Trauma & its impact on relationships

Is your ability to develop lasting relationships being affected by trauma? Is trauma interfering in your relationships?

Unresolved trauma can have long-term effects, including having an ongoing impact on our ability to attract & retain positive, supportive relationships. Some types of trauma have particularly pernicious effects on relationships-such as experiencing or witnessing domestic violence, rape or abuse, especially if we have these experiences as a child: a life stage when we have limited experience of the world, are still developing & are likely to assume that our experiences, however traumatic, are “normal”. Growing up or living in a neglectful or dysfunctional environment can also, in itself, be traumatic & impact on our relationships.

Three ways that trauma can harm relationships:
1) Stopping you from being able to form meaningful relationships
2) Leading you to become involved in abusive relationships
3) Making it difficult for you to sustain a healthy relationship long-term

Common symptoms of trauma include: flashbacks, panic attacks and inappropriate anxiety. In the most extreme cases, untreated trauma develops into PTSD which can lead to a complete breakdown in normal functioning and the inability to hold down a job or maintain any sort of long-term relationship such as with relatives, friends or colleagues. Untreated trauma also sometimes results in addiction as the person “self-medicates” their pain away.
Trauma & the brain
The reason that trauma is so destructive can easily be understood when you understand what is happening at the level of the traumatised person’s brain. In essence part of our emotional brain (the Amygdala) acts as our security guard & has the job of keeping us safe. When something traumatic happens, this part of the brain records all the sensory information (the smells, sounds, tastes, sights etc) that is present at the time of the trauma. It stores these sensory memories separately from our conscious memories of the traumatic event and uses them as warning signs of danger (so this process is sub-conscious & not in our control or full awareness). This is a metaphorical process- that is it works at the level of patterns. Human Givens Therapists call this Pattern-Matching. Anything that is a bit similar to the stored pattern will lead the Amygdala to trigger the symptoms as part of the body’s emergency protection system (known as the Fight or Flight system). So, for example, if someone was mugged and at the time there was a strong smell of cleaning fluid, for example, any strong smell-such as of perfume, petrol or gas,- may be enough to trigger the symptoms.

The good news about trauma and relationships
Happily, not only are the cause of these difficulties now understood, but this has also led to an effective treatment. All Human Givens Therapists are able to help people overcome the effects of trauma- & the process used does not involve reliving the trauma. In fact, the therapist does not even need to know the details of what happened -instead they talk you through a process –which all happens in your own head. This process helps the brain to reprocess the trauma, so that the Amygdala no longer uses the sensory memories as triggers for symptoms and the sensory memories are stored like normal memories – no longer holding the power to impact on the present and future.

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