Trauma changes our felt sense of safety and trust in the world- literally this is felt in the body. This often leads to unhealthy patterns of relating, including within ourselves. Roles of rescuer, victim, persecutor or passive bystander, control or trust issues, infidelity, communication issues, avoidance of conflict, excessive conflict, needing to always please others or needing to be right, idealizing or devaluing others, are just some of the symptoms of what is frequently called “co-dependence”.
Image Courtesy The Saturday Paper
Lets start with a look at the roles of rescuer, victim, persecutor and passive bystander in relationships. Trauma can make us cling too tightly, be dismissive or avoidant, or be afraid of intimacy even though we long for connection. Co-dependence can make relationships trickier, including the way we fight, the way we make up, and how long it takes us to repair. We do not even need to be in a human relationship to have problems, we can be co-dependent with work, alcohol, drugs, food, internet, gambling, etc.
So how do we untangle co-dependence and other relational issues? The first step is to be able to recognise the patterns. Are you experiencing some situations over and over again? Do you identify roles above that are familiar? The handout below can help to start understanding and changing the pattern.
Stan Tatkin, John Gottman, David Wallin, Alan Schore, Marion Solomon and many experts have written books about healthy attachment which may be helpful. I particularly like Stan Tatkin, who recommends addressing the felt sense of safety in relationships, and writes in a clear and accessible way. Dan Hughes and Jon Baylin are also experts in this field, focusing on helping children feel secure. Bruce Perry is another person internationally recognised in the field.
Also, the therapy relationship itself can help to heal some issues. I will be writing more on this in my blog this year.