Category Archives: Trauma Workshop

Psychological Childhood Trauma Recovery

Childhood experiences can impact our current daily life and our ability to have healthy functioning interpersonal relationships. They can also distort our perception of ourselves and others.

When I am working with a couple, sometimes it is clear there are dynamics in the relationship stemming from experiences that predate the relationship. These pre-existing conditions often go unnoticed as a contributing source to the couple’s struggles – until, of course, they are pointed out by a therapist trained to recognize and address them.

Our Formative Years

We are all shaped into the adults we are today by our experiences during our formative years (birth to 18). Not only are our bodies physically morphing during this time, we are emotionally and developmentally morphing as well.

When a child experiences trauma, it can stunt – or even halt – emotional development. So while our bodies continue to grow and we begin to look like adults, there can be components of our emotional development that are underdeveloped or still childlike.

What is Trauma?

Research has shown that any experience that is less than nurturing during our formative years can create trauma wounds that, left untreated, are capable of hindering or preventing our ability to maintain healthy functional relationships as adults.

''Any experience that is less than nurturing can create trauma wounds that hinder our ability to maintain healthy functional relationships as adults'' Click To Tweet

Read that last sentence again. Any experience that is less than nurturing.

Some trauma is blatant and easily recognizable. Sexual and physical abuse are examples and we all know the horrible devastation they cause.

Other trauma however, isn’t so obvious. This ‘relational trauma’ can be very subtle and even unintentional. It can look like unintentional neglect or subtle manipulation. It can also look like a “lack of” – a lack of affection, or comfort, or attention, or appropriate limits. Though not blatant or intentional, it still can have a significant impact on our abilities to love ourselves and others.

The Effects of Relational Trauma

In short, it fuels self-defeating behaviors.

Issues like anger and rage. Or depression and anxiety.

It can cause persistent feelings of rejection, loneliness or inferiority.

Addictions. Fears of abandonment. Low self-esteem.

It can put you in a pattern of choosing people who are not good for you.

It can cause problems with emotional connection and intimacy in relationships.

Just to name a few.

Often, these self-defeating behaviors need to be addressed before couples counseling can be fully effective – and lasting.

Treating Trauma

Studies have shown that, to be effective, trauma must be treated experientially rather than just cognitively (learned with our brain), so it was important to me to have a program available here at The Marriage Place to help our clients do this important work.

We call it our Breaking Free Workshop.
''“Trauma must be treated experientially rather than just cognitively in order to be effective.'' Click To Tweet

The 3-Day Breaking Free Workshop

Based on the pioneering research of Pia Mellody, Senior Fellow at The Meadows and author of Facing Codependence (a great book by the way!), each 3-Day Breaking Free Workshop is limited to a small group – usually 3 or 4 – and facilitated by one of my most experienced therapists. The workshop provides a safe environment for participants to:

  • Explore the origins of their relational trauma;
  • Identify and recognize their adaptive survival mechanisms;
  • Learn how to release negative emotions rooted in painful experiences;
  • Re-parent the parts of themselves that have been shamed, neglected or abandoned; and
  • Reclaim their intrinsic worth

What to expect

I’m often asked what to expect from a Breaking Free Workshop. Well, in the words of our clients, it’s transformational, life-changing and healing.

Those are big words with lofty expectations and I’m always a little hesitant to use them because 1) I think – in general – they get overused and 2) every client’s experience is different.

But I’ve seen it time and again and still sometimes find myself amazed at the difference I see in clients after they’ve gone through a Breaking Free Workshop.

I had a client whose anger and rage were so explosive his wife and kids were scared to get close. When I saw him for the first time afterward, I noticed he even carried himself differently. He told me he learned he can feel hurt and express himself without yelling and screaming now.

It was certainly transformational. And life-changing – not only for him but for his family and for his marriage.

''When we’re afraid to bring up difficult topics with our spouses, we’re letting fear control the quality of our relationships.'' Click To Tweet

What you can do now

None of us had perfect upbringings. None. Some of us know this all too well.

Some of us had parents that meant well but were carrying baggage of their own and didn’t realize we needed something more. Or parents who, due to circumstances beyond their control, weren’t always able to give us what we needed.

Some of us got what we needed from our families but experienced trauma at the hands of another caregiver. Or neighbor. Or (fill in the blank).

Some of us don’t even realize yet that we didn’t get what we needed during our formative years.

But if you are dealing with symptoms of relational trauma – like the self-defeating behaviors I listed earlier – I hope you’ll consider reaching out and letting us help you address the source. There are coaches and counselors here at The Marriage Place that can help you find the answers.

