Is it Him or Me?

Is It Him? Is It Me? Attachment Broken Down

Untangling where relationship hurts originate can feel like playing therapist, detective and judge all at once. We’re left confused, questioning what caused the pain we’re in today. Did my partner’s behavior trigger childhood attachment wounds? Or are new injuries layered on top of old ones? What can I heal and what is beyond my control? Making sense of it all is overwhelming.

Relational and betrayal trauma origins play a huge role in attachment theory and in how securely we have attached to others in our childhood and in our current relationships. When you have experienced such trauma, it is crucial for you to remember how to listen to your body’s signals first. When you experience trauma, you will find you need to tend to the current relational wounds as well as any past wounds the new injury has triggered. Safety and security will always be paramount as you begin healing attachment and trauma wounds. Boundaries play a role in creating safety and empowerment in relationships. Working with a relationship coach or therapist can help you discern blind spots and aid in healing. 

Attachment Theory

Attachment theory originates from the work of psychologist John Bowlby. He recognized that infants form an emotional bond or “attachment” with their primary caregivers – usually the mother figure. This ensures the infant receives emotional and physical protection while providing the safety to explore the outside world. These early attachment styles of infants tend to remain stable over the lifespan and determine relationship behaviors as adults.

There are four primary attachment styles in adults: secure, anxious-preoccupied, dismissive-avoidant, and fearful avoidant. A secure attachment results from responsive, consistent caregivers who attend to the child’s needs. Such adults form trusting bonds and handle conflicts well. Those with anxious styles worry about relationships while dismissive styles avoid intimacy and vulnerability. Fearful styles both desire closeness yet feel unworthy, pushing partners away and appearing distrustful. Our attachment style subconsciously manifests in adult relationships and impacts how we perceive interactions with romantic partners. Understanding your tendencies can bring awareness to why relationships succeed or fail.

Listen to Your Body

Our bodies offer profound wisdom as we navigate relational wounds or betrayal trauma. When someone we trust betrays us, our nervous system goes into overdrive trying to process the trauma. This shows up physically as anxiety, panic attacks, digestive issues, insomnia, and more. Our mind races to understand while our body cries for safety and regulation.

Tuning into our body’s signals must be the first priority during this turbulent time. Rather than analyzing the roots of our pain intellectually, we must listen to what our body tells us it needs in each moment. This means slowing down, disconnecting from the source of hurt, establishing boundaries, and taking space to self-soothe and regain stabilization. As we make physical safety the foundation, we can then tend to the emotional wounds knowing we have established internal security. Keep listening within – even confusion means pause, breathe, reconnect. Our body guides the way if we have the courage to trust its innate wisdom as we heal.

Old Wounds and New Wounds 

A profound complexity surrounds healing from betrayal trauma – it reopens previous hurts yet creates fresh wounds. When our partner betrays our trust through infidelity, lies, or abusive behaviors, this mirrors and triggers attachment injuries we likely experienced in childhood. Our nervous system gets activated in similar ways and we feel that familiar abandonment or unworthiness from our past.

While it may seem unfair that old traumas are activated when new trauma occurs, this is exactly what often happens. The betrayer may not want to accept responsibility for reopening past wounds, but this is necessary for them to understand. Their choices violated our trust and created new trauma. Anxious attachment from childhood may make us more reactive, but it does not excuse or justify harmful actions now. The betrayer must own how their betrayal reopened old scars without blaming struggles from our upbringing. They are not responsible for the past trauma, but they do hold responsibility for triggering past trauma through their current actions.

The Role of Safety and Security in Healing

When it comes to trauma processing, it’s crucial to approach it with care and patience. The advice not to rush into analyzing wounds while still actively processing trauma underscores the importance of establishing stability and regulation within oneself first.

Trauma can leave individuals feeling emotionally overwhelmed, fragmented, and often dissociated from their experiences. In such a state, attempting to delve immediately into analyzing wounds can be counterproductive and even retraumatizing. It’s akin to trying to fix a broken bone while the patient is still in the throes of a serious injury.

Prioritizing safety and nervous system regulation is paramount in trauma recovery. This involves creating a sense of safety within one’s environment and within oneself, as well as developing coping mechanisms to manage distressing emotions and sensations. Techniques such as grounding exercises, mindfulness, and regulated breathing can be invaluable in this phase.

