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When CoAs move into adulthood with a history of childhood trauma, they are more vulnerable to being traumatized as adults Krystal, Understanding how human beings process fear and trauma in their brain and body illuminates why emotions associated with frightening, disempowering experiences can remain unconscious. Following that is the attempt to fight or flee. If escape is possible, the experience of the near-trauma will be temporarily stressful, but the person is unlikely to develop full-blown post-traumatic stress disorder PTSD.
The freeze response, akin to dissociation, creates an inability to process what is happening and increases PTSD symptoms. We need to elevate our feelings about what happened and our sensorial impressions and responses to a conscious level and think about them after we feel the threat is over and we feel safe again.
But when they do surface they often get projected onto the situation that triggered the reaction with little or no awareness of their deeper origins. Needless to say, this can make adult intimacy feel confusing and unmanageable because the past becomes mixed up with the present and these feelings are difficult to separate, so problems become bigger and more complicated than necessary.
When ACoAs grow up and create families and relationships in adulthood, they may overreact to the vicissitudes of negotiating relationships. Parenthood and intimacy act as triggers and the feelings of dependency and vulnerability can consciously or unconsciously put the ACoA into a state of fear in which they see chaos, out-of-control behavior and abuse looming around the corner, because this was their early childhood experience.
They may unconsciously be so convinced that distress is at hand that they may experience mistrust and suspicion when problems are solved too smoothly. They may even push a situation in a convoluted attempt at self-protection trying to ferret out potential danger until, through their relentless efforts to avoid it, they actually create it.
Transformation for life : healing and growth for adult children of alcoholics and others
And so the pattern of strong feelings leading to chaos, rage and tears is once again reinforced and passed along. People who have been traumatized tend to live in emotionally black and white worlds. Our thinking, feeling and behavior swing from zero to ten, with no speed bumps in between. We lose our ability to regulate our powerful emotions. We need to learn to think, feel and act in balance. Some of the long-term issues associated with the ACoA trauma syndrome are:.
Throughout this list we are describing issues that can result from relationship trauma. Because relationship trauma occurs within the context of primary relationships the issues that result from relationship trauma tend to resurface and get played out in subsequent relationships.
How To Heal And Re-parent Your Inner Child
Those who have experienced relationship trauma may recreate dysfunctional patterns relating to their present-day relationships that mirror unresolved issues from their past relationships. The limbic system can become deregulated as a result of repeated toxic stressors. Because the limbic system has jurisdiction over our mood, appetite, sleep cycles and libido, deregulation in the limbic system can translate into a lack of ability to regulate our feelings, appetite, sleep or sex drive. Broad swings between states of emotional intensity and numbing are part of the natural trauma response. We constantly try to read the faces of those around us so that we can protect ourselves against perceived pain or humiliation.
Homes that do not encourage the expression of genuine emotion or that make us want to hide or shut down what we are experiencing on the inside may result in family members having a restricted range of emotions that they are comfortable feeling and sharing. There has been the childhood loss of family members to addiction and the disruption of family rhythms and rituals. ACoAs often need to mourn not only what happened in their childhoods, but also what never got a chance to happen. Watching someone we love slowly become someone we cannot make sense of can shake us to the core.
It can be disturbing, humiliating and frightening. It may also be influenced by the natural egocentricity of the child who feels that the world circulates around and because of them. This kind of reasoning can be immature and distorted and can be carried into and played out in adult relationships.
Because it is so deeply disruptive to our sense of normalcy, trauma in relationships can impel people both to withdraw from a close connection and to seek it desperately.
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Traumatic bonds are unhealthy bonding styles that tend to become created in families where there is significant fear. Traumatic bonds have a tendency to repeat themselves: that is, we tend to repeat this type of bonding style in relationships throughout our lives, often without our awareness.
The numbing response along with the emotional constriction that is a natural part of the trauma response may influence our ability to accept care and support from others. We may develop fear, mistrust and a degree of emotional frozenness. Our willingness to let love and support feel good may lessen because we we fear that letting our guard down will only set ourselves up for more loss or pain. So we protect ourselves, imagining that by avoiding meaningful connection we will also avoid hurt van der Kolk, This is why the restoration of hope is so important in recovery.
It is also why having a spiritual belief system can be so helpful in personal healing because hope and a sense of a larger more perfect order tend to be part of such systems. We may lose some of our ability to take actions to affect, change or move a situation forward; we may give up and collapse on the inside or adopt a permanent position of victimhood van der Kolk, People who have felt traumatized may alternate between anxious clinging and taking refuge in avoiding connections with other people.
They reason that by avoiding honest and authentic connections they will avoid being hurt—and so they isolate. Isolation is also a feature of depression. Unfortunately social connectedness, though natural to our species, still needs to be learned and practiced.
Adult Children of Alcoholics | Psychology Today
The more we isolate, the more out of practice we become at making connections with people, which can further isolate us. Over time the recovering person needs to learn what every child needs to learn: to be in the presence of another person while still hanging onto his or her own autonomous sense of self and trusting what he or she feels and sees.
For the person growing up in an addicted environment, shame becomes not so much a feeling that is experienced in relation to an incident or situation, as is the case with guilt, but rather a basic attitude toward and about the self. It may play out as impulsive decision-making, or an inability to make decisions at all. People who are consistently being wounded emotionally and are not able to address or process these feelings openly and honestly may develop rigid psychological defenses to manage or ward off pain.
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Research on humans and other animals shows that stress or trauma early in life can sensitize neurons and receptors throughout the central nervous system so that they perpetually overrespond to stress throughout life van der Kolk, The limbic system, which is part of the nervous system, regulates emotion. Our bodies are neurologically wired to process our emotions and our feelings by making us want to take action.
For instance, we get scared so we run or freeze in place; we feel love so we reach out and touch or hug the object of our love. When we block experiencing or acting on powerful emotions, we may experience back pain, chronic headaches, muscle tightness or stiffness, stomach problems, heart pounding or headaches. Adrenaline is highly addictive to the brain and may act as a powerful mood enhancer.