3 Ways Past Trauma Affects Your Relationships (That You Might Not Be Aware Of)

Relationships can be among the most rewarding, inspiring, and meaningful parts of life, a core foundation of what it means to be human. They can make life special, through the good and bad times.

But, if you’re like most people, relationships can also be challenging, complicated, and frustrating. They can be a source of stress and pain. Many people go their entire lives feeling lonely and isolated.

However, relationships are vital to our wellbeing; good social connections can increase your rate of survival by 50% according to one meta-analysis. Loneliness has been linked to depression, Type 2 diabetes, and even dementia, among