A traumatic experience changes you. It changes the way you think, how you feel. It even changes the way your nervous system operates. You are physically and mentally changed, and those changes affect your relationship. Perhaps, as a result of trauma, you become fearful of getting close to someone, and lose your ability to trust. Perhaps you imagine the worst of every situation. Perhaps you develop unhealthy ways to cope. Perhaps your world view is changed for the worse.
A traumatic episode can range from a neglected childhood to a head-on car crash—whatever happened to you that caused extreme stress. It’s witnessing something horrific or the threat of injury or even death. The event could be any number of things, but if you find it difficult to process, no matter how small, it affects you. Sometimes in profound ways. And that means your relationships may be affected, too.
Healing After a Trauma
Sometimes what you know intellectually does not jibe with how you feel emotionally. Often such a disconnect is due to a trauma that you have yet to fully process. Your nervous system is on red alert, aware that another event could occur. You need time to let your nervous system know that you are safe. That it’s no longer necessary to be on the constant lookout for danger. And that takes time.
It’s helpful to enlist a friend whom you trust. You feel safe sharing your feelings with them, and they can help you begin to feel safe again. Or maybe it’s difficult to find a person who will hear your inner most fears. Other things can be helpful, like a walk in the woods, or confiding in a beloved dog. Or just engaging in self-care activities like a bubble bath and a yoga class. A qualified therapist can be a big help.
If you have been put down and criticized your whole life, it’s hard to make a change. The trick is to accept yourself for who you are. Observing yourself objectively, without negative judgement, you may see that you are not the bad person you used to think you were. You are not perfect, and nor is anyone else. You deserve, at the very least, as much compassion as you would show a friend. You would reassure a friend who was feeling down, and so you should reassure yourself. When you can accept your authentic self, then you are on the road to healing your trauma.
How Your Healed Self Can Have a Great Relationship
When you are your authentic self, you are more comfortable in your own skin, and able to look at your relationship with an objective eye. Is the person with whom you are having a relationship honest? In your heart of hearts you can tell, if you think about it. Are they fully transparent? Do they answer your questions without guile? Are they happy to introduce you to their family and friends. Is their word their bond? Can you trust them to do as they say they will do? Are they moral? Are you uncomfortable by their behavior? Does it not jibe with what you think is moral? Are they on your side? Do they act in your self-interest as well as their own? Do they have your back?
If you have suffered a trauma, there is hope for a good relationship, even when dating has been a challenge. It is possible to heal from trauma, and once you do, you may find your authentic self and a loving partner. Remember that you deserve it.
Nancy Travers is an Orange County Counseling professional. If you need safe, effective counseling services, please get in touch. You can reach her here: https://www.nancyscounselingcorner.com/contact