Call us or schedule an appointment

(972) 441-4432 or Send us a text at (214) 431-5764

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Married To A Bully

The term “bully” has taken center stage in recent years. We hear stories about bullying in the news and our school age kids are inundated with “Stop Bullying” campaigns designed to raise awareness and address the issue.

If your child was being bullied on the playground, I’m sure you have an idea of how you’d handle it. You’d probably talk to their teacher or the school administration. You might visit with the parents of the bully or accompany your child to an activity – or pull your child out of one – based on the bully’s participation. And I bet you’d make sure your child knows how to respond to the bully.

You’d have a plan.

But what if it’s not your kid? What if it’s you that is being bullied?

Tell-tale signs you are married to a bully

Bullies come in all shapes, sizes and genders. If your spouse regularly exhibits one or more of these behaviors, you are married to a bully.

  • Anger & Verbal/Physical Aggression – Name calling, taunts, verbal tirades. Condescending or overly critical comments. Dominates conversations. Slams doors and throws things. Once a bully has a reputation of using anger as a first response, just the fear of the anger often keeps their victims silenced.
  • Controlling – A bully limits your freedom, dismisses your ideas or thoughts as silly and invalid, or insinuates that you are incapable. Crying can also be a controlling behavior when it’s used to intentionally manipulate the outcome or you.
  • Passive/Aggressive Behaviors – Some bullies like to punish you into submission. It could be hanging up, giving the silent treatment, withholding sex, leaving chores undone or coming home late. They are quietly daring you to call them on their behavior.
  • Threats – Divorce. Move Out. Cheating. Or even suicide. All are self-sabotaging behaviors that bullies resort to when they are desperate and scared of losing you.

Understanding why bullies bully

At its core, bullying is about trying to gain power and control. It’s going “one up” to make the other person feel less or “one down”.

Bullies use coercion, manipulation, and intimidation in an attempt to control outside factors and force our compliance. Fear – usually driven by the bully’s own insecurities – motivates their behavior.

What bullying does to your marriage

In a functional relationship, the two partners are equals. But when one of the partners is a bully, there is an imbalance and the relationship is unhealthy and generally unsustainable without change.

Additionally, if you have kids, bullying takes on an even bigger consequence. Research shows that children growing up in a home with a bully parent, are more likely to become bullies – or be bullied – themselves. That is a cringe-worthy legacy to leave your offspring.

What to do if you are married to a bully

Stop Making Excuses – I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard “But it’s not that bad. He/she isn’t always like this”. Well of course they aren’t! If they didn’t have some redeeming qualities, you wouldn’t think of staying. No one would. This is exactly how a bully gets to continue bullying. They justify their bad behavior by reminding us of the good times. If your spouse is a bully even part of the time, you deserve better. And your kids deserve better too.

Quit Taking It – Often spouses believe they aren’t taking it if, instead of ignoring the bullyish behavior, they fight back – by yelling, screaming or issuing empty threats NEWS FLASH: This is still taking it! Lashing back at your spouse in abusive ways only escalates an already awful situation and creates a destructive cycle of abuse in your home. Resist the urge to feel justified in this type of response because of all you have put up with over the years. If you can’t respond in a healthy reasonable way how can you expect your spouse to learn to control him/her self?

Bullies have a way of targeting those who don’t have boundaries. Stay calm and use firm direct language to set limits. “If you continue to yell and scream, I am going to pack up my things and the kids, and spend the night elsewhere tonight.” And then follow through and do it.

Be Prepared to use an Ultimatum – Ultimatums are to protect you and the relationship. They can be a scary but necessary last resort when your spouse has refused to make repair and you no longer feel safe, secure or respected in the relationship. Remember, you cannot control your spouse, but you can control what you will tolerate. For more on ultimatums, go here.

Keep a Journal – I’m a big fan of journaling. Document episodes of bullying – what your spouse did or said, how you responded, and your feelings. This can be a valuable tool to reflect back on and help you confront the behavior and verbalize how you experienced your spouse.

What if you are the bully?

If you are the bully in your relationship, the good news is it does not have to be a terminal diagnosis. There are steps you can take to move away from your bullying behavior and begin to repair the damage you’ve done. But to do so will require a level of humility and self-awareness that will be new and very uncomfortable for you. It will also likely take you asking for – and being willing to receive – help from a qualified therapist – one who can help you identify the source of the fear and pain that led you down this path.

Almost all self-defeating behavior stems from painful emotions that are the result of childhood experiences. Our Breaking Free Workshop can help you heal from those painful experiences and learn how to maintain functional adult relationships.

It can be difficult to admit there is something wrong in your marriage. Whether you are the bully or the bullied, there can still be hope for your relationship. But don’t wait any longer to get help.

Call us or schedule an appointment

(972) 441-4432 or Send us a text at (214) 431-5764

Learn More