Healing From Childhood TraumaAnxiety/DepressionParenting/Having ChildrenRomantic RelationshipsCareer/AdultingPep TalksSelf-CareMisc

Browse By Category

Childhood Trauma Adaptations: Superpowers & Kryptonite (Part 3)

How childhood trauma adaptations are like kryptonite. Image of a young boy in mask and cape.

Discover how childhood trauma adaptations can become Kryptonite in adulthood. Learn to manage patterns that once protected you in childhood but now hinder personal growth and relationships in adulthood.

In this essay, you’ ll learn:

  • How childhood trauma adaptations can have negative impacts in adulthood, hindering personal growth.
  • How to determine if your adaptations have turned into proverbial Kryptonite in adulthood
  • What to do to regain control over adaptations can help you use them positively in your adult life and relationships.
How childhood trauma adaptations are like kryptonite. Image of a young boy in mask and cape.

Childhood Trauma Adaptations: Superpowers & Kryptonite (Part 3)

In our last essay – part two of this three part essay series – we explored how our childhood trauma adaptations, originally rooted in attempts purely to cope with if not survive our painful early experiences, could have developed qualities and characteristics in us as adults that have served us well academically, professionally, financially, etc.

Today, in this third of the three-part series, we’re going to explore how all of these adaptations can also become a proverbial Kryptonite and how we can begin to discern when and how this is happening and then seek out the right kind of support to “reduce the Kryptonite” (so to speak). 

Do you come from a childhood trauma background?

Take this 5-minute quiz to find out (and more importantly, what to do about it if you do.)

Childhood trauma adaptations as proverbial Kryptonite.

As we discussed previously, childhood trauma adaptations may morph into strengths or “superpowers.”

But their flip side can act as “kryptonite,” undermining our adult lives—professionally, financially, logistically, and relationally—when the context that necessitated these adaptations has passed and the adaptations are now running us on autopilot.

Let’s illustrate this with some examples from the eight adaptations we’ve used across this three-part essay series.

Hyper-vigilance, for example, may serve well in high-stakes environments requiring acute awareness. Yet, in everyday settings, this constant alertness can lead to burnout, stress-related illnesses, or strained personal relationships due to perceived overreaction to minor threats (perceived or actual).

Another example? 

People-pleasing behavior, while fostering harmonious relationships as we previously discussed, can also lead to a loss of personal identity and boundaries. In professional settings, this might manifest as difficulty in saying no, leading to overcommitment and burnout. 

Now let’s talk about dissociation. Dissociation, valuable for creative endeavors, can become problematic when it impairs one’s ability to stay present in critical conversations or situations, impacting personal and professional relationships. The detachment from reality can hinder emotional connections with others and oneself, leading to isolation not to mention a host of disorienting experiences from a lack of being personified and presentified.

Another example?

Emotional numbing protects against pain but also dulls joy and satisfaction, making meaningful personal connections challenging. This can translate into a lack of passion or drive professionally, affecting career advancement and satisfaction. 

Another reframe that hits home for me: perfectionism may drive high achievement but at the cost of never feeling “good enough,” leading to chronic stress, anxiety, and potentially, mental health issues. 

Also, and yes, I relate to this one, too, control-seeking behaviors provide a sense of security but can manifest as rigidity or micromanagement in professional settings, stifling creativity and flexibility. Relationally on the home front, this need for control can lead to lots of conflicts and sometimes a lack of genuine, reciprocal relationships.

Impulsivity, while enabling quick decision-making, can also result in rash decisions with long-term negative consequences, especially financially or professionally. The lack of foresight can undermine financial stability and professional reputation.

Finally, avoidance can initially reduce stress but ultimately limits personal growth and problem-solving capabilities. Professionally, it can lead to missed opportunities due to the fear of facing challenging situations. Relationally, it prevents the deepening of connections, as difficult conversations are necessary for growth.

Obviously, there is a “flip side of the coin” to what we can view as our adaptation superpowers. 

And that flip side is that these adaptations can become our proverbial Kryptonite as well if we’re not mindful of them and attempting to manage them. 

So how do we know when our superpowers are becoming Kryptonite?

First of all, please understand that even if your superpower has a flip side, no one is telling you to fully get rid of this superpower/Kryptonite quality; I’m certainly not! 

Your adaptations served you well as a kid and likely left you with great gifts as an adult. 

BUT, recognizing when and how they may be getting in your way as an adult (either because you don’t have choice around how frequently, choicefully, or intensively you flex your superpower), is critical for your adult well-being now.

So what do we do about this? 

How do we start to discern when our superpower is becoming our Kryptonite and flex some choice around it?

It boils down to self-compassion, mindfulness, and good trauma therapy.

First, let’s have soooo much compassion for our child selves who, in all our drive to survive, formed an adaptation that got us through and maybe out of that painful early environment. 

Thank you, younger self.

Now, couple this self-compassion with mindfulness about what role that adaptation is currently having in your life by asking the following questions:

  • Does this adaptation now serve my well-being and growth, or is it a reactive pattern to past trauma?
  • Am I using this adaptation to avoid feeling or dealing with difficult emotions?
  • How does this adaptation affect my relationships with loved ones, colleagues, and friends?
  • Do I feel like I have control over this adaptation, or does it control me?
  • How do I feel after engaging in this adaptation—empowered or drained?
  • Does this adaptation align with the person I want to be?
  • What would happen if I let go of this adaptation (or, at the very least, reduced it by like 50%)?
  • How does this adaptation impact my mental and physical health?
  • What are the short-term benefits versus the long-term consequences of this adaptation?
  • How do others react to this adaptation? Is it bringing me closer to or pushing me away from the people I care about?
  • What’s the cost if I don’t gain a little more control over this adaptation?

Reflecting on these prompts can help you discern if your adulthood superpower has morphed into a proverbial form of Kryptonite that, quite frankly, you need to get a handle on.

And then, after compassion and mindfulness, if you do decide you need to get a handle on it, that’s when we seek out trauma therapy.

Trauma Therapy: reducing the Kryptonite

When we look at the ways we’ve adapted to past childhood trauma, it’s essential to understand that these adaptations are like double-edged swords, both superpowers and Kryptonite, both adaptive and maladaptive.

Our childhood trauma adaptations were beneficial during difficult times in childhood, but as adults, they can sometimes get in the way. 

The goal of trauma therapy, especially with methods like Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing therapy (EMDR), is to help us process these past experiences so that they don’t control our reactions in the present.

EMDR therapy can help change how we react to memories of trauma, making them less overwhelming and allowing us to respond to current situations more appropriately. 

It’s not about forgetting the past but about changing how it affects us now.

It’s not about getting rid of our superpower but cultivating more choice about how we flex this superpower so it doesn’t run our lives like Kryptonite.

This doesn’t mean losing our ability to be vigilant or empathetic (or fill in the blank with whatever your childhood trauma adaptation is); it means choosing when and how to use these abilities rather than letting them automatically take over.

This ability to choose is key to using our childhood trauma adaptations positively in our adult lives.

And in doing so, we give ourselves a better chance at having a beautiful adulthood, despite our adverse early beginnings.

And now I’d love to hear from you in the comments below:

What is one of your childhood trauma superpowers that, in the past or in the present, sometimes feels like Kryptonite for you? What has been helpful for you in reducing the “Kryptonite” so that you have more choice over this adaptation?

If you feel so inclined, please leave a message so our community of 30,000 blog readers can benefit from your share and wisdom.

Finally, as you contemplate beginning trauma therapy to recover from your own childhood trauma symptoms, I would strongly encourage you to work with a licensed mental health professional who is also trained in an evidence-based trauma modality (like EMDR).

If you live in either California or Florida, and you would like tailored, expert support, either myself or my talented team of childhood trauma clinicians at my boutique, trauma-informed therapy center – Evergreen Counseling – can be of support to you. 

Please just book a complimentary 20-minute consult call with our center’s clinical intake director and she can match you to an relational trauma therapist on our team who is the best fit for you clinically, relationally, and logistically (and it very well may be me who is the best fit for you as a therapist!).

And if you live outside of California or Florida, please consider exploring my online course specifically designed for childhood trauma recovery.

Finally, if you’re still not sure if this content applies to you, if you’re still not sure if you come from a relational trauma history and may deal with childhood trauma symptoms, I would invite you to take my signature quiz – “Do I come from a childhood trauma background?” 

It’s a 5-minute, 25-question quiz I created that can be incredibly illuminating and will point you in the direction of a wide variety of resources that can be of further help to you.

Plus, when you take the quiz, you’ll be added to my mailing list where you’ll receive twice-a-month letters from me sharing original, high-quality essays (with accompanying YouTube videos and audios you can stream) devoted to the topic of childhood trauma recovery and where I share more about me as a person, my life, and how I’m deep along on my own childhood trauma recovery journey.

My newsletters are the only place where I share intimate glimpses into my life (including photos), the resources that are supporting me, the things I’ve discovered that delight me, words that are uplifting me, the practices that nourish me, etc. 

So please be sure to sign up for my mailing list whether or not you want to take the quiz as it’s the best way to be in touch with me and hear all the things I only share with my newsletter subscribers.

So thank you. 

And until next time, please take such good care of yourself. You’re so worth it.

Warmly, Annie

Medical Disclaimer

Reader Interactions


    Leave a comment

    Your email address will not be published.

  1. Noemi Barabas says

    After 6 years of therapy I’m starting to get a handle on this situation with planning, internal boundaries and most importantly ways I have found to allow my inner parts who wield these superpowers to have space, show up, and not be criticized and opposed just because they show up. I needed to be brave and be flexible and let them be present even as kryptonite for a bit and watch them enjoy their role even while I felt the losses. It’s how my higher self who wants to be functional earned their trust. Now there is willingness to go along with inner boundaries and planning. I started calling myself a Team. That feels validating to the existence of all parts. In my self talk I use the pronoun “we” so all my parts feel noticed and taken seriously in even mundane moments of self talk. But I had to go through the blazing fire of their rigid commitment and get burned over and over again. By trying to ignore them in order to be responsible and intentional. Just telling them “honey I get why you so insist … and I have to/can’t do this” did not have any traction and it only fired up their oppositional nature. The breakthrough came during a Neurodynamic Breathwork session in which the whole chorus of my inner adaptive superpower/kryptonite parts yelled in full rage “take us seriously!!!” That’s when I realized that the only path forward was WITH them and I started to be brave and flexible and let them be present even as kryptonite for a bit and watch them enjoy their role even while I felt the losses. Now I take moments in the day, especially after dissociative episodes to admire the Team’s accomplishments while I was zoned out. Even while holding that I did not actually do what needed to be done. Most up to date example? I wanted to get an early start to my Sunday. But I zoned out and the Team read my emails reflected on my journey and shared it here. And they are proud of it! So I celebrate with them. This is an accomplishment! Even if it was impulsive. But sometimes the accomplishment has a higher cost and less obvious benefit, when I hide just to feel safe for example. But feeling safe is a huge accomplishment! So I take a mature breath, celebrate the safety my Team just achieved and move on with more of their trust earned. This way, even while my bank account suffers (for real!), my trust account grows.

    Thank you, Annie, so very much for your brave example, and support! It means more healing steps forward for me!!!!

Do you come from a relational trauma background?

Take this quiz to find out (and more importantly, what to do about it if you do.)

Get in Touch.