It takes two healthy individuals to create a healthy relationship, experts say. But what happens when our early childhood experiences seep into, contaminate, or even destroy our relationships?
As children, we absorb a world of big and small hurts (traumas) that we didn’t ask for, we couldn’t help. We didn’t have any adult tools to help us deal with those traumas, so we developed tools of our own, coping skills that would help us survive, help us deal, the best way we knew how.
But what worked to get us through our childhood years, doesn’t usually work for our adult lives or our relationships.
Here is an excerpt from my new book, Peace For a Lifetime, that shares how trauma from our childhood can wreak havoc in our adult lives and relationships.
Kevin was thirty-two years old when he and his wife, Stacy, twenty-eight, came to see me for their first counseling session. They had been married for six years, but they were on the verge of divorce because of Stacy’s control issues. Kevin alleged Stacy controlled everything in their marriage, including the finances, household chores, and parenting of their three- and five-year-old girls. Stacy decided what and when they ate, what movies they saw, their activities, and their friends. If everything went according to Stacy’s plan, the family could enjoy a pleasant afternoon. But if something didn’t fall in place perfectly, Stacy usually became agitated, critical, and often enraged at Kevin or the girls. Whenever Kevin wanted to offer his opinion or make a suggestion, he was ignored, belittled, or threatened. Those experiences left Kevin feeling resentful and bitter toward Stacy.
During their initial visit, I discovered that Stacy’s mother had been brutally murdered when she was twelve years old. After the loss, she was taken to a counselor once, but shortly after that, her father remarried and moved the family several states away. Since she wasn’t getting into trouble and appeared to be doing okay, her father didn’t see the need to continue her counseling sessions.
In therapy, Stacy revealed she began having terrible nightmares of something happening to her after her mother’s death, or, even worse, to her father. He was all she had left. If something happened to him, what would she do? Who would look after her?
She began pulling her hair out several months later, a habit she was continuing at the time of our sessions. Her anxiety was at an extremely high level and was accompanied by severe periods of depression.
Stacy is an example of how a Big-T trauma during childhood can dramatically impact how we function in relationships as adults. However, Big-T traumas are not always from exposure to a single traumatic event. Big-T traumas may also result from sustained exposure to significant physical or emotional neglect or abuse over a long period, or repeated incidents of sexual abuse or sexual molestation. Big-T traumas can occur if we are loaded with an overwhelming amount of emotional baggage in childhood. Should there be no one to help us unpack and detach from those situations, we are left to carry this baggage with us into our adult life, our jobs, our marriages, and our relationships with our children.
Kevin and Stacy are just one of several stories I chronicle in my book, Peace for a Lifetime, that shows us how we can not only heal from our childhood wounds, but we can build a life that is radically different from anything we may have experienced. We can build life differently. We can build a life of hope, wholeness and harmony that will bring us peace – not just for today, not just for tomorrow, we can experience peace…for a lifetime!
We are not chained to our past. Through Christ, we have been freed to build a
foundation of peace that will last a lifetime!
To learn more about the book, click HERE!
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