Monday, 27 February 2012

Benefits and Costs of Relationship Traumas

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Relationship mishaps can be significant traumas.

A trauma is a high impact event that has seriously hurt us or has threatened to hurt us or a loved one. The impact disturbs our sense of equilibrium and security. The central reaction is emotional pain and fear and the primary behavioral tendency is avoidance of what hurt us or threatened to hurt us and anything that seems similar and reminds us of the traumatic event. So individuals who are injured in relationships tend to be untrusting and find themselves wanting to be in a relationship and at the same time being afraid to connect.

Betrayal, rejection and abuse are obvious traumatic events. Domestic violence, rape and isolation and control are serious traumas which compromise the mental health of the victim.

While I was lecturing in a college class, a young woman in the front row started to weep. I was talking about anti-social personality disorders and how these charming and intelligent men (usually the disorder is found in men), who are often enjoyable lovers are ultimately unable to love and end up hurting their partners. The description fit a recent situation in which the student had just been hurt. Understanding that the injury was due to personality disorder of the other person, helped her process her trauma.

High impact life events in relationships or otherwise, change us. They change our worldview - the way we understand ourselves and the world at large. They can get us to change our priorities, our goals and even our lifestyle. In short, they force us to adapt, which requires flexibility and openness. The healthy resolution of trauma then is personal growth and integration of the experience.

What Helps:

• Put into words and tell others what has happened to you. Keeping it secret and private will keep the injury active and unresolved.
• Discover and create your own personal meaning of the event. What is the injury and what is the meaning of it. "Betrayal", for example may mean very different things to different people. Also true for rejection, abuse, etc.
• Identify your fear and avoid running away from what has hurt you. Avoidance will keep fear alive, but don't do what will get you hurt again.
• Confrontation with a positive outcome is what we are after. This most likely will be with someone who has not hurt us.
• Welcome personal change and growth. "What doesn't kill us makes us stronger" and makes us different and better.

Traumatic events in relationships and elsewhere in our lives are unwelcome experiences, yet they can bring important benefits if we are open to finding out more about ourselves and to developing our potentials.
Copyright©2012Ralph Schillace,Ph.D.

Contact Information. Dr. Ralph Schillace is a practicing clinical psychologist in Rochester Hills, Michigan. He is an Emeritus Professor of Psychology, an author ("Relationship Pain", iUniverse, 2000), a keynote speaker and consultant. His training program for medical staff presented with Dr. Patricia Reiss is entitled "Every Patient Contact Counts" which he also keynotes. He also speaks on "The Powerful Impact of Positive Feedback" and "Life is Not a Touchscreen: Effort Counts".

Permission to reprint articles by Ralph Schillace, Ph.D. is hereby given to all print, broadcast, and electronic media provided that the contact information at the end of each article is included in the publication. If your organization publishes articles electronically, a live clickable link to must also be included in the body of the article.

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