HOW EARLY TRAUMA CAN IMPACT FORMING RELATIONSHIPS YEARS LATER

01.20.2011 -

I’m working currently with several clients who have hospital or medical trauma associated with their birth. I notice in them something that I first recognized in myself, for I too have this early trauma as part of my story.  What I am noticing is that when someone is in a life or death situation early and is therefore dependent on medical expertise and technology the person’s capacity to trust is impacted.  Their early circumstances did not give them time to decide whether to trust the doctor or other medical professional. It wasn’t about trust, it was about survival. As this person grows up their unresolved trauma can (but does not always) keep them in survival mode which makes establishing trust with others difficult and can impact how future relationships are established.

At first glance, people with early trauma can be too trusting, and they often are.  It is a common refrain for these people as adults to find themselves in relationships that are working out as they hoped and wonder why they didn’t notice all the red flags at the outset.

One reason they didn’t was because back then they couldn’t.  . . way back in their earliest days before intellect and words there is an implicit memory of coming into repeated or prolonged intimate dependent contact with other human beings they didn’t know. . .  and who they may or may not have felt comfortable with. There was no choice made, necessity overrode everything else.  They did not notice that they weren’t comfortable because that didn’t matter at the time, all that mattered was survival.

Although as adults they are no longer in a life or death situation, their early unresolved life or death trauma can still impact their present day choices, especially their choices that involve intimacy, contact and vulnerability.  It is not uncommon for them to choose relationships where they don’t feel safe in part because they don’t know what safety feels like. A person who has lived through an early experience where the need for fast action was paramount will not know how to pause and assess a situation before jumping into it, they will not know inside themselves what it is like to feel trust or safety before becoming close to someone.

For people with early medical trauma, contact is a key issue. Their first experiences of contact were necessary, fast, intrusive and full of concern for their well being.  Often the kind of contact that can resolve trauma, contact that is neutral and trusting,  was not experienced even after the life and death situation has been successfully resolved.  Hospital environments do not provide contact that is slow, gentle and allows the person time to adjust to it.  Parents are not supported to really get that their children are now okay and instead often maintain a heightened concern and lack of trust in their contact with their children for years.

There is absolutely no fault or blame in this. It can actually be easier to resolve than the wounds of abuse because with medical trauma THE CONFUSION THAT IS CREATED IS A CONSEQUENCE OF EXPERIENCES THAT WERE NECESSARY TO SAVE THEIR LIVES. Whatever challenges arise from it are only relevant because they are still here to resolve them  — in no small part thanks to the interventions that were made!

More importantly these challenges are resolvable!  Using the techniques offered at Courageous Heart Therapies, including Somatic Experiencing, Pre and Perinatal Therapy, Polarity Therapy and Craniosacral Therapy a person’s nervous system can reset itself to a new normal. Clients can a new kind of contact that is oriented to the present day allowing past experiences to find their place in history rather than continuing to assert themselves into current situations and events.

The resolution of trauma occurs with a particular kind of contact and space and at a pace where it can be integrated. At Courageous Heart Therapies we offer this contact, contact that meets the person where they are, contact that is neutral and meaningful – contact that has presence but not pressure or agenda in it.

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