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Is Childhood Abuse Affecting Your Relationships?

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Is Childhood Abuse Affecting Your Relationships?
Relationships with your loved ones may be impacted by your childhood abuse experience.

Child abuse is the physical, sexual, or emotional mistreatment or neglect of a child or children.  Eventually, the child becomes an adult. While childhood abuse does not define a person, it can creep it's way into our relationships without knowing. 

Meet Carrie. She is this amazing mother of 4 who has been married for 22 years. Carrie came into therapy because she was having a disagreement with her teenage daughter and could not figure out how to navigate these troubled waters. We spent time getting to know each other, identifying the problems, and narrowing treatment goals through assessment. During this phase I asked the question, "Who does your daugther remind you of?" Carrie sat quietly, contemplating this question. She then said, "She reminds me of my mother. When she yells at me, I feel like I'm a little girl all over again trying to talk to my mom and get her to understand." This was a huge clue as to where our work should begin. Carrie stated, "I haven't thought about all of that stuff for years."  

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Abuse experiences can remain dormant until something triggers them. Then, because that memory has been dormant for so long, a person may have no idea why they are being triggered or where the triggers are coming from. This conversation led me to identify a few questions people can ask themselves to see if they need further help with past issues:

  1. Is there a dynamic that occurs between you and your loved one over and over that bothers you?
  2. Do you find certain behaviors in your loved ones that cause you to feel defensive or easily angry?
  3. What do these situations remind you of?
  4. Who were involved in these memories?
  5. Where can you go to reach out, get support, and seek some help?

The last question is the most important. If you are being triggered by interactions with your loved ones, seek professional help and guidance by finding a local mental health therapist or psychologist. Navigating these waters alone can be troubling and cause you to be distraught. 

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Every person deserves to live in the moment and enjoy their life. Don't let the past trip you up. Reflect, evaluate, seek help when needed, work through the feelings and memories, and move forward. You are a survivor!

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