Trauma responses can wreak havoc on relationships. To support the healing of trauma and minimize the negative impact of trauma responses in relationships it is important to know when you are experiencing a trauma response. You might think this is obvious, but in the past, I often didn’t realize when I was experiencing a trauma response or recognize it when Angus was experiencing one either.
Here is this helpful infographic created by NICAM that describes what trauma responses can look like.
Understanding when our nervous system is experiencing a trauma response is key because when we know what is happening to us we then know how to take care of ourselves.
In the past, when I didn’t understand I was experiencing a trauma response, I would judge myself as unworthy and think there was something wrong with me especially if I went into shutdown (see diagram above). And when my sympathetic nervous system would activate, instead of realizing my thinking was distorted from due to past experiences I would feel justified and vindicated in my hostility.
The impacts of this on my relationship were significant. We had a high conflict relationship where we would both act from our trauma. Even though the trauma was related to past experiences, it created pain and suffering for us in the present moment. Rather than our relationship being a healing container it was a house of torture and felt untenable much of the time.
I thought there was something wrong with me when I experienced emotions related to trauma, particularly ones related to shutdown such as shame. I thought experiencing fear and shame meant there was something wrong with me. My experience was outsized for the present moment so I used this as evidence to prove I was the problem. It affirmed there was something wrong with me.
I felt weak and not good enough. I believed I was unworthy and needed to be fixed through self-improvement. I had no idea I was experiencing a healthy nervous system response and that I couldn't trust my thinking in the moment. I thought I was damaged.
My healing unfolded over many years, but I experienced a tipping point when I experienced the formless space of peace and well-being within myself. This resulted in a sustainable change in me feeling safere within myself, and when my nervous system was more settled my trauma responses showed up much less. This had a dramatic impact on my relationship. The more stable and connected I became my essence of love, the more my relationship thrived.
This is why it is important to start with yourself first.
Your connection with the peace and well-being that lies within you is what is most important.
Relationships reflect the well-being of each person in the relationship. You first. Relationship second.
Trauma can be healed, nervous systems can break old habits and find a new normal to stabilize at. Change is possible. We are designed to grow and learn. We are designed to heal.
Healing is the result of an integrated understanding of safety and wellbeing, not an intellectual understanding. An understanding that is profound enough to change how the nervous system responds to stimuli. For me, this shift happened through a spiritual awakening of remembering I am whole and good enough even with all of my human emotional experiences including my trauma responses.
Remembering truth is what matters. This is where the healing resides – through remembering the truth of who you are. There may be plenty of emotions to be felt as part of this remembering. Tears to cry. Rage to scream. Aliveness to be felt. This is just energy. It does not have to be attached to a story. It can be allowed to move through you as you integrate and remember your wholeness. This is often done with the support of a professional.
Know that all of your human experiences and emotions are healthy. There is wisdom in them.
You don’t need to change your experience. It is all for you. All you need to do is notice what state your nervous system is in.
Notice if you slip into a trauma response. Recognize when this is happening so you can take care of yourself. This allows for your needs to be met in the present moment when they weren’t met in the past. It will also help you recognize the quality of your thinking so you know if you can trust it or not. This will support you in not creating more suffering in your relationships.
A gift for you and your loved ones.
Remember, there is nothing wrong with you if you experience a trauma response. It is your health. It is the wisdom of your nervous system taking care of you.
It is possible to update your nervous system response by experientially seeing things more accurately in the present moment. This ability to see is supported by allowing your nervous system to settle and relax. Leave anxious, stressful, and worried thoughts alone so your nervous system can settle and so you can feel safe. This helps to create a new normal that makes room for trauma responses to heal.
The path to healing is the inward path of resting in the peace and love that lies within. This is done by ignoring the thoughts that aren’t true and that take you away from the inner experience that is true.
No matter how you fall into that beautiful feeling of safety and well-being within yourself allow yourself to experience it and absorb it into your conscious knowing so you have that as a foundation from which to navigate life.
This space lies within you. It can never be damaged or taken from you. It is you.
Remember that truth and let your relationships reap the benefits.
Rohini Ross is co-founder of “The Rewilders.” Listen to her podcast, with her partner Angus Ross, Rewilding Love. They believe too many good relationships fall apart because couples give up thinking their relationship problems can’t be solved. In the first season of the Rewilding Love Podcast, Rohini and Angus help a couple on the brink of divorce due to conflict. Angus and Rohini also co-facilitate private couple's intensive retreat programs that rewild relationships back to their natural state of love. Rohini is also the author of the ebook Marriage, and she and Angus are co-founders of The 29-Day Rewilding Experience and The Rewilders Community. You can follow Rohini on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. To learn more about her work and subscribe to her blog visit: TheRewilders.org.