Over the past fifteen or more years, I have listened to hundreds of people (in fact, probably more than a thousand) talk about their worst secrets.

A lot of these are childhood traumas, involving incest, alcoholism, domestic violence, drug abuse, poverty, mental illness, felonies, political oppression, manslaughter, pedophilia, and desertion or betrayal of loved ones.

What is so humbling about this is that a lot of these folks who have been so deeply traumatized look just fine, thank you.. Often, they are accomplished, popular, good-looking, poised, or affluent. Often, they have perfect-looking significant others, children, and homes.

And I still look at individuals I've just met, and think, "He (or she) has it all together." Call it invincible ignorance on my part.

As I don’t know you Deborah909, I can’t state is as a fact, but it (“Some of your peers who seem happy, popular, and self-confident are miserable”) seems to be ignorance from your side indeed. However, NOT because you (in general, not you Deborah909) are still surprised that some people who appear to have at least a normal (or more happy etc.) life have had a very though childhood. But apparently you did have a relatively normal childhood and don’t seem to have an idea how to cope with such a situation if it would have been yourself.

Generalizing, there are two distinct ways how most traumatized people tend to “deal” with their past:
  1. Faking. No matter what happens/happened: Keep on smiling, or “keeping the dirty laundry in the house”. You don’t want people to know what happened, mostly because of a strong feeling of shame. My personal opinion is, that the ones who are faking, haven’t dealt with the past experiences sufficiently, the trauma is still running as a background process in their mind.
  2. Dealing with it. Things that happened in the past can’t be changed, what’s done is done. Analyse it, learn from it, and get on with your life. Struggle with it, and master it. And recovering from serious problems makes you mentally stronger. This may explain why people with childhood traumas can be happier (like the saying that you need to have visited the valleys of darkness to be able to fully appreciate the view and greatness on the top of the mountain) and more self-confident etc. So they are far from miserable! (I’m not only talking about my own experience here)
Optionally, a third way of dealing with it (I strongly disagree with that): some people get all fucked up, and then relate it to their childhood trauma, thus essentially blaming someone else, instead taking the responsibility for their own actions. But childhood traumas are not a necessary precondition for freaking out.

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