NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Monday, August 25, 2014

Psychotherapy Blog: Unresolved Trauma: Your Emotional Blind Spots Can Have Serious Repercussions For Yourself and Your Children

In a prior article, Overcoming Your Emotional Blind Spots, I discussed how many people are unaware of the emotional blind spots that affect them in their lives.  In today's article, I'll focus on how your emotional blind spots caused by unresolved trauma can have serious repercussions for you as well as your children.

Your Emotional Blind Spots Can Have Serious Repercussions For Yourself and Your Children

According to an article by Kate Murphy of the New York Times, No Time to Think, many people would prefer to keep themselves continuously distracted than spend even a short amount of time on self reflection.  And, of course, with so many electronic gadgets there are more ways for us to distract ourselves these days than ever before.

Your Emotional Blind Spots Can Have Serious Repercussions For Yourself and Your Children

People who avoid self reflection often have emotional blind spots about themselves as well as those closest to them.   This is especially true of people who have unresolved trauma from early childhood.

Let's take a look at an example, which is a composite of many cases with all identifying information changed:

Betty moved to NYC when she was in her early 20s to get away from her father, who had sexually abused her for several years after her mother died when Betty was 13.

When Betty came to NY, she had no experience with dating.  She was also passive.  In addition, she had little self awareness so that she married the first man who showed interest in her without being aware, at the time, that she had no feelings for him.

The man she married, Bruce, turned out to be someone with a serious alcohol problem who was only concerned about having his personal needs met.  He cared nothing about what Betty wanted and, Betty, in turn, had no idea what she wanted because she never thought about it.  She felt that her sole duty was to be a good wife and dote on her husband.

No matter what time Bruce got home from drinking with his friends, Betty waited up for him so she could serve him his dinner.  She never complained, nor was she aware, at that time, of being angry or unhappy about his behavior.

As time went on, Betty and Bruce had a son, John, and Betty began to get to know some of the other mothers at John's school.  There was one mother in particular, Lilly, who Betty would invite over for dinner every so often with Lilly's son, Will.

After Lilly saw how Betty waited on Bruce like a servant and how unappreciative he was, Lilly waited until she could talk to Betty alone.  Then, she tried to be as tactful as possible as she broached the topic with Betty.  But Betty, who knew Lilly meant well, dismissed the idea that Bruce took her for granted.  And Lilly could see that this topic was making Betty uncomfortable so she dropped it.

It pained Lilly to see Betty being taken for granted by Bruce, but she felt that Betty was unable and unwilling to see this, so there was nothing that she could do.

Several years later, Lilly's son, Will, told her that Betty's son, John, was drinking.  Lilly was shocked because John was only 12, like Will.  Will told Lilly how John was stealing liquor from Betty's and Bruce's liquor cabinet without them even realizing it.

Lilly thought about how she could approach Betty about this.  She knew that Betty loved her son, but she didn't know how Betty would respond to being told that John was drinking.

One day, while Lilly was visiting Betty and thinking about how to broach the topic, they were both startled to hear a commotion coming from John's room.

When they went to his room, John was standing on the ledge of his window with a bottle of whiskey in his hand, clearly drunk, saying, "Look mom!  I can fly!" and, before Betty or Lilly could reach him, he jumped off the ledge in a drunken stupor and fell into the bushes in the backyard.

John survived the fall with a broken arm.  But this was a big wake up call for Betty, who had no idea that John had been drinking.

The nurse in the hospital ER called the bureau of child welfare, who provided Betty and her family with family services.  Betty and Bruce were mandated to attend parenting skills classes and the whole family attended family counseling.

The family counselor also recommended that Betty seek her own individual counseling, which she did.  He provided John with a referral to a child therapist.  He also recommended that Bruce attend alcohol treatment, which Bruce refused to do.

Betty began to deal with her early history of childhood trauma in her own individual therapy.  She also learned that, at an early age, in order to deal with the trauma, she learned to "zone out" or dissociate to keep herself from feeling the full impact of the trauma.

Dissociation is a common response to overwhelming trauma.  It helped Betty to survive a difficult situation when she was a child, but now, as an adult, she realized that the dissociation was having serious negative consequences for herself and her son.

Betty also realized that, due to her dissociation and her own related emotional blind spots, she was missing important signs that she was in an unhappy marriage, her life was falling apart, and her son wasn't doing well.

Initially, Betty blamed herself for not seeing the problems.  She was filled with guilt and shame for being emotionally numb and in denial.

It took a lot of work in therapy over a period of time for Betty to deal with her own childhood history of trauma as well as her current problems with her son and her husband in a way where she could be compassionate towards herself.

Over time, Betty began to integrate her childhood history and make connections to her current life.  Her son did well in therapy after a rocky start.  But Bruce refused to attend any more family sessions after a few visits.  He blamed Betty for their son's problems and refused to see how he was contributing to the family's problems.

Eventually, Betty got a job to support herself and John, and she asked Bruce to move out.  She also set limits with Bruce, telling him that if he wanted to have visitation with their son, he had to be sober during these visits.  This was reinforced by the bureau of child welfare caseworker.  To Betty's amazement, Bruce complied.  He was also mandated to provide child support.

Gradually, Betty began to put her life together.  After working through her childhood trauma and the end of her marriage, she was no longer in denial or in a dissociative fog.

Over Time, Betty Became More Emotionally Available to Herself and Her Son

She no longer feared self reflection and she became more emotionally available to herself as well as her son.

Getting Help in Therapy
If the issues in this article resonate with you, you owe it to yourself to get help from a licensed mental health professional who has expertise in this area.

With help in therapy, you can overcome unresolved trauma and any related emotional blind spots so you can lead a more fulfilling and integrated life.

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist who works with individuals and couples.

I have helped many clients, who were willing to do the work in therapy, to overcome their trauma and emotional blind spots.

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

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.