Therapy for Relational Trauma
When most people hear the word trauma they think of big life events such as war, surviving a natural disaster, or surviving a sexual assault. However, some traumas are seemingly mild yet stick around like a psychological injury that never got the proper attention it deserved to heal.
Terry Real distinguishes these two types of trauma. First is active trauma (a clear boundary violation of some kind including bullying, sexual assault, physical assault, or corporal punishment). Second is passive trauma (a form of physical or emotional neglect or the absence of nurture and connection from your caregiver).
But, my childhood was fine.
When people ask you about your childhood you reply that it was fine- maybe a few strained relationships here and there, but overall you were fed and got to school on time. You generally don’t notice your feelings and tend to stay calm in a crisis. You were taught to not admit when you were in pain in order to be brave.
Sometimes you find yourself in risky situations that don’t hit you until after you’re out of them. Whether that be a volatile relationship, a shady bar, or participating in an extreme sport. The adrenaline rush of feeling really alive is captivating to you. In fact it’s easy for you to become bored and when that happens you can shut down into a depression.
Or maybe you find it hard to trust others. You enter into all relationships a bit guarded, hanging back to feel out the situation first. You may have read social cues wrong in the past that lead to you talking too much or too little. Sometimes you feel disorganized in a sense that you’re someone else or nobody in the room.
It may be that you’ve done some work already on this stuff, so some parts of this page may resonate more than other parts. That’s okay! No one fits in a box in their healing.
You wish you could trust others.
It’s exhausting constantly being vigilant about other’s true intentions. Sometimes when you enter a new relationship things get muddied. The thought of a healthy sense of knowing who you are, who they are, and the space between you is appealing. You wish you could feel a sense of safety, ease, and comfort with those you love.
You may have children or are considering having children. Through this process, you are reminded of how you were raised and all the mistakes your caregivers made. You want to face your own recovery to interrupt the transmission of problems to the next generation.
But your brain and your body aren’t aligned.
Relational trauma leaves traces. You wish you could make an internal map of what triggers you when you are most unprepared for the incoming flood of feelings. You hope that your body and brain can learn to communicate the same language so you can trust your gut in situations.
The cost of living with unhealed wounds is too high.
You’ve heard from others that not being able to be vulnerable with them makes you seem cold, and you end up feeling alienated. You’ve lost aspects of yourself along the way too like your creativity and expressivity of emotions. Often this is tied into gender and cultural conditioning. But it’s never too late to re-connect with those lost parts of yourself.
Imagine befriending your feelings.
You could think and feel simultaneously with an attitude of openness and curiosity. Learn to trust all parts of yourself and feel whole. Develop a sense of agency: be in charge of your life, know where you stand, and that you have the ability to shape your circumstances. Imagine re-engineering yourself to take on the responsibility of self-care and the psychological care of others.
Imagine having the confidence in yourself to develop healthy relationships. More accurately assess all relational data in something called neuroception. Be in touch with your bodily sensations, feelings, thoughts, past experiences, as well as your partner’s facial expressions, possible feelings, and thoughts.
That sounds like a lot of work, do I have to do it on my own?
Nope, relationships are where healing happens!
If you’ve experienced relational trauma, it can be incredibly hard to trust someone like a counselor to help you. Knowing this, I always emphasize a collaborative healing relationship in which you don’t have to talk about anything you’re not ready to talk about yet. We don’t dive straight into any traumatic memories you have. We will take it slow and develop our relationship first. This isn’t wasting anyone’s time either because you will be working on your trauma indirectly by building the relationship- things will come up that are relevant!
How counseling can help.
- Break down your attachment patterns to move towards more secure and stable relationships. Gaining an understanding of where our behaviors come from helps our analytic right brain feel comfortable.
- Slow down in the counseling room by connecting with here and now bodily sensations (heat, pressure, tension, etc.) in the body. Doing this can help with integrating your whole self: what you’re sensing, feeling, saying, thinking, and doing all make sense together.
- Counseling can help you learn tools for grounding. Grounding helps when you feel flooded with emotions or start to dissociate (feeling disconnected from yourself or the space you’re in).
- Develop a coherent story of your personal history. Recognize what’s happened in the past, what’s happening now, and finally what you’d like in the future. Integrate traumatic memories in the past (where they belong) by understanding the nature of memory.
- Counseling can help with recovery from guilt and shame trapped by how you may have behaved, or complicated by the relationship with the person who inflicted the pain.
- Map the terrain of your internal world by recognizing triggers, pockets of trauma, irrational thoughts, and feelings that are really hard to face. Learn what helps you when you’re feeling triggered. Practice communicating your triggers and how to help you to articulate to loved ones.
Trauma-Informed Counseling in Austin, Texas.
Choosing to start this process can sometimes be the hardest thing you’ve ever done for yourself. Just because others may have it worse doesn’t mean you don’t deserve to go to counseling. You don’t have to pretend it doesn’t hurt anymore.
My approach to counseling is relational, empathetic, and trauma-informed (meaning we collaborate and take it at your own pace). I focus on both the thoughts and feelings involved (not too touchy feely nor too cold) in your process. A big part of my work is focusing on the here and now and taking a non-judgmental stance.
How did it feel to read this page? If you noticed something stirring inside, it might be time to reach out and learn more about working with me on your journey.
Email me or call at 512-766-4786 to set up your free 30-minute in-person consultation.