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Your Childhood Trauma Is Ruining Your Relationship, Sis

"When a person heals from trauma...they can find joy and gratitude." - DeAvila Bennett

Wellness

If the 21st century has taught us anything so far, it has led us to study our past to have a content future. There are two terms that have been repeated on our journey to healing, and they are "toxic" and "trauma." We are all on a journey to wholeness by facing our fears and healing childhood traumas. After some time spent doing inner work, you find yourself feeling as though it's time to open up and invite new people into our lives. Whether that be new friends or a new bae, you are open-minded about the next chapter in your life.

While you are enjoying this new version of yourself, you notice an inevitable hiccup that you find yourself facing. New relationships bring new self-discovery. You've created boundaries, you speak up for yourself, and you have a detailed self-care plan that should be posted on xoNecole as we speak, but one thing that we seem to gloss over is how our childhood trauma can rear its ugly head in our relationships and wreak havoc on them. Especially when that trauma is left unaddressed. In order to begin the necessary work to get to that next chapter of our lives, millennial mental health therapist and author DeAvila Bennett, LCSW gives us insight into acknowledging our childhood traumas and five ways we can heal from those traumas.

What Is Childhood Trauma?

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According to DeAvila, childhood trauma is "a traumatic experience encountered during childhood that has negatively impacted an individual mentally, emotionally, and physically." Examples of trauma can be childhood neglect, physical and sexual abuse, as well as witnessing or being a domestic violence victim. "Untreated trauma can also leave you feeling disconnected from your support circle, numb, and can impact your ability to trust others," she adds.

Suppose you find yourself compartmentalizing, being emotionally detached, or becoming numb to certain situations. In that case, it's time to start focusing on your past to retire the habits stemming from those old wounds, and create some new habits instead.

How Childhood Trauma Impacts Future Relationships

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Now that you have a sense of what childhood trauma is, it's time to apply this to your own life. We are continually battling the childhood and adult versions of ourselves. Individuals can attribute anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress, and battles with substance abuse to trauma experienced in their childhood. Bennett states, "Individuals will often self-sabotage their relationships due to triggers from their traumatic experiences. For example, when parents have neglected an individual, so they often push people away out of fear they will leave anyway, or pour so much into an unhealthy relationship in hopes they will stay and not leave them as the caregiver did."

Why Therapy Is Essential to Overcome Childhood Traumas

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Therapy has become just as popular as a Beyoncé concert ticket (pre-COVID). Men and women of color are becoming vulnerable in expressing their experience and growth with a therapist. It provides a safe space to be seen and heard without judgment. It allows you to open up and dig a little deeper when facing traumas. "As a therapist, I aid clients in understanding their triggers associated with the traumas, understanding their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, coping with triggers, and creating healthy relationships," Bennett explains. "In regard to building healthy relationships, therapy allows the individual to acknowledge their role in toxic relationships (which is typically learned behavior from their trauma), identify how the triggers have impacted their relationships, and [forgive] any parties involved in the traumas."

Before you begin the negative self-talk and self-sabotage, Bennett has provided five steps you can take today to begin to heal from childhood traumas and get on the path to healthy relationships.

1. Seek Therapy

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Choosing to go to therapy was one of the best decisions I've ever made. Creating new habits and disposing of old habits is the real test in showing growth. "Recovering from trauma takes time. Allow a professional to aid you in processing through the murky waters of your trauma. They can hold space for you as you fall apart. Sometimes you need to fall apart. It is OK not to be OK," Bennett says.

2. Begin a Healthy Lifestyle

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Being mindful of what you put in your body and how you move your body brings a sense of confidence and reassurance you need in living a trauma-free life. Exercising for 30 minutes a day, making healthier food choices, and creating a sleep routine are great first steps to living a better life. Trauma impacts your body's natural equilibrium. You being more active aids in repairing the body's nervous system by releasing endorphins and burning adrenaline.

3. Try Mindfulness

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This past summer, I had the pleasure of writing an article on creating a coping kit and why it's crucial to have one to help get you through trying times. Bennett states, "Trauma keeps you inside your head while concentrating on negative thoughts and feelings. When you feel overwhelmed, take 60 breaths and focus on your breathing in and out of your nose and mouth. If you struggle with centering yourself, you can utilize free meditation videos on YouTube or purchase apps like Calm or Headspace." A coping kit is a great way to implement some of these practices and have these tools ready to use when you need a means to cope.

4. Ask for Support

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Who belongs to your tribe? Who can you call on to support you and your journey—a family member, friend, or mentor? Any human-to-human contact can help you stop living in your head. Trauma will have you isolating yourself. Connecting with others can assist you in the healing process. You don't have to discuss your traumas with them, but you can ask for support.

5. Learn How to Self-Regulate

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You have the power to calm yourself down and decrease your arousal response. Trauma makes you believe that you don't have control over feeling angry, anxious, or agitated. Unless you are suffering from mental illness, that is not always the truth. Learning how to self-regulate will help decrease anxiety and help you feel like you have a greater sense of control over what is going on. One technique you can use is grounding exercises. Sit down and begin noticing what you can see, touch, hear, and smell. Take deep breaths as you notice these objects. This exercise brings you back to the here and now.

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