Trauma and your relationships

With the events of this week in London we are all reassessing our connections, our relationships and our future...

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Life is what happens when you spend time planning and then all your carefully laid expectations suddenly fall apart. We all carry with us a plan, a map of the world and our expectations of it. This map includes the fact that things can and do go wrong but usually for someone else.

Trauma occurs when the map fails to represent the world: totally. It’s about experiencing not just the unexpected but the unanticipated, not just the unforeseen but the unimagined the unimaginable! There are criteria for ‘trauma’ but in truth it’s defined by you. It’s subjective. Sometimes a trauma is obvious; accident, natural disaster or like this week a terrorist event and sometimes not; death of a loved one, a stay in hospital, memories of abuse, a diagnosis of cancer.

These events change our map and our beliefs and understanding of the world. That's why after a trauma people may not even feel that they are the same person at all. This means that relationships change. The trust that people had in themselves, in you and the world around them which was so solid before the trauma changes radically afterwards.

People who have been through trauma can often act in very different ways compared to how they were before the trauma. They may prefer to be on their own for long periods of time and they be depressed for the first time. You may notice that they show compulsive behaviours or become obsessed with specific objects or places or they may avoid certain places or ways of travel. They may also respond to otherwise small arguments with a ferocious intensity or to your love with withdrawal and indifference. This is largely because of the fear of massive panic attacks that are very often brought about through flash backs – that uncontrollable experience of being back in the very experience they seek to avoid. This can also lead to a large helping of self-blame as they tell themselves that they ‘should be able to deal with this’, that they ‘should be much stronger’ and if only they ‘didn’t have to burden anyone else with their problems’.

All these new responses mean that maintaining a meaningful relationship is placed under great stress for all those involved and the chances of making new ones almost impossible.

However, the healthy way to overcome these changes and to heal the trauma is to recognise them without blame or fear. Easier said than done perhaps and yet knowledge and acceptance are the keys here. All these responses to trauma are natural and they are real. Real in that there is a physiological process going on, the body is affecting what we think and what we think disturbs our body. It is simply that we are stuck in way of being that is no longer helpful. All we need to do is to be more creative in our responses to this way of being.

If some you know someone who has begun to act differently with you it may be time to ask them what’s really happening for them.

Be prepared for perhaps a long wait as they unravel all that’s happened for them or to receive a rush of emotion as they begin to find the words that describe events that have only just come into focus.

All you need to do is listen, explore and bring the person back into the now, today, with you in a safe place so that a new relationship can be created.

This new way of being between you both will not be like it was before and yet it just might be stronger, have new flexibility.

For both of you this new relationship could well be far more resilient.

Build your resilience on my one day introduction to

Trauma Resilience

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Martin Weaver

Martin works as a UKCP registered Constructivist Psychotherapist, Supervisor and trainer, using Neuro Linguistic Psychotherapy, (NLPt). He is qualified to Master Practitioner standard in NLP and is an INLPTA certified NLP trainer. He holds a Postgraduate Certificate in the supervision of counsellors from the University of Birmingham. He provides psychotherapy, counselling, coaching and supervision to individuals and couples at his practice in West London and is involved in several psychotherapy / counselling and supervision training programmes. ​ In the early1980s Martin was a volunteer with the Terrence Higgins Trust. Taking the first call on the helpline he was instrumental in setting the foundations for the first response to the AIDS crisis. He developed support, advice and counselling services for those people who were affected and traumatised at the beginning of the crisis. ​ During an 11 year career in the NHS he piloted the Primary Health Care Team training development programme in the South West Thames region, as well as developing and implementing a Health Promotion Officer’s training programme. He has worked at senior manager level at Regional and District level and has been responsible for commissioning new services and leading on the development of drug and alcohol and sexual health services. ​ Between 2002 and 2004 Martin was the Vice Chair, then Chair, of the professional organisation that seeks to maintain standards and develop the skills of Neuro Linguistic Psychotherapists and Counsellors, the Neuro Linguistic Psychotherapy and Counselling Association, (NLPtCA). He is a past member of the Training, Education & Practice Committee of the United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy and has helped in the re-shaping of its structure. ​ Martin provided psychological support, supervision and training to the staff and counsellors at the 7th July Assistance Centre. The centre provided psychotherapy, guidance and support to people who were affected by the London bombings in 2005, later taking on 16 further terrorist incidents and disasters. Building on his established training experience Martin created and delivered a series of workshops for the counsellors and support staff. From October 2010 to March 2011 he supervised the small team providing psychosocial support to the families and witnesses throughout the Coroner’s Inquests into the London Bombings. ​ From 2001 to 2011 he provided training, consultancy and supervision to the volunteer counsellors at Brent Bereavement Services & Bereavement Services for Hounslow. Currently he delivers courses for student psychotherapists to facilitate their UKCP accreditation.