NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Thursday, June 6, 2024

Unresolved Trauma Can Make It Difficult For You to Feel Secure Even in a Healthy Relationship

Anxiety can be a useful signal when you're in a dangerous situation. 

For instance, if you're walking in the woods and there's been a report of a bear lurking around, your anxiety can trigger your self-protective instincts to be on the lookout for the bear.

Early Unresolved Trauma Can Affect Adult Relationships

But when you feel anxiety about your relationship when you know objectively you're in a healthy relationship, your anxiety is misplaced and this could be a sign that the problem is rooted in the past.

See my articles: 

Clinical Vignette:
The following clinical vignette which, as always, is a composite of many different cases, illustrates how past trauma can affect a current relationship and how trauma therapy can help:

Several months before Gina started trauma therapy, she felt very happy and grateful to be in her relationship with Bill.  But six months into her relationship, she began to feel anxious for no apparent reason. Nothing had changed in her relationship with Bill, but she was overwhelmed with insecurity and a sense of impending doom.  

After talking to her close friends, who knew Gina had a long history of unresolved trauma, Gina began trauma therapy to try to understand how her family history might be affecting her experience in her relationship.

During the history taking session, Gina described a tumultuous family history which included significant attachment trauma including the death of her father before she was born and many uprootings in terms of her mother and Gina relocating almost every year to a new state.  

As a result of her attachment trauma and all the moving around from state to state, Gina had a lot of difficulty making friends because every time she formed friendships, she experienced the loss of those friends when she and her mother moved out of state.

Gina also had a history of good relationships where, similar to her relationship with Bill, she would be happy during the first few months, but then she would become anxious for no particular reason. 

Even though there was no objective reason to believe that her current boyfriend, Bill, would leave her, she was preoccupied with fear of abandonment and she would need a lot of reassurance from him that he wasn't going to end the relationship (see my article: Relationships and Fear of Abandonment).

Over time, Gina learned in therapy how her traumatic history was affecting her current relationship. 

Her trauma therapist used various modes of Experiential Therapy to help Gina to work on her early trauma so her early experiences would no longer be the source of her insecurity, anxiety and fear of abandonment in her current relationship., including the following trauma therapy modalities:
  • EMDR Therapy (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing)
  • AEDP (Accelerated Experiential Dynamic Psychotherapy)
Gradually, over time, Gina was able to separate her anxiety about her past traumatic experiences from her current experiences in her relationship (see my article: Overcoming Childhood Trauma: Separating Then From Now).

Separating the Traumatic Past From the Present

This enabled Gina to be present in her relationship with Bill in a way she had not been able to do before she did trauma therapy.  As she worked through her early trauma, she was able to respond to Bill in a loving and trusting way.

You might know objectively that you're in a secure, healthy relationship, but past traumatic experiences can make you feel anxious and insecure in an otherwise good relationship.

Experiential therapy, like EMDR therapy, AEDP, Somatic Experiencing and other types of trauma therapy, were developed specifically to help clients to overcome trauma in a more effective way than regular talk therapy (see my article: Why Experiential Therapy is More Effective Than Talk Therapy to Overcome Trauma).

Getting Help in Trauma Therapy
If you think your traumatic past is having a negative impact on your current circumstances, you could benefit from trauma therapy.

A skilled trauma therapist can help you to overcome trauma that you can lead a more fulfilling life.

About Me
I am a licensed New York City psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR, AEDP, EFT, Somatic Experiencing and Sex Therapist.

I work with individual adults and couples.

I have helped many clients to overcome trauma (see my article: What is a Trauma Therapist?).

To find out 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.