What is Relational Trauma?
Trauma specialist, Barbara Steffens, says relational trauma (also known as Complex Trauma) occurs "when one person betrays, abandons, or refuses to provide support for another person with whom he or she has developed an attachment bond.”
Our brains process an estimated 11 million pieces of information every second (Forbes.com), usually without incident. Trauma is basically a piece of information that is simply too much for the brain to process. In essence, trauma gets stuck in the brain's filter (the amygdala). Anything needing to get processed after a trauma has to work around the stuck bits of information. It can make a person more sensitive, it can make processing information of any kind more challenging and the stuck trauma can be triggered by current happenings any time, causing an exaggerated response.
Healing relational trauma can take time, but with new brain science and a relatively new healing technique called Brainspotting, trauma can be found where it lives in the brain and processed through relatively quickly. When the trauma is processed, it no longer has a choke-hold on your nervous system—or your life. You can expect to feel calmer and less reactive when presented with the old trauma triggers that used to derail you (and/or your partner).
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO HEAL FROM TRAUMA?
Relational trauma (childhood abuse or a betrayal by a loved-one) tends to be more embedded in the nervous system than situational trauma (being in a car accident or surviving a fire). That said, I've seen people process certain traumas through in one or two sessions, and I've seen situations where it has taken several months. It very much depends on how long, how deep-seated, and how profound the trauma is. Timing may also vary depending on how buried under layers of coping mechanisms the pain is.
Given that we have a quadrillion neural networks in our brain, it isn't uncommon to have one trauma link to another, so processing one incident may well help process others as well.
WILL I GET OVERWHELMED WITH PAINFUL MEMORIES AND EMOTIONS IF I DO BRAINSPOTTING?
Brainspotting is designed to bring relief and to process through the stuck pain. Because it reaches beyond the conscious (neocortical) brain, Brainspotting is able to bypass the more surface level thoughts and feelings and treat the deeper (subcortical) and body-based parts of the brain. Brainspotting does not overwhelm the brain. A good way to look at it is that it untangles the snarl of pain neurons.
For more information on this brain-based technique, go to Brainspotting.com.