Healing Complex Trauma

What is developmental and complex trauma?
As young people, we rely solely on our caretakers to meet our basic human life needs (food, safety, shelter, cleanliness) as well as our emotional needs (being soothed, being seen accurately, being allowed to experiment with autonomy/exploration, etc.).

Ideally, our caregivers meet these needs in ways that instill a sense of trust in others, that it is safe to explore, an identity of being worthy of love, and an internalized ability to soothe ourselves. Though parents undoubtedly try their best with the tools they have, sometimes one or more of these needs is not able to be met. Perhaps a parent never had their own needs met in this way and may lack the ability to soothe their child effectively or to have the sense of self necessary to allow their child to experiment with autonomy and independence without feeling threatened. These consistent mis-attunements and failures result in negative self-concept and core difficulties connecting to our own rights and needs. It is also important to note that though less common, complex trauma can occur in adulthood when adults lose their own agency such as in situations of domestic violence or human trafficking.

When we are required to reject our own authenticity and aliveness in order to survive, we may come to see ourselves as unlovable, to struggle to be able to regulate our emotions, to over or under-rely on others, and to form beliefs about life and the world that limit our capacities for connection . This form of trauma can go undetected because often these attachment injuries occurred before we could speak, may be seen as "normal" within the family culture, or have been blocked from our present memory. Many individuals effected by complex trauma describe a deep longing to connect while at the same time being terrified of being truly close to or authentically seen by others.

Complex trauma creates shame or pride based identifications that result from compromising our authentic selves in order to maintain proximity to our caretakers. Consider this chart describing core developmental needs and the corresponding survival strategies that develop when those needs are not consistently met or respected by the environment. Some of the resulting identifications include:

"I don't have the right to be here".
"I don't know what I need".
"Having needs is bad".
"It's not safe to trust other people".
"If they really know me, they won't like/love me".
"My being here isn't good enough without looks or performance".

How do we heal complex trauma?
I utilize the NeuroAffective Relational Model (NARM), a cutting-edge methodology for addressing relational trauma and find it highly effective. In fact, as a therapy client myself, I now prefer NARM therapy to other modalities. NARM allows for a tailored approach to explore what stands in the way of what you are most wanting for yourself. By bringing more understanding to the strategies and identifications we have developed out of survival, we learn to relate to ourselves with deeper awareness of our own agency rather than to allow these patterns to control us. By honoring our own choice to utilize disconnection strategies alongside our deep desires for connection, we are gradually able to feel into our own choice to reconnect to our bodies and emotions in profoundly healing ways. For more information about NARM, please visit http://narmtraining.com/what-is-narm/