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Monday, July 22, 2013

EMDR: Overcoming Childhood Trauma So You Can Learn to Have Healthy Adult Relationships

One of the biggest challenges for adults who grew up with childhood trauma is learning how to have healthy adult relationships.  If you didn't grow up in a loving, secure environment with people you could count on, how do you learn to trust people when you're an adult?  This often becomes especially challenging as an adult when choosing romantic partners.

EMDR: Overcoming Childhood Trauma So You Learn to Have Healthy Adult Relationships

Choosing a Healthy Romantic Relationship
People who grew up in loving, secure families start out with a strong emotional foundation as adults.  Generally speaking, they're more likely to choose healthy romantic partners as compared with people who grew up in dysfunctional families.

Children Who Grew Up in Loving Families Tend to Choose Healthy Adult Relationships

If they happen to enter into a relationship with someone who turns out not to be a caring or reliable person, they're more likely to leave that relationship because they know what it's like to be in a caring, secure relationship based on their early childhood experiences with their parents.  And they expect to be treated well in their adult relationships.

People Who Grew Up in Healthy Families Tend to Choose Healthy Adult Relationships

Many people who grew up in dysfunctional families often gravitate to romantic partners who are either uncaring, unreliable or even abusive.

Many People Who Grew Up in Dysfunctional Environments Often Choose Uncaring, Unreliable or Even Abusive Partners

After a while, they often feel so overwhelmed with trying to discern who is trustworthy and who's not that they avoid relationships altogether and choose to be alone.  But this usually leaves them feeling lonely and in despair.

Working Through Childhood Trauma in Psychotherapy
After having a few romantic relationships that don't work out, people who grew up in dysfunctional families, often find it harder to bounce back from these disappointing experiences, and they're fearful of getting romantically involved again (see my blog article: Overcoming the Fear of Falling In Love and Getting Hurt Again).

If they happen to seek out therapy with a trauma therapist, they will often discover that, before they're able to develop the ability to choose an emotionally healthy partner, they need to work through their childhood trauma (see my blog article: Overcoming the Traumatic Effects of Childhood Trauma).

Let's look at an example, which, as always, is a composite of many psychotherapy cases with all identifying information changed to protect confidentiality:

When Marie was born, her mother, who was a young single mother, left Marie in the care of an elderly aunt so she could pursue a new relationship with a man who didn't like children.

Marie's elderly aunt did the best she could to take care of Marie, but she was often too tired to spend a lot of time interacting with her, so Marie was often left alone.

Overcoming Childhood Trauma

Marie only saw her mother sporadically.  Sometimes, she would spend a few nights with her, but she would want to quickly return to her aunt's house because the mother's boyfriend was a raging alcoholic or who would hit her mother and threaten and frighten Marie.

When Marie was five, her elderly aunt died.  Marie thought of her aunt as her mother because she was the only caregiver she had ever known.  None of the family talked to Marie about the aunt's death or how Marie felt about this loss.

Since none of the family wanted Marie, she went to live with a family friend who already had several older children, and who had little time for Marie.  The older children, who were already in their teens, wanted very little to do with Marie, so, she grew up to be a lonely child.

Marie was often bullied in school by children who sensed her emotional vulnerability.  She had one friend, who was also bullied, and they stuck together until this friend moved away.

By the time Marie was 17, she had been moved around among several family friends.  It was obvious to Marie that none of them really wanted her, but they didn't want to see her enter into the foster care system.  Her last experience with a physically and emotionally abusive woman was so bad that by the time she graduated high school, Marie got a job and moved out on her own.

When Marie came to therapy, she was in her mid-30s and she had been in a string of abusive romantic relationships.  She was depressed and she felt hopeless about ever being able to have a healthy relationship.

Over time, Marie discovered in therapy that her childhood traumatic experiences had a significant impact on the type of men that she chose to be in a relationship with.  Becoming aware of the impact of her early experiences was a start, but it wasn't enough to change things for Marie.

Marie needed to work through her childhood history of abuse and neglect in order to grieve and move on.  We used EMDR, a therapy developed specifically for helping people overcome trauma.

Since there were so much trauma, including being left by her mother, emotional neglect, the death of her aunt,   the effect of being bullied, the chaos of being around so much between caregivers, emotional and physical abuse, and her experiences in dysfunctional romantic relationships as an adult, the work wasn't quick.

Over time, Marie was able to work through her childhood trauma, and she began to make better choices with regard to the men she dated.  Eventually, Marie entered into a healthy relationship and, for the first time in her life, she was happy in a relationship.

There Are No Quick Fixes For Working Through Trauma
There are no quick fixes when it comes to working through trauma, especially longstanding trauma that originated in childhood.

As a psychotherapist with extensive experience helping clients work through trauma, I have found trauma therapies like EMDR and Somatic Experiencing to be more effective in resolving trauma than regular talk therapy.

Getting Help
If you have been struggling on your own with unresolved trauma that has affected your ability to make healthy choices for yourself, you're not alone.

Getting Help: EMDR Can Help You  to Overcome Childhood Trauma So You Can Learn to Have Healthy Adult Relationships

Help is available, and you owe it to yourself to get professional help from a licensed mental health practitioner who is trauma therapist.

I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist who works with individual adults and couples.

As a licensed trauma therapist, who helps clients to work through emotional trauma, and I have helped many clients overcome their trauma so they could lead more fulfilling lives.

To find out more about me, visit my web site:  Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist

To set up a consultation, call me at (212) 726-1006 or email me:

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