April 3, 2023

Brooke Shields Speaks Out—& I Think There’s still so Much we Don’t know about Childhood Trauma.

I grew up watching Brooke Shields; she lit up the screen.

A natural beauty, when natural was the thing. Movies like “Endless Love” and “Blue Lagoon,” cult classics, and I admit I’ve watched them multiple times. But I was young and didn’t comprehend the darkness around these movies; another more infamous movie “Pretty Baby.” The darkness that Brooke was a child, just 14 in “Blue Lagoon,” 16 in “Endless Love,” and only 11 in “Pretty Baby.” And if you’ve watched any of these movies, you would know the themes were adult.

She had an innocence and sweet prettiness that was captivating, and no doubt why she was cast in these movies. Her mother, from what I have read over the years, was a controlling woman, and I guess we’ll never know whether she was manipulated by the studio men of Hollywood, promising all the fame and money, or whether she simply did not care for her daughter’s well-being and it was all about her own greed and self-importance.

But this article is not about Hollywood or Brooke’s mother. This article is about the childhood trauma Brooke and so many more celebrities (and normal, everyday people) have had to struggle with their entire lives.

Can we make one thing perfectly clear? Money, fame, and success do not remove someone’s trauma and pain. And they certainly don’t protect or shield one from them.

As always, social media has blown up about Brooke’s recent interview. I’m pleased to see a degree of compassion from some people but disheartened to see the disgusting nastiness from far too many people. I know I write and speak about this a lot because it’s important. We can’t continue to slide down this black hole of hate, of disrespect, of judgement, of bitterness, of resentment, thinking it’s okay to verbally attack, abuse, or bully someone on social media. It’s bad enough doing this to someone we know, but to attack complete strangers is a new low. People think social media is a free for all and you can say and do what you want. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should. There is absolutely no need for it.

We are a wounded and traumatised world of people. Projecting our own insecurities and issues onto anyone else in the hope it makes us feel better.

Childhood trauma is a topic that is misunderstood. There is abuse and neglect that are more understood. But there are a whole host of other things that happen in our childhood that create unhealthy belief systems and a form of trauma that, if left, can and will manifest in certain behaviours that I see everyday in people (I have covered this in other articles). Some of us have reflected and become aware because we realised we weren’t living our best lives and have gone on the road of healing. Others are either unaware or don’t want to change.

Back to Brooke. I cannot imagine the trauma she has suffered. She was sexualised at such a young age, and yes, I know they are just movies, but there is a history of abuse in children throughout Hollywood that has been well-documented.

I have seen the following questions/comments from people regarding not just Brooke but also other people who have publicly spoken about their trauma:

“Why are you speaking about it now, years, even decades down the track?”

Because trauma has an element of shame and guilt so children feel they are to blame in some way. They compartmentalise it, bury it. And in some cases it’s buried so far in the subconscious that it takes years before it’s triggered. It’s a coping mechanism to protect themselves. We can grow into adults with anxiety, who become people pleasers, who become controlling, who might have addictions—all of these manifestations of our trauma. Some of us never do the work on ourselves. Some of us never heal.

“Other people have suffered far worse than you.”

Invalidating someone else’s pain won’t make your pain go away. It doesn’t matter what happens to us; what we feel and how we react is individual to us. Nobody’s trauma is more important than another’s. Nobody’s pain is more valid than another’s. It’s not a competition for who has suffered more. People need to be seen and heard—regardless of what their trauma is.

“You are rich, how bad can it be?”

Money may help pay for therapy, but that’s about it. Wealth and fame do not alleviate someone’s pain. We have no idea what another is going through, and to sit back in judgement is ignorant.

“Shut up, nobody cares.”

People do care, and the more awareness we have the more other people may be helped. Celebrities have the gift of being able to speak publicly and raise awareness about so many things. Their struggles are just as valid as ours. If their voice helps one person, it was worth it.

As a writer I get the “pleasure” of seeing people’s judgement, bitterness, and nastiness often. I don’t react because I know I can only ever meet a person where they are at, and some people are not ready to see what’s causing them to behave this way. It saddens me that people are that unfulfilled and unhappy that trying to bring another down or invalidate another will somehow fill their voids.

Of course, I don’t personally know Brooke, but I know a child should never have been subjected to what she was. A young girl, just starting to develop and mature, thrown into roles far beyond her years—often with a male actor older than her. Christopher Atkins was 19 and she was 14 in “Blue Lagoon.” Martin Hewitt was 24 to Brooke’s tender age of 16 in “Endless Love.” She had intimate scenes with these actors, which surely was uncomfortable for both, if not inappropriate. The themes of these movies alone is a lot for a young girl to understand. Her childhood was filled with things that could not have possibly met her emotional needs, and some 50 years on, she is still suffering.

If we don’t start collectively healing ourselves and acknowledging that we can always heal more, grow more, and change, we will continue to become the nasty and bitter society we have become. A society of people who will happily not only dismiss another’s pain but also bully them because of it. A society where our children cannot grow into compassionate and caring humans because they have no role models. A society that believes it’s their right to belittle someone they don’t agree with. A society of closed-minded, unhealed, unhappy individuals who only feel better when they can put another person down.

Brooke was a child who suffered, growing into an adult who still suffers. Instead of continuing the cycle in our own lives, with our own families, how about we break it so our children do not grow up to be suffering adults? Instead of competing who had it better or worse, how about we acknowledge people’s individual experience with compassion?

“Childhood trauma doesn’t come in one single package.” ~ Dr. Asa Don Brown


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