By Amanda Wiegert
Childhood is the prime time for brain development and the time when people typically learn to have healthy attachments and a stable sense of love and security.
However, when a person experiences something traumatic during childhood, it can interrupt their brain development and skew their sense of healthy relationships. Every person deserves to have healthy, loving relationships that they can rely on for support throughout their lives.
However, a survivor of childhood abuse, trauma, or neglect may have a more difficult time forming these healthy relationships because of their negative perceptions of the people who have hurt them in the past.
Here are just a few of the ways that childhood trauma can affect adult relationships:
Attraction to destructive relationships.
It is not uncommon for someone who survived trauma to end up in an unhealthy relationship. The survivor can feel the need to fix the people that they are in intimate relationships.
Or, they may feel as though they deserve to be with someone who treats them poorly because someone in their past treated them poorly.
These unhealthy relationships end up retraumatizing the survivor but sometimes the person doesn’t realize it until much later in the relationship.
Chaos and/or abuse in a unhealthy relationship may feel familiar to the survivor, however, they believe that somehow this time is going to be different. The internal chaos caused by the trauma may interfere your ability to create realistic expectations for yourself and the other person in the relationship.
Difficulty Regulating Emotions.
If a survivor of childhood trauma has not allowed themselves to heal from their trauma then they may notice some difficulties with regulating emotions. Unresolved trauma can keep the survivor on high alert and make them more prone to reacting with anger or impulsivity.
Trauma can also increase fear and anxiety in situations that usually would not lead to negative emotions. These reactions often have to do with a hyperactive amygdala that results from past traumatic experiences.
It is important to recognize how past trauma is affecting your ability to experience emotions as an adult.
Low self-esteem and self-worth.
Survivors of trauma often look at themselves with disgust, shame, or a feeling that they are unlovable. The survivor question their values and everything they believed in- including their own self-worth.
Questioning can cause some people to withdraw and isolate from relationships and lead others to become extremely co-dependent on their relationship. Due to this low self-esteem and self-worth, often times people will begin to question their judgment and question who they are and what their identity is.
Feelings of unworthiness, invalidation, and disconnect from self are all signs that childhood trauma is continuing to cause a ripple effect throughout the survivor’s life and relationships.
It is important to recognize the presence of childhood trauma and how that trauma has continued to impact your life into adulthood. Establishing healthy boundaries and healthy communication at the beginning of any relationship is essential to ensure both people in the relationship are on the same page.
If you believe your childhood trauma is adding to unhealthy attachment to relationships, difficulty managing emotions, or low self-esteem, then it may be helpful for you to process the past pain with a therapist specializing in childhood trauma and PTSD.
If you would like to speak with Amanda to get more information about processing past trauma or to schedule an appointment, please contact Life Counseling Solutions at (407) 622-1770. Amanda also offers free 15-minute phone consultations to answer any questions that you may have.
About the Author: Amanda is passionate about helping people navigate all stages of life. She believes great healing can emerge from trauma and challenges if we allow ourselves to be open to learning and exploring new ways of dealing with difficult life experiences. Read more about Amanda..