Physicians use the word “trauma” to describe a serious injury to the physical body resulting from a sudden impact. But we can also suffer emotional trauma, which can cause an equally painful wound to our sense of self as a whole, coherent being. Just like a wound to our physical bodies, emotional injuries also require care and attention so that we may heal.
When this trauma is left unresolved and our experience is one of not being whole-of somehow being broken-we are likely to bring the footprints of this to our relationships. To have healthy relationships, we must first have a healthy sense of our own being and place in the world.
Origins & Effects of Emotional Trauma
Emotional injuries result from any experience in which one feels that his or her life or well-being is endangered. These experiences might include the emotional or physical harming of a child, the loss of a job or divorce, a sudden death or life-changing accident, or being sent to war.
Our human instinct is to protect ourselves and we do that, often, by finding ways to cut ourselves off, through denial. dissociation or repression of the memory of the trauma. The symptoms of unresolved trauma may include, among many others, addictive behaviors, an inability to deal with conflict, anxiety, confusion, depression or an innate belief that we have no value.
The Impact on Relationships
Living with unresolved wounds and bringing all the resulting behaviors to our relationships is clearly not conducive to healthy, happy intimacy.
When our emotional health has been compromised andwe soldier on through life without resolving the trauma that has occurred, the wounds will continue to fester, primarily in how we perceive and treat ourselves, and then spiling into our relationships with significant others.
When the trauma remains unresolved, there will likely be frequent triggers that cause an emotional response-behaviors on the part of others that unintentionally act as reminders of the original trauma. For example, if you had parents who were emotionally distant or physically absent and you felt abandoned, when your spouse comes home late from work you may feel rejected.
Your spouse (or your friend, relative or colleague) may have only your highest good in mind, but when you see life through your scars, you experience attacks where none are intended. The unresolved trauma is the filter through which you see the world and all your relationships.
Please read next week’s post on tips to resolve trauma in your relationship . . .