Updated: Apr 9, 2019
So many people can’t understand how something in their childhood can affect them in adulthood. It could be physical, emotional or sexual, and may relate to one event or a series of events.
Just as physical trauma causes permanent damage to our bodies, such as surgery or an accident, a broken limb can leave scars, so can emotional trauma.
Remember when you burnt yourself on the cooker?
Each time you now use the cooker you are reminded to take extra care.
‘Your Brain is keeping you safe’
But can the thought that something that happened so long ago can still affect us is still hard to get your head around.
I imagine the following thoughts come into your mind or that of your partner, family or friends -
·It was a long time ago, I should be over it by now
· Why do I only become affected in certain situations and not others?
· I should be able to deal with it
· Get over it, it’s just in your head!
· I just don’t get it
· Why me and why now, it hasn’t been a problem up till now
As I said just now, our brain is programmed to survive, and keep us safe. it stores each and every incident in its memory bank and is recalled randomly. Just like a huge computer hard drive.
Every time it perceives any kind of danger it sends warning bells to us whether it was an emotional or physical event. For example if we try to walk on a sprained ankle we feel pain, because our brain is protecting us from doing more damage to it. We could probably walk on it, but your brain is warning us.
Headaches are another example, our brain is warning us we are tired, stressed or in extreme circumstances there is something really wrong.
But there are times when the brain gets it slightly wrong
It responds to danger or perceived danger.
The problem is that the part of the brain responsible for our survival isn’t intelligent and can’t differentiate between real danger and perceived danger. And the person ends up having anxiety or panic attacks, depression, agoraphobia or nightmares, and they happen randomly.
Let’s use the example of a fruit machine.
When the button is pressed the wheels rotate and you win or lose depending on whether the symbols line up. It’s random and all down to luck.
In a similar way, it depends on what the brain picks up and when, because it has retained that memory, and just like memory foam it causes a kind of indentation in the brain.
It could be a -
When those triggers are harmless memories we recall them with pleasure or describe it as deja vue. But unpleasant or distressing memories leave a much longer lasting effect on us.
Its scary and because you can't make sense of the sensations, its even more frightening we tense and try to fight the sensations and thoughts.
Behaviour can be irrational, and out of proportion to what is going on, and not even related to the initial trauma.
All of which can have a negative effect on not only the sufferer but also the relationship and their partner.
If that’s the case then there is there anything I can do?
Just as your body heals and repairs after physical damage can you encourage your brain to create new ways of thinking and behaving.
How trauma affects relationships
There are many ways in which trauma can affect a relationship, often because the survivor has developed certain beliefs as a result of the symptoms of thoughts they experience, mostly as a result of fear
The ability to trust
Difficulty in expressing their feelings
Unable to connect with their partner
Addictions, which have resulted as a way of coping
Extreme behaviour which doesn’t fit the situation
Avoiding confrontation because they fear conflict
As you can imagine those responses can really adversely relationship. Not only does the person who experienced the trauma struggle, but their partner is also going to find it extremely difficult.
Whilst it can really help for the individual to have personal therapy, but I believe the couple really benefit of working with a professional together, so that each explores what they are struggling with and are able to share and hear each other's perspective.
At the same time I work with each individual on their own, so they can explore things and have my full attention. This often results in them being able to voice their concerns with each other.
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