Relational Trauma Specialty
Complex trauma refers to repeated interpersonal trauma, often occurring in childhood. This type of trauma includes sexual and physical abuse as well as emotional abuse and neglect resulting from mentally ill or substance addicted caregivers. Emotional abuse can include verbal attacks, incidents of humiliating or threatening behavior, and witnessing violence against loved ones. Emotional neglect involves a failure to provide a child’s basic emotional needs, such as love, attention, understanding, affection, support, and protection.
Exposure to such experiences of abuse and neglect can be particularly damaging because they are usually chronic, occur during developmentally vulnerable periods of life, and involve harm and/or betrayal within relationships that are supposed to be trustworthy, nurturing, and protective. As a result, these experiences compromise normal self-development and basic trust in primary relationships. In addition to being at higher risk for developing PTSD, people who've suffered complex trauma are also at higher risk for other anxiety disorders, depression, low self-esteem, substance use problems, and impulsive and self-destructive behaviors.
Complex trauma can profoundly affect fundamental aspects of yourself and your ability to relate to others, resulting in problems in the areas of:
• Emotion regulation difficulties such as too much or too little emotion, limited awareness of feelings, difficulty with self-soothing
• Chronic feelings of fear, anger, shame, sadness, helplessness, hopelessness
• Impulsive or self-destructive behaviors related to difficulties managing emotions (addictions, self-harm, disordered eating)
• Being in a persistent state of arousal (startling easily/being jumpy)
• Sense of self as bad, inadequate, weak, powerless, worthless, undeserving
• Self-critical and self-blaming; hypersensitivity to criticism & rejection
• Identity problems such as not feeling whole, lacking a clear, stable sense of self, inner sense of confusion, frequent changes in career, life goals, etc.
• Alterations in attention and memory
• Problems with trust and intimacy in relationships
• Difficulty with boundaries, self-assertion, and setting limits in relationships
• Difficulty connecting with others (sense of isolation or alienation)
• Frequent physical health problems such as chronic pain, irritable bowel syndrome, headaches, hypertension, sexual pain and dysfunction
• Hypersensitivity to physical contact, sounds, and other stimuli
• Difficulty with sleep: falling asleep/staying asleep
In trauma therapy, we’ll work on how to maintain healthy boundaries in your relationships, how to self-soothe, and how to generally take care of yourself with gentleness and attention. Over time we’ll be able to deepen your processing of, and reflection on, the painful experiences you may have endured, together with the other difficult emotions that may have come along with those experiences. Along the way we’ll come up with strategies for handling these big emotions.
Because complex trauma can thwart identity formation, some of the work of therapy, beyond discussing your early life experiences, involves supporting you to discover who you are and who you want to become.
"We cannot selectively numb emotions, when we numb the painful emotions, we also numb the positive emotions.”"
Contact Smadar for more information about starting your healing journey.