As we mature, we learn to manage complex needs and agendas. So while a baby or toddler can only handle one thing at a time—I want to eat! Now!—adults usually juggle several of these at a time. I want to eat, but I’m going to wait for my partner to get home first. Also, while I crave sugar another part of me wants me to be healthy, and while I’m tired, another part of me values that I do try to cook… and so on. We are constantly managing competing interests within ourselves and our environment to stay as safe and healthy as possible.
Someone who is being repeatedly traumatized often has no model for how to do this. Pair it with a constantly heightened stress response, and you have a recipe for a lot of dysregulation and dissociation happening. That is complex trauma