So I’m going to use an analogy to explain how childhood trauma can feel in life. Its sort of a response to terms like “dysfunctional” or “maladaptive”, and was kind of inspired by the Spoon Analogy that people who suffer from chronic pain have adopted.
When you are little, you don’t have a lot of tools at your disposal to fix things to deal with stuff. You are evolved to rely on the grown ups around you to use tools, and show you how to, as well as where to get new ones, if you need them.
Quite often though, children who live in dysfunctional homes have adults who have very few tools, don’t know where to get more, or worse yet, don’t care to, and don’t teach you how to use even what they have in their repertoire. That doesn’t mean that monkey see, monkey do isn’t still applicable.
So lets say that one rainy night the roof starts leaking and one of your parents puts a bucket under the leak to catch the water, and it takes a very rainy week before someone comes to patch the roof.
You watch the roofer and marvel at their tools, and how brave they are at being so high up, and you try to climb the ladder to join them. Obviously thos is dangerous and you are chastised for trying.
So the roof leak is dealt with, but the kitchen plumbing springs a leak. Out comes a smaller bucket. It’s a couple of months before someone fixes it.
Another bucket is used for cleaning, and theres a pen holder that is a bucket, and a bucket to catch oil from your family car
You see buckets as handy tools, your parents use them all the time. Tape is the only other competitor in your parents tool box.
So you adopt the use of buckets… and tape.
One night, the roof springs a leak again durning a particularity rough thunderstorm, and out comes a bucket, then another, and another. This time there will be no roofer to fix the roof. So the buckets stay, and it becomes your job to empty the buckets after every rain.
You may know that other people have different tools to manage stuff, but to get those tools, to learn to use them is dangerous.
Eventually you go to school and you bring your buckets.. as many as you can carry. Now the school’s roof is pretty sturdy, but there are different sources of water.
You start your days laying out your buckets “just in case” but there’s not very much room around your desk for them. You trip on them, other kids and teachers trip on them, they’re a distraction, they’re noisy, it’s difficult to play with other kids because the buckets get in the way.
Some kids throw water at you, and some teachers too. You use your buckets the best you can to stay dry, you take your scotch tape and make a suit of armor with your buckets.
Problem is those buckets get in the way of learning, you can’t see very well, talking is noisy and rattles your ears, it’s hard to hold a pencil, or even move your arms. So you hide in your armor of buckets and scotch tape.
This becomes handy, because it keeps you dry when your parents throw water at each other or at you. Or the roof leaks over your bed, or you are scared and lonely on the bus. You feel like a knight.
As you get older, you modify and perfect your bucket armor, have extras for catching leaks and have even figured out how to male a show of your bucket tools, it’s lile a rolling stand up comedy routine.
But one day you notice the buckets attached to your body feel extremely tight, and you can’t take them off. No need for scotch tape, you grew and they didn’t and now they’re bonded to your body.
You may try to ask for help to remove the buckets, but people around you see them as intrinsic to your personality. Or you may think this may be how you are supposed to just be, even though it hurts all the time.
There are professional bucket removers, so one day you decide to go to one. The bucket remover uses an very direct and rough approach to remove on or two buckets and it causes a most horrifying pain, and hands you a hammer.
They tell you to practice with the hammer, but you really can’t hold the hammer because there are still buckets in the way, and you don’t want to get more buckets removed because the pain is excruciating.
You try romantic relationships with people thatthat have different tools, but you find that you relate best to other bucket carriers with leaky roofs.
They are also suffering the weight of their buckets. Both of you help carry each other’s loads, trade buckets, tackle leaks together scotch rape yourselves together, but, you never really get close to each other, because what makes you both so similar, your buckets are also in the way. Eventually there’s a fire. Neither of you are equipped for it.
The relationship ends, and many more to come, with the same fiery ending. You know your buckets are in the way, they’re painful and too small, but you’re terrified of the pain of removing them, and terrified to climb a ladder and learn how to fix a roof.
If you’re lucky, you might find a suitable and gentle bucket remover and you might learn to use other tools in life, and even climb ladders and fix roofs, but you will always have buckets near by. You may find better ways to store them, but here and there, they will end up out of storage or fall, and you will trip on them.
These buckets are rudimentary tools for crisis management, and many people carry them around from toddlerhood to their death beds, never having the opportunity to experience life without the burden of carrying and being encased in their painful and constraining buckets and scotch tape.
Some wear them as a suit, some build their homes, or careers from buckets, some carry buckets of numbing agents like drugs and risky activity and some use buckets to break people and things, causing more leaks. Some people do all of the above.
This analogy may change over time, but it makes sense in my head right now.
Thank you for reading, and stay safe!