Once a sense of stability and safety has been established, individuals can then begin to explore deeper layers of their childhood wounds. Childhood trauma often forms the foundation of many present-day struggles, and addressing these underlying wounds is essential for lasting healing. However, attempting to confront these deep-seated issues prematurely can be overwhelming and may hinder progress.

By first stabilizing safety and regulating the nervous system, individuals can approach trauma processing from a place of greater resilience and self-awareness. This sets the stage for more effective exploration and integration of past wounds when the individual is better equipped to handle the emotional intensity that may arise.

In essence, the advice emphasizes the importance of honoring one’s current emotional state and pacing the healing process according to individual needs. Rushing into deep analysis without first establishing a foundation of safety and regulation risks exacerbating trauma symptoms rather than facilitating healing. Therefore, it’s crucial to prioritize stabilization before delving into deeper childhood wound work.

Boundaries Can Empower Your Growth

Boundaries are extremely helpful and empowering when healing from trauma for several key reasons. Boundaries help you regain a sense of safety and control. Trauma makes you feel vulnerable and powerless. Proactively deciding what behaviors you will and will not tolerate helps reestablish security in relationships and your environment.

They allow you to reconnect to inner wisdom. Trauma trains you not to trust yourself. Setting boundaries by identifying what feels comfortable versus uncomfortable helps you tap back into your body’s signals, intuition, and innate sense of wellbeing.

Boundaries facilitate differentiation between the past and the present. With clearly defined standards, you can now more easily discern when your trauma triggers are activated versus when someone is treating you inappropriately. This helps target healing specifically.

They enable you to have a game plan for safety. When you have predetermined what behaviors cross the line for you, you can act decisively in the moment to protect yourself if needed. This is incredibly stabilizing.

Boundaries communicate self-respect and self-care. Setting limits shows you believe you deserve to feel safe and be treated well. They help counteract toxic shame and build true self-esteem from within.

Ultimately, boundaries empower your growth and reclaim your right to take up space and be authentic. They help you stand confidently in your truth, heal at your own pace, and relate to others healthily. Boundaries provide scaffolding to rebuild trust in yourself and feel embodied once again.

Benefits of Relationship Coaching

A relationship coach can provide invaluable support on your healing journey in several impactful ways:

  • They help you build self-awareness by identifying your attachment style and illuminating relationship patterns you may not consciously realize. This paves the way for transformation.
  • They equip you to set boundaries by clarifying your values and what healthy relationships should provide. You gain the tools to advocate for your needs.
  • They empower differentiation between wounds originating from past and present. You can target and process each for greater healing.
  • They guide nervous system regulation through teaching mindfulness, breathing, and stabilization tools. This enables deeper trauma work.
  • They validate and normalize your experiences so you don’t feel so alone. You can air painful emotions in a judgment-free space.
  • They facilitate making meaning out of adversity. You can discover areas for self-development and post-traumatic growth.

If you feel stuck cycling in destructive patterns or paralyzed by relationship injuries, a relationship coach or therapist provides professional support to process the pain and create new possibilities. With compassionate partnership, you can rewrite limiting narratives and build radically healthier relationships – most importantly with yourself first.

You Can Heal

Navigating the complexities of relational trauma, attachment wounds, and boundary-setting within relationships requires a delicate balance of introspection, self-awareness, and external support. Recognizing the interplay between past traumas and present experiences is key to unraveling the origins of our pain and fostering healing. By prioritizing safety, stability, and boundary-setting, individuals can reclaim agency over their emotional well-being and cultivate healthier, more authentic connections with themselves and others. Seeking guidance from a relationship coach or therapist can offer invaluable support in this journey, empowering individuals to navigate the nuances of trauma processing, attachment theory, and boundary work with compassion and resilience. Ultimately, by embracing the courage to confront our wounds and engage in transformative self-work, we pave the way for profound healing and growth in our relationships and within ourselves.

Choose Recovery Services has a team of dedicated relationship coaches and therapists who are trained to help you heal past and current relational wounds. If you are ready to take that next step on your healing journey, reach out to us today.

Tune in to the Choose To Be Podcast to learn more about this topic and many others. 

Interested in learning more about attachment? Start with these episodes:

*Attachment Theory – When It’s Helpful and When It’s Not

*A.R.E. You There For Me? Attachment Practice Tool

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