How a Tough Childhood Helps You Respond to Difficult Situations
Adults who experienced significant childhood stress can display a hostile attribution bias, meaning they perceive threats in situations that others properly view as neutral. Such a cognitive glitch can hamper the ability to form the kind of alliances that professional and social success most depends on. "It is essentially a biological phenomenon," or a dysregulated fight-or-flight response, says Daniel Keating, of the University of Michigan. "It means that the system designed to regulate your stress response is either undershooting the mark or overshooting it." Overshooting leaves you "reacting to things that are not significant threats in the world, but are either imagined threats or neutral things that you interpret as threats." It also makes you slower to return to your baseline. The effect can produce kids more likely to act rashly, even when unprovoked, who turn into sullen, withdrawn adolescents and, perhaps ultimately, adults who fly off the handle without warning.