“Unlike other forms of psychological disorders, the core issue in trauma is reality.”
― Bessel A. van der Kolkoth
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How Would You Describe Your Relationship Patterns?
Abby, a 30-year-old client came for counselling to heal from her relationship breakup. As her story unfolded, it became clear she grew up feeling unloved and insignificant, and this pattern was reflected in all her relationships.
Patterns In Relationships:
Sounds familiar? Is your past impacting your present? Do you have a pattern in your relationships?
Relationships can have patterns like :-
– Cannot trust and be close to the other person. There is fear of being hurt and abandoned
– Saying to oneself, “Why does this always happen to me?”
– Abusive relationships
– Distant relationships
– Being a ‘people pleaser’ in the relationship and ending up getting hurt.
Unresolved trauma affects relationships in a variety of ways. However, they don’t have to be permanent – with the proper support, healing is possible.
What Is Trauma?
A trauma is an extreme life event that threatens your physical survival or psychological well-being. Some people experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) due to traumatic experiences, but many more experience trauma-related symptoms like physiological reactivity to triggers, panic attacks, chronic anxiety, feelings of anger or numbness, or a loss of faith in others.
Trauma is a medical and psychological disorder of the mind. It can sometimes be unbearable and intolerable. This is because your body and mind are reacting to a highly distressing or upsetting event that may have reduced your ability to cope with the event and disturbed you internally. An ongoing series of unfortunate circumstances can cause trauma, such as prolonged illness, witnessing abuse or experiencing it yourself. It can also be triggered when there is one significant incident, such as car accidents, natural disasters, and more.
Trauma can affect us profoundly, impacting our emotional well-being, ability to enjoy, enjoy intimate relationships, and even our bodies. The mind and body are deeply connected in the face of trauma. Dr Bessel Van Der Kolk states, Our “Body keeps the score” for every distressing experience we experience. Therefore, it is essential to address both the mind and our bodies when healing from trauma. Dr Bessel writes in his book that trauma is not an event that happened decades ago. Even today, what happened then still resides in our bodies, minds, and brains.
Early Childhood Traumas And Their Impact On Adult Relationships
Most people experience a traumatic event before they turn 18. Trauma can be neglect or being ignored at home. According to psychologists, our upbringing has an impact on our adult relationships. Childhood trauma can affect an individual’s attachment style as an adult.
As infants and during childhood, we create our beliefs based on our experiences with our parents and other caregivers. When there is ‘good enough’ parenting, children grow up trusting themselves, have a ‘good enough’ self-esteem about themselves and they are willing to trust other people and relationships.
However when there is neglect, or experiences like sexual, physical, verbal abuse, or relationship issues between parents, observing fights at home, etc. children grow up emotionally overwhelmed and most likely lose their trust in people and relationships.
Different Ways Trauma Impacts Current Relationships
Like I stated above, relationship patterns (good and bad) start young. Trauma can dictate one’s relationships in a variety of ways
Distorted communication patterns with others
– Avoiding facing situations and dealing with problems
– Inability to deal with criticisms and have a high defense as coping mechanism.
– Turn to addictions or self-medications
– Dealing with Conflicts
– Sulking and expecting others to address the issues
– Thinking ‘I am not at fault here’
– Going out of your way to apologise
– Manage conflicts in an angry disposition or violent ways
– Behaving like a victim, ‘Poor me’
– Behaviong like a bully, ‘I will see you, you son of a bitch’
– Trauma impacts beliefs and beliefs impact relationships. Examples
– I am not good enough unless I please everyone
– I am worthless and I need to show that I am good
– I am not important or loveable if I am not responsible for my family
– ‘It’s always my fault’ – I need to apologise and have a relationship without conflicts
– I must obey else I will be abandoned
– I am dirty and cannot be in any relationship- (sexual abuse)
– This world is made up of bad people, be cautious, don’t trust
Are You Looking To Overcome Your Relationship Patterns?
You may be more likely to have trouble finding and maintaining genuinely loving and authentic relationships due to interpersonal trauma. Healing starts with awareness. I would suggest making a note of your patterns. Instead of saying, ‘I cannot change myself’ or the other person needs to make the changes, look at different small steps you can take to make small changes and keep notes on how it is helping you or otherwise.
Understanding these patterns will help you start thinking and acting differently, give yourself more respect, protection, and self-love, and make better decisions about relationships – relationships with yourself, your partners, your family, friends, colleagues, etc.
With personal insight, counselling and support, you can change maladaptive attachment or relationship styles. Other conditions, such as anxiety, PTSD, or depression, can also improve relationships.