Being parented by imperfect parents/caregivers is considered a traumatic experience of childhood in some of the trauma and attachment literature and information I have come across. This includes being abused, abandoned and/or neglected to various degrees.
When trauma is defined in this fashion, it follows that most of us experienced traumatizing childhoods to some extent, and therefore were wounded rowing up. This has all kinds of implications for intimate relationships. Please note that I’m not a trauma or attachment expert, I’m simply integrating some additional concepts into my relationships working knowledge.
In very basic and crude terms, when we grow up in an environment where caregivers are not appropriately and consistently available to us, we learn to fend for ourselves for our emotional and sometimes physical survival and wellbeing. This does not give us a chance to develop the secure base necessary for our healthy development. Instead, we develop coping, defense, mechanisms that allow us to do the best we can. The result is that our developmental tasks are barely accomplished and so continue our development with limited emotional resources.
To make up for this deficiency and manage our life as we become adults and involved in significant relationships, we continue using our defense mechanisms making them more sophisticated overtime. These can pick up any form: super-achieving, perfectionism, obsessions, compulsions, addictions, depression, anxiety, panic-attacks, and other forms of being over or under involved in our relationship.
This is great news in that we can have a better understanding of why we have some afflictions and how we can get stuck in dissatisfying relating in our relationship. According to relational and other theories, we would pick a partner with whom we can recreate the hurts from childhood. Some of the reasons we do this are because 1) it is familiar territory so it feels more comfortable than the unknown, 2) to get now from the interactions what we couldn’t get then, and 3) to complete developmental tasks becoming healthier adults.
How do we use this information on our daily interactions? One way to start the healing process is to hold our own from a non-reactive place. When we react to something, become angry or upset, it is a sign that we have been triggered, that our boundaries have been compromised, that we are being hurt in some (old) way. Therefore, it is our job to identify how we are hurt or how our needs are not being met, and to figure out how to meet them without trampling on someone else.
When we do this, we start to find ourselves, heal ourselves, complete our developmental tasks, develop healthy coping mechanisms, meet our needs, be present for our partner, and accept our partner’s love and nurturing!
Wow! Figure out those hurts and start feeling the love!