It’s not surprising to hear that personal traumatic experiences can have a significant impact on relationships. Trauma can affect how individuals communicate, trust, and connect with others, and can lead to difficulties in forming and keeping healthy relationships. When an individual undergoes a traumatic experience, it can provoke emotional “triggers,” which are stimuli or events that act as reminders of the traumatic incident. It’s important to note that these emotional hotspots vary from person to person, as trauma affects each of us in unique ways.
Experiencing trauma may heighten our emotional responses, and increase feelings of anxiety, fear, and anger. Our sensitive areas can feel intense and overwhelming sometimes, and our reactions to them can be automatic and involuntary, making it challenging to manage our emotions when we’re in touchy situations.
By recognizing and validating each other’s sensitive areas, we can work together to create a safe and supportive environment for everyone.
The Impact of Traumatic Stress
According to the American Psychiatric Association, it is estimated that 7 out of 100 people in the United States will be diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) at some point in their lives. PTSD is a mental health challenge causedby exposure to incredibly stressful events like natural disasters, accidents, assault, terrorist events, war, loss of a loved one, illness diagnosis, hospitalization, and seeing violence. For many, this event was a singular traumatic occurrence.
Common symptoms of PTSD include intrusive thoughts, nightmares, flashbacks, or physical reactions when reminded of the event, avoidance, changes in thoughts or mood, feeling detached, estranged, or numb, difficulty sleeping or concentrating, irritability, intense anger, hypervigilance, self-harming, feeling on-edge, and depression.
Women suffering from childhood related PTSD may experience added challenges with thinking clearly (Gattuso, 2018). It’s important to note that not everyone with PTSD experiences all symptoms and the severity and their duration can vary.
For survivors of ongoing trauma, like emotional abuse, gaslighting, neglect, or coercive control, PTSD symptoms can be particularly intense, and may indicate a different form of PTSD called Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD), which is a relatively new term in the realm of emotional wellness. Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder was officially recognized in 2013 as a “trauma and stress-related disorder.”
The Long-term Effects of C-PTSD on Emotional Well-being
C-PTSD is distinct from PTSD as it arises from the accumulation of multiple or prolonged traumatic events rather than a singular incident. Individuals affected by C-PTSD experience PTSD symptoms but because of the repeated exposure to trauma such as ongoing emotional abuse, living in an unpredictable environment, continual fear of abandonment, constant hypervigilance, persistent gaslighting, and ongoing coercive control, they experience additional symptoms.
When you focus on the hurt, you continue to suffer.
Emotional Wounds: Recognizing and Tackling the Hotspots
People working through C-PTSD may experience:
- feelings of shame or guilt
- feelings of responsibility for the traumatic events
- difficulty controlling emotions
- a loss of attention and focus
- feeling isolated from friends and family
- relationship difficulties
- destructive or risky behavior
- suicidal thoughts
- ongoing worry
- adrenal burnout
- chronic inflammatory disorders
- mental and physical exhaustion
- weight loss or gain
It is crucial to note that children who have endured neglect or mistreatment are susceptible to developing C-PTSD, and as they transition into adulthood, may face an elevated risk of physical illness and revictimization.
People who have experienced complex trauma may show a heightened sensitivity to specific emotional areas, which can make navigating life more challenging. It is important to approach someone’s emotional sensitivities with empathy and understanding. To effectively support individuals who have experienced trauma, it is crucial to create a secure and affirming environment combined with plenty of active listening, empathy, and patience. By recognizing and affirming someone’s experiences, we foster a nurturing atmosphere that promotes healing and personal growth.
Navigating Life: How Emotional Triggers Impact Relationships
In order to gain a deeper understanding of C-PTSD, it is necessary to recognize that our emotional hotspots or sensitivities act as warning signals for potential danger or threats. They can become automatic reactions that make it challenging to navigate daily life and relationships.
These triggers can be wounds that still need healing, or they may be unrealistic expectations that serve as hotspots. It’s essential to understand and take responsibility for our emotional sensitivities. By identifying them we may gain a better understanding of our feelings and reactions. This self-awareness can help us develop strategies to manage emotions more effectively, and although we may not be aware of all of our hotspots, it is possible to cultivate healthy responses to those we’re aware of. The simple awareness that a hotspot has been activated can sometimes be enough to keep our reactions in check. (Franco, 2018)
By recognizing our sensitive areas, we can address the underlying issues that may be contributing to them, leading to personal growth and improved emotional well-being.
Tools for Continued Healing
Learn about codependency and other maladaptive coping skills
Find out how to identify toxic individuals
Know how to spot power and control red flags
Take the Adverse Childhood Experiences Quiz
Recognize the Cycle of Abuse
More Resources for You~
If you are on a healing journey from a narcissistic mother, allow me to introduce you to Lemon Moms: A Guide to Understand and Survive Maternal Narcissism.
For as long as I can remember, there was something “different” about my mother. She wasn’t like other mothers.
My mom didn’t hug or kiss, smile at, spend time with, or play with me. She never seemed happy to see me. She didn’t ask about my school day and wasn’t interested in knowing my friends. She seemed to have no interest in me or anything that I did. My mom called me hurtful names and obscenities, and at times, she ignored me, not speaking to me for days, weeks, or even months. When she felt sad I was expected to emotionally care-take her. When she didn’t feel like parenting, I was responsible for my siblings. When she lost her temper, she hit. When I was disobedient, there were bizarre punishments.
I was not allowed to express feelings, ask questions, or show initiative or curiosity. My feelings were discounted, minimized, or invalidated. She re-wrote my memories, and I was expected to believe her version. I was to obey, stay quiet, and not question.
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YOUR CRASH COURSE IN RELATIONSHIP SELF DEFENSE
In a world where love and companionship are highly valued and sought, it becomes necessary to navigate our relationships cautiously. Understanding relationship warning signs can be helpful in your relationships with family members, friends, and colleagues too. By recognizing potentially harmful patterns of interaction or behavior, you can take proactive measures to avoid toxic dynamics and nurture positive connections with those who share your values and aspirations.
In this book, I delve into concepts of personality quirks and idiosyncrasies, relationship dynamics, and the definitions and differences in what is meant by toxicity, dysfunction, mental health, and abuse. You’ll learn how to guard against emotional, physical, or psychological harm that can arise from unhealthy relationships. By honing your ability to discern the warning signs, you can enjoy more satisfying relationship experiences!
I hope you join me on this transformative expedition as we delve into the intricate tapestry of human interactions and the delicate balance between connection and self-preservation. Together, we will navigate the sometimes-hazardous realm of relationships, armed with information that can guide us toward more fulfilling relationships. We will uncover the hidden patterns and subconscious biases that can lead us astray and we’ll empower ourselves to make informed choices that align with our true desires and values. This journey of self-discovery will illuminate the path toward healthier relationships and serve as a testament to the resilience of the human spirit and its capacity for growth and transformation. So, get ready to embark on an odyssey of awareness, self-discovery, and empowerment as we leave past missteps behind and embrace a future filled with love, authenticity, fulfillment, and a constant feeling of safety and security.
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Feel empowered to rescue, protect and heal yourself from their mistreatment or abuse
The TOOLBOX (Recover from Toxic People) App is a great portable way to feel supported and validated as you experience personal growth. It’s for anyone affected by past and present toxic, hurtful, non-nurturing or neglectful relationships.
Healing begins with awareness, understanding, and action. Take back your power and move forward.
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I AM: A Guided Journey to Your Authentic Self, Workbook and Journal, by Diane Metcalf
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About the Author
Diane Metcalf is an experienced advocate, speaker, and author specializing in abuse and family dynamics.
She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology and a Master of Science in Information Technology. Her professional portfolio is diverse, encompassing fields such as Domestic and Partner Abuse Counseling, Geriatric Care Management, Developmental Disability Services, Vocational Rehabilitation, Information Technology Management, and Education.
Through her personal healing journey from physical and emotional abuse and neglect, and with ongoing self-improvement practices, she has developed effective tools that she happily shares with others seeking growth in their own recovery. Her focus is on healing relational trauma through awareness, intention, and introspection, combined with healthy coping strategies and tools.
She is the author of the highly praised “Lemon Moms” series, an emotionally supportive collection that dives into the effects of growing up with mothers having narcissistic traits. This compassionate trilogy provides valuable insights and guidance for coming to terms with past traumas to initiate the healing process.
Learn more about the Lemon Moms series: Lemon Moms
See what’s new on DianeMetcalf.com
This website is intended for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional therapy.