A joint fight against the dragon. Psychotherapy for couples with trauma experience.

It may seem that the desire for love, closeness and relationship is universal and that we, as human beings, strive for them naturally. However, for those of us who were growing up without the experience of a secure relationship, maybe especially for the ones who were hurt in their relations, the way leading to achieving these vital moments of connection with another person is considerably prolonged and more demanding.

Indeed, without an internal model of a secure relationship and with a negative perception of oneself and others, many people are not even able to imagine what it is like to be loved and, at times of difficulty they have problems with turning to another individual for help, care or consolation.

Mind and body in armour

What do I mean by trauma? I am not just thinking of a one-time experience: accident, robbery, rape or another sudden event. I also consider developmental trauma. Using Sándor Ferenczi’s language, I mean here “trauma of deficiency or excess.” The trauma of deficiency refers to any omission or neglect. The excess trauma, on the other hand, means every abuse, violence, or harassment.

People who have experienced trauma may unintentionally ignore sensitive, verbal and non-verbal messages expressed by a partner. The primary purpose of the endangered mind is continually scanning the environment for danger, leaving little space for recognising what is safe. This mechanism is called negative bias and is characteristic for people with trauma experience. To realise the work of such a mind, imagine a medieval knight with a sword and a shield, in full armour with only a small opening to the eyes, which needs to be large enough to see and recognise the imminent danger. That is a difficult task, do not you think so?

Defence mechanisms

People who have experienced trauma have learnt to dissociate, that is, to distance themselves from the present and to separate themselves from their bodies. They have developed sophisticated defence mechanisms, designed to avoid emotions to prevent or at least minimise potential pain. Unfortunately, these mechanisms simultaneously block the possibility of reading the signals of love and closeness sent in their direction. They create difficulty in getting access to what is so necessary for a close relationship.

Trauma treatment in couple therapy

To help such a couple to communicate, initially, it is the therapist who becomes a safe object of attachment for the traumatized patient, who has no experience of this kind of relationship. EFT therapy [Emotionally Focused Therapy] aims to help such a person to slowly dismantle his or her armour, which gradually begins to pass through small signs of care. It also enables to create new scripts of trust to others and create an image of yourself as someone who deserves love.

Restoring a secure relationship

In other words, we help the patient to experience a safe attachment. It all takes time, because people experiencing trauma are like newborn chicks who have very sensitive stomachs, so they need to be fed slowly and gently with a dropper, drop by drop. Their small bellies grow day by day so that they can finally swallow a whole portion. Therefore, during a session, we arrange a series of mini-corrective emotional experiences to help you recognise and believe that your partner is not as dangerous as the dragons who have inflicted so many injuries in the past. We help to make that a loved one can finally become a safe haven.

July 6th 2020

text: Barbara Sławik picture: Carlos Cram


the EFTcommunity news – 44th ISSUE Winter 2019/20

Facing the Dragon Together. EFT with Traumatized Couples – training video of Sue Johnson

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