Attachment is the term we use to describe the emotional connections we make with certain, influential people in our lives that last over significant periods of time. The people with whom we are attached or form an emotional bond with, are called attachment figures.
In childhood, our primary attachments figures are our parents or caregivers, who likewise are attached to us. Other examples of attachment figures include: grandparents, aunts, uncles, siblings, friends, romantic partners, and spouses. They can bring us great joy but also difficulties and pain.
Our early experiences with our attachment figures provide us with the template for all our subsequent relationships, by instilling in us ways of relating to ourselves, the world, and others. Some of the ways we relate are constructive some are not. This template can and does change with time and experience. However, we often find ourselves repeating the same relational patterns we experienced from childhood. As adults, we often find the habits that hold us back from engaging fully with our lives and with others, have their roots in our past attachment relationships. If our attachment figure is a source of danger, then this creates conflict, a part of us want to turn to them for love and support, but there is also a need to protect our safety. When trauma occurs early in life, especially when there was no safe person to turn to or harm was perpetrated by the attachment figure the effects can be very hard to resolve without support and guidance.
An awareness of our attachment styles and understanding the ways in which we attached to significant others will help to repair and heal attachment wounds
Trauma refers to any threatening or overwhelming experience that was out of our control, and subsequently, we have not been able to effectively assimilate and integrate the traumatic event and experience.
Trauma can be a single event, for example, an accident, a disaster, an assault, rape, and hate crime. Or, it can be repeated events, for example, childhood abuse, both physical and emotional along with neglect, and isolation.
We sometimes think of relational trauma as being associated with those we are closely connected or attached to. However, relational trauma can also be perpetrated by strangers, bullying, rape, hate crimes, violence, combat, prison, and gangs.
Any event that is stressful enough to leave us helpless, frightened, overwhelmed, desperate, or profoundly unsafe is considered a trauma. After such an experience we are often left with a diminished sense of safety and security with ourselves, others, and the world.
When we experience attachment wounds and trauma because, safety, protection, and comfort were not available to us, we then rely on our automatic survival responses also referred to as our animal instinct. Fight, Flight, Freeze, and flop, being in a continual hyperaroused state can over time lead to disassociation, which is one of our greatest survival strategies.
When working on attachment wounds, trauma, and difficult memories from the past, It is important to feel safe and connected, only working when arousal levels are in an optimal zone for well-being, ie when you are able to self-regulate effectively and stay within your window of tolerance. Otherwise, there is a big chance you will relive, repeat, trigger and re-traumatize yourself. Understanding and being able to effectively regulate arousal levels (the level of activation in the autonomic nervous system) is key for mastering and managing past trauma.
Any number of things can cause trauma. If you think you are experiencing trauma, some questions to ask yourself include:
Is the traumatic event affecting your everyday life?
Are you upset faster and more often and do you stay upset for long periods of time?
Are your reactions appropriate to the actual situation you are in?
Do you have difficulty coming back to a calm state when you are triggered or upset?
Do you struggle to regulate your emotions?
Do you have flashbacks of the event that are startlingly realistic?
Do you re-experience the event with the same emotional intensity?
Are you burdened and chained by those thoughts?
Do you suffer from depression, severe anxiety, panic attacks, or emotional numbness?
Do you struggle to concentrate, or feel constantly distracted?
Do you disassociate, and lose a sense of time and place?
Do you have chronic and unexpected pain, severe eating, or sleep disturbances?
Do you withdraw from family, friends and avoid relationships with others?
This is by no means an exhaustive list, there are many signs and symptoms of trauma. If you believe or think you may be experiencing some of the symptoms of trauma then I would recommend seeking help and support, please, don’t struggle alone there is support out there.
Be well and stay safe Pip x