HOW DOES TRAUMA AFFECT RELATIONSHIPS?
We do not usually come across the issue of having trauma on our own. People who carry trauma often function quite well, may have some health problems, etc., but trauma frequently has people being afraid to be out of control when they are involved in the complexity of a relationship. Self-sufficiency with avoiding certain emotions encountered in relational attachments can suggest more. The following is a list (not comprehensive) of indicators that can be a cause for concern:
- Cannot make commitment in adult relationships
- Devalue Intimacy
- Numbing or shutting down when close to someone
- Avoiding your partner or friend to "preserve" the relationship
- Cannot rely on others, must fall back on yourself
- Weak memory of childhood
- Contradiction between emotions and story being told ("my parents hit me, it made me strong")
- When close to someone, you move away
- Important others all want you to go to therapy
- People think you have ADD when it is you who tune out or block out in relationship contexts
These seemingly strong, or "stiff upper lip," survivor approaches may not be very strong when it comes to relationships. When we think of trauma we often think of wars, disasters, or things like rape. The sort of trauma that these behaviors have us consider are disruptions in the process of attachment to caretakers while growing up. Attachment is a natural process of seeking protection and keeping close in response to real or perceived threat of danger. We all need protection to feel safe. When the attachment process goes awry for a variety of reasons, it is traumatic to the part of us that needs to rely on others. One may become quite self-sufficient, but often cannot rely on others when this is a problem. It could sound like I am saying that clingy dependency is what is needed. Too much dependency is usually not helpful and strains relationships. Something closer to what we might call a healthy dependency is when we feel strengthened and more able to participate more fully in life as the result of relying on another. Additionally, you should be able to enjoy closeness without feeling suffocated or losing yourself. Learning to have a close relationship can become more tolerable, strengthening, and fulfilling. A good therapy experience can do this. You might say that therapy (which is not book knowledge or advice) can help you learn to tolerate and have relationships. It is simply to learn by doing.
In my next issue...
I will discuss...Anxiety and kinds of things does it mean for us.