Trauma and Relationships

No sooner do we begin to know other people

Than we discover their broken heart.

Jacob Needleman

My lake home, where I sit now, lies half-way between Barron and Gordon Wisconsin.  If you have had your eye or ear on the news, Barron is where 13 year-old Jayme Closs was abducted and Gordon is where she was held hostage.  She is home now, and the healing of her trauma begins.

Trauma comes in many forms.  In simple language I see four.  Trauma of Omission is subtle and refers to when emotional, physical, or developmental needs are not met because of neglect, circumstances or ignorance.  Most have such experiences. Trauma of Commission refers to times when things are said and done to us that never should have been said or done. This trauma is common and less subtle.  Many have experienced this.  A third and less common trauma is Shock Trauma. It refers to a time when a person experiences an event that is unusual or not prepared for. Post-Traumatic Stress is least common but is the most serious of traumas. It occurs when a person experiences a catastrophic life event such as kidnapping, rape, war atrocities, witness to a murder.  In both Shock and PTSD a person is catapulted into another reality so rapidly that their psyche cannot make sense of it.  Jayme Closs probably experienced all forms of trauma.

Some common symptoms of trauma:  efforts to numb or block out feelings; ignoring the trauma by splitting off (dissociating); profound sense of shame or guilt  rooted in the trauma; survivor guilt; alarm reactions such as flashbacks, hypervigilance, troubling dreams, insomnia; need for high arousal experiences to feel alive or avoid unpleasant feelings; depriving self especially around success or out of guilt; re-enactment of trauma or projecting past onto the present in attempt  to resolve the unresolvable; dysfunctional attachments or conflictual ties with people; difficulty trusting self, others or life itself.  A person suffering severe trauma may have some or all of these.

 In Is It Love or Is It Addiction? I state that trauma results in a violation of trust, the base foundation of healthy relationships. Our instinct is to want connections but because of trust violations we also fear the very thing we desire. Childhood trauma, especially, if unresolved will continually produce symptoms that impair our ability to form healthy, secure relationships or will lead us to intimacy disorders such as love, romance or sex addiction, which have the illusion of closeness.

It is not our fault that we were traumatized, and we could not help but be impacted.  When a child’s needs are not realized, when cruel words are said, when a child finds herself alone in a traumatic moment, the child feels helpless or abandoned.  Not having the perceived power or words to stand up for herself, loss of trust sets in. The good news in Jayme Closs trauma is that she found her power to escape and the words to be believed.  In this regard, her healing got a jump start.