Most people, when they hear the word trauma, think of a one-time event, such as a car accident or sexual assault. But relational trauma, such as an abusive, alcoholic, or emotionally absent parent or years of being bullied can have profound effects on an adult's ability to optimally function.
Trauma occurs when our ability to engage our instinctual defenses of fight/flight is compromised, generally because to do so would have meant greater harm. In these cases, years and even decades later, the nervous system does not "recognize" that the trauma is over and we are now safe. The goal of healing trauma is to recognize that the original danger is over, to access and utilize tools and choices that weren't available at the time, and to help the body complete the thwarted defense
While talk therapy is an important component in trauma therapy, experiential therapies like Internal Family Systems tracking body and nervous system experiences in the here-and-now is crucial because the body actually wants to restore itself. Somatic Experiencing and Sensorimotor Psychotherapy really speak to me about trauma treatment and I utilize the ideas and techniques in these groundbreaking approaches. I also incorporate EMDR when appropriate.
Internal Family Systems, developed by Dr. Richard Schwartz, offers an innovative and trailblazing way to understand and work with many kinds of issues. This non-pathologizing model can offer true healing and I utilize it more and more in my work.
When we grow up in environments that compromised our emotional growth, we often unconsciously seek out people, usually in intimate relationships but also in friendships, who will reenact with us that unhealthy dynamic in an attempt to "make it right." For example, if I could never please my mother and I believed it was my responsibility (and what child wouldn't?), I will find a partner who will continue to find fault with me as I keep trying to figure out how to make him/her happy. Once I can acknowledge that my mother's unhappiness had nothing to do with me, I no longer need to make it right. This sounds so simple, but it in fact requires hard work, often encompassing mourning, developing compassion, and ultimately making new meaning of our past and current relationships.