This is one of the most challenging subjects you will encounter in psychotherapy. A lot of patients struggle with the issue of whether the suffering they experienced in childhood is relevant to their current mental health and whether that suffering counts as “trauma.” When therapists say “trauma,” they may mean “gross trauma,” i.e., an shocking event or series of events that were particularly damaging to your sense of safety, like abuse or tragedy. Therapists may also mean “complex trauma,” i.e., a prolonged period of adversity or neglect during which your suffering became normalized.

I believe you when you say your parents loved you, and I’m glad you didn’t experience gross abuse or tragedy. But if you’re suffering now for reasons you can’t explain, it may mean that as a child you had certain needs that your parents didn’t recognize or couldn’t meet. Experiencing your parents’ love as inconsistent may be enough to cause significant pain to a child. (bell hooks in All About Love does a particularly good job of explaining this.) So even though your parents did their best, it may not have been enough to protect you and help you thrive. As a result, you may feel anger at them and deep disappointment, as well as love and empathy for their own histories and struggles.

Clearly this is a complex issue and deserves a full discussion, but here’s one more idea for your consideration: as a culture, we do a terrible job of empathizing with children’s pain. I think we struggle to recognize just how difficult childhood can be, especially when caregivers are limited or unavailable. So you may be looking back at your younger self without adequate empathy for what you went through. All I’m asking is that you consider a kind and forgiving orientation toward your younger self who may still be suffering.