Complex relational trauma or CPTSD begins in childhood when we are totally dependant on our caregivers for our survival. We develop according to the conditions we are raised in, our brain and nervous system literally form pathways to adapt to these conditions, all to keep us surviving.
Causes of Relational Trauma
• Chaotic, unstable, inconsistent or unsafe parents
• Exposure to domestic violence
• Emotional or physical neglect
• Parents who suffer from addiction
• Experiences with parents who suffer from mental illness
• Parents who fail to advocate for your needs or betray you
When our early environment was unsafe, unstable, chaotic or inconsistent, our nervous system perceived relationships as a form of threat and insecurity, so we formed maladaptive ways of relating to try to create our safety.
These maladaptive ways of relating as a child continue throughout adulthood. All the survival strategies become internal beliefs and unconscious behaviours and this affects our ability to have healthy, secure relationships as an adult.
Examples of these could be:
• Anxious or Avoidant behaviours in relationships
• Isolating self from relationships
• Negative self beliefs
• Intrusive thoughts
• Somatic issues- Anxiety, panic, stomach issues, pains, trouble sleeping
• High conflict interpersonal relationships
• Emotional dysregulation- big emotions or
unemotional and trouble expressing emotions in a healthy way
• Life task impairment- difficulty holding down a job, managing money, achieving milestones
Once we become aware of our maladaptive responses caused by relational trauma we can begin to heal.
Healing on the unconscious level is key, as that's where these responses have been stored and reinforced since childhood. Effective healing takes a holistic approach, including somatic work, unconscious reprogramming and conscious work to create feelings of safety and change the habits that have been formed across a lifetime.