Relationships: How we can be wounded by needing them
Written by listed counsellor/psychotherapist: Ian Woollams MBACP Accred
28th April, 2016
We are born in relationship.
We grow and learn in relationship.
We are wounded in relationship.
We are healed in relationship.
Our initial experiences of our primary caregivers (usually our parents) sets up our relational style. In an unconditional loving experience of our childhood, we grow and develop secure attachments. But sometimes this love is not given without a price. In our need for safety and love from our caregivers, we can deny and distort our behaviors and thoughts so that we may be acceptable to them. We develop ambivalent, anxious or disorganised attachments. We can therefore perceive ourselves as ‘good enough’, or ‘not good enough’ in our future relationships.
We are social creatures as our brains are wired to seek and foster working, supporting and playing together. This is possibly an evolutionary advantageous trait to increase our chances of survival. Being in relationships is imperative to our daily survival.
This instinct for succor is ingrained in our genes, as we are born into relationship. Our survival depends on these relationships to receive warmth, food and safety. So our identity becomes entwined with how we are in relationships to others and ourselves to survive. Yet we are often not aware of our relational style, but others feel it. They’re responses to the way we are and can often be confusing or simply not recognised by ourselves. So struggling with relationships and not understanding why, may be a mystery that has followed you through your life?
Emotional and physical abuse can sometimes occur within the family (including sexual abuse) and with others, without us really understanding what is going on or why. This causes huge conflicts in our being. We need safety and love from our family and others. But we need to trust that it is readily available, without a price. But this is betrayed when that trust is abused. If our attachments from our childhood are secure, we may be able to recover and heal in time. But where those attachments are conditioned by withholding safety and love, the resilience needed to recover may be fragile. As a result a lowering of self-esteem and resilience can shadow our future relationships. Trust at its core has been abused and we have become wounded.
The therapeutic relationship is founded on unconditional caring, genuineness, trust and confidentiality within a safe relationship. Exactly those qualities that have may have been missing or damaged in our childhood. Collaboration, in the healthy relationship with the therapist, creates a safe place where wounds are healed. Growth can resume and new meanings are discovered.
About the author
I currently work as a trauma focused counsellor with Survivors Manchester, working with male survivors of sexual abuse. I also have a private practice in Cheadle Hulme, Stockport, Cheshire.
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