War Neurosis,” then “Shell Shock,” and now, PTSD.
Doctors treating the soldiers in military hospitals and privately concluded the often severe emotional disorders are not typically caused by the conflict situations themselves. They surprisingly found the origin for most of these disorders is unresolved traumas from childhood or adolescence causing emotional stoppage and immaturity. This lack of emotional maturity renders them incapable of reacting to extreme wartime and traumatic conflict situations as mature adults.
During and after World War II, for example, two exceptional psychiatrists working with soldier/patients, identified and championed the urgent need for immature adults, and especially soldiers, to become emotionally mature.
Dr. William Menninger, of the famous Menninger Clinic founded in Topeka, Kansas and now in Houston, Texas, returned from WWII and created a body of work on becoming emotionally mature, including a definition of emotional maturity still considered the gold standard and readily available online.
Menninger’s peer, Dr. Leon Saul, a renowned professor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, returned home and authored 12 books on emotional maturity, including “The Childhood Emotional Pattern and Maturity,” in which he investigates the persistence of childhood emotional patterns in later life.
During WWII the famous director John Houston made a film of soldiers in a military hospital for what was then called “Shell Shock.” In it real soldiers are treated for the early traumas causing their emotional problems. The powerful film, “Let There Be Light,” withheld for 35 years due to privacy issues, is now available on You Tube.
Why is this information important? And why is it especially pertinent for us at this difficult time?
It is important to recognize that age inappropriate behaviors in otherwise normal adults that emerge in extreme crises, like the current pandemic, often have roots in the past. And if you or your loved ones are finding it difficult to cope appropriately during these challenging days, and you or they experienced traumas in childhood or adolescence, there may be a correlation.
And it’s important to know you are not to blame, you are not alone, and there is help. Like many formerly emotionally stuck and immature adults for whom traditional therapies have not been the answer, you can achieve emotional maturity and continue growing through your life, no matter how old you are or how difficult your beginnings were.
One very well worn and successful path to emotional maturity and a life of Peace is Amate Growth Work. It is discussed in this website and in materials you will find listed in the Recommended Readings section of the site.
As we all struggle to endure this challenging time well, I hope you have found this information interesting and helpful. Most importantly, know this, there is no need to settle for a life that does not allow you to use your potential to the full, and does not lead to Peace.
Dr. Martha Susan Horton
The Amate Institute/Pensacola