How to Find Healing in Relationships After Trauma

Do you ever feel like you need a friend’s support? But then stop yourself from reaching out?

For all of us, healthy relationships matter. In fact, deep relationships are essential to being a healthy human being. For trauma survivors—or those who are experiencing or have experienced post-partum depression or mood disorders (which is also trauma)—the act of deepening relationships can be particularly difficult.

Reaching out in a time of need or asking for help doesn’t come easily to those who have experienced trauma in their lives. Something (seemingly) simple like accepting a compliment may be painfully hard. But the ability to move past these fears and hesitations is crucial on the road to living a full and balanced life.

Today, I want to talk about what might be keeping you from deepening your relationships and what to do about it.

  • Do you have the temptation to hunker down and handle it yourself?
  • Do you feel like nobody will get it?
  • Do you feel ashamed or weak—like you don’t deserve support or compassion?
  • Is there a self-protector part inside you who says: “I’m going to withdraw and stay safe so you don’t hurt me”?
  • Do you feel like you are supposed to just deal with it yourself?

If these questions feel true … if these doubts or voices creep up … I’m asking you to think about saying to yourself:

I deserve deep relationships. I deserve to be cared for and nurtured. I deserve compassion. People care about me—and it’s healthy to lean on them and ask for help when I need it.

Here are three tips to help you move forward into deeper relationships:

1. Know that having healthy relationships can repair old emotional wounds.

Healthy relationships can heal old attachment wounds. (Kelly Clarkson’s song, Piece by Piece, is a current and heartwarming example.) If you grew up without secure attachment or weren’t nurtured, it can become what you expect from others or your relationships as you grow. As I spoke about in loving a trauma survivor, healthy relationships can be restorative. Stan Tatkin, PACTSue Johnson, EFT, and Harville Hendrix, IMAGO are all founders of models of relational therapy who have done important work in this area.

2. Consider the unrealistic standards you are holding yourself to.

Would you expect a child or friend to be as self-sufficient as you expect from yourself? Yes, you must hold yourself accountable and be responsible, but you must also recognize that you’re human. Bring the compassion you have for those you love to yourself as well. Check out Kristin Neff’s phenomenal book, Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself and Lisa Ferentz’s new book, Finding Your Ruby Slippers: Transformative Life Lessons from the Therapist’s Couch.

3. Allow yourself to see the depths of your current relationships.

Oftentimes, trauma survivors are givers who expect and accept nothing in return. It might be tough to see the true depth of the love, support and compassion those close to you can (and want to) provide you. Try to look at your relationships objectively and consider this potential.

You deserve compassion, support and deep relationships…

Asking for help can be difficult for everyone. It can be especially difficult for those who have survived trauma. Through therapy, it’s possible to realize that you do truly deserve deep relationships as you grow and evolve through life—in the good times and the hard times.

More Resources

Stan Tatkin’s book, Wired for Love

Sue Johnson’s book, Lovesense

Harville Hendrix’s book, Getting the Love you Want

Karen Kleiman’s books (The Postpartum Stress Center)

About the Author

Robyn E. Brickel, M.A., LMFT Robyn E. Brickel, MA, LMFT is the director and lead therapist at Brickel and Associates, LLC in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia, which she founded in 1999. She specializes in the therapeutic treatment of individuals (adolescents and adults), couples, families and groups. Robyn E. Brickel offers treatment and psychoeducational services for many life issues and transitions, such as: A history of trauma and/or abuse, including Dissociation; Addictions, as well as Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACOA) issues; Body Image issues and Eating Disorders; Self-Harming behaviors, including Emotional intensity and instability; Anxiety, depression, and other mood disorders; Challenged family systems; Chronic illness; Co-dependency; Dysfunctional relationships; Life transitions; Loss and bereavement; Relationship distress; Self esteem; GLBTQ and sexual identity issues/struggles; Stress reduction. She is an LMFT, as well as a trained trauma & addictions therapist who has helped countless clients make and maintain positive changes in their lives. To learn more about Robyn E. Brickel, visit her website.

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