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A problem my friend, Daniel, encountered in childhood was a traumatic experience in kindergarten. Daniel decided to tease a classmate, but he did not know the teacher had heard what he said and to Daniel’s surprise the teacher yelled at Daniel. In the shock of the situation, Daniel froze up as he feared the repercussions of his actions; as all young children are afraid of getting in trouble, so was Daniel. The teacher demanded Daniel say sorry but now the entire room of classmates looked at him. This made him more nervous and so he ran behind a desk to hide from the room full of eyes on him. This event would have a psychological impact.

Throughout middle school and high school, Daniel was a good student with good grades and no discipline reports. However, his biggest fear in school was not tests or quizzes but talking to the class. Projects, where he had to present to the class, were hard for him. He felt instant anxiety and would remember back to the time in elementary school. Anytime he had eyes on him, Daniel would turn red and feel very nervous. He once had to perform a song in guitar class and after he was done his friend remarked about how red his face turned. He felt worse because some classmates would laugh at him. Daniel knows this to be a problem for him but because he is grown he has come to terms with this.

Similar to Daniel’s case is the situation of many children who have experienced adverse childhood experiences- traumatic events before 18 years of age. This led me to question how trauma can affect a person many years after the incident. There is evidence that some of our personality comes from genes and others come from environment/ personal experiences. Fletcher, J. M., & Schurer, S. (2017) discusses adverse childhood experiences and the relationship it has with adulthood personality using a Big Five Personality model. The study concluded that some Big Five Personality traits are associated with certain harmful experiences. For example, high levels of neuroticism are linked to sexual abuse and neglect. This means if you have been sexually abused or neglected then you are likely to score high on the Neuroticism scale on the Big Five Personality test. The study gave insight into how some traits are influenced by adverse childhood experiences. In Daniel’s case, part of his personality of being shy and scared during presentations is due to psychological trauma. Daniel knows that this idiosyncrasy stems from his childhood experience.

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One study that focuses on the impact of childhood psychological traumas discusses how some forms of maltreatment influence the emotional adjustment of young adults. Allen, B. (2008) suggests that the frequency of a caregiver’s maltreatment in childhood was a predictor of somatic complaints (psychological events that result in physical symptoms) and anxiety in early adulthood. The study reinforces the idea of more traumatic stress literature which states that childhood exposure to psychologically stressful events predicts increased anxiety in adulthood(Allen, B.,2008). This relates to Daniel’s experience which has impacted him enough it has created anxiety in relation to public speaking.

Like Daniel, those who have fear or are relevant like public speaking fear can practice inoculation strategies. Jackson, B., Compton, J., Thornton, A. L., & Dimmock, J. A. (2017) talk about how inoculation strategies help reframe the mind. Inoculation theory works in two ways: It warns the individual of an inevitable threat to their perception with provided examples of said threats. Then, the individual is given counter-views to those threats that help the individual stay protected if those threats came true. For example, Daniel could drill in his head that people get nervous and it’s natural. Then he could drill helpful information such as “they too will feel nervous when they present.” This showcases the inevitable threat(the audience), an example of his threat(the audience will laugh), and a counter view (“they will also get nervous, and people will laugh at them too”). This allows a protected mindset from the threat (the audience) which allows Daniel to feel less anxiety while speaking.

In normal contexts, this inoculation theory works on maintaining existing opinions in the face of arguments/debates. In the context of anxiety due to public speaking, inoculation messages allow the individual to restructure one’s thoughts to allow for more a positive mindset about speaking. Jackson, B., Compton, J., Thornton, A. L., & Dimmock, J. A. (2017) found that those who received inoculation messages reported lower pre-task anxiety which helped calm their nerves. A possible problem with this strategy is that Daniel’s specific personal strategies will not help enough to overcome deep-seated anxiety due to trauma at a very young age. To help counteract this, inoculation strategies workshops could be implemented in schools more. The teacher could have students practice scenarios and share with each other ideas about inoculation strategies for one specific situation. Peer-on-peer sharing would be beneficial for students because they would not have to share with the class. This could have a positive effect if this is implemented on a schedule.

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