Is there any way to strongly encourage someone to get therapy for childhood trauma that has never been processed? My friend has shared the trauma with me but says she has dealt with it and does not want to talk to a therapist. Here is more of her story.
My friend, Nancy has been married three times and strangely enough the profiles of the men are almost identical. Nancy connects to men who are less educated, less motivated, less strong work ethics and controlling. They are attractive and charismatic. She works really hard at her job plus caring for her young daughter. Her ex-husband does not hold down a steady job so child support is rare.
Nancy will acknowledge that she had not made good choices in husbands but hasn’t let herself REALLY do the work and connect the dots.
Nancy is a trauma survivor. When she was a child her grandfather “traded” his wife (her grandmother) for her as a sexual replacement. According to her grandfather (who shared this story many years later), Nancy’s grandmother did not like sex, so he chose Nancy, his 6 year old granddaughter to replace his wife. The sexual abuse lasted approximately 6 years, from the ages 6-12.
Nancy learned to disassociate during the sexual encounters, although she did not know it at the time. It was her way to survive the unthinkable. There were many years in Nancy’s life that she could not remember, i.e., school, holidays, birthdays, etc. There were so many questions. Nancy would frequently remark that something must be wrong with her because of the things she did, i.e., drugs, alcoholic blackouts, promiscuous sex, etc.
The impact of trauma on relationships can be devastating and can show up in a host of issues. Survivors often believe deep down that no one can really be trusted, that intimacy is dangerous, and for them, a real loving attachment is an impossible dream.
Even if the survivor finds a safe, loving partner later in life, the self-limiting scripts stay with them. They cannot just easily toss them and start over. These life lessons are all they have (so far) to survive the best way they know how.
Even with a safe partner, a trauma survivor may
*develop compulsive behavior, an eating disorder, or substance dependence to try and regulate their emotions.
*have flashbacks or panic attacks
*feel persistent self-doubt
Many people do not even realize they have had traumatic experiences and if they do have this awareness they may lack the insight to realize how it is severely affecting them.
More to come in next weeks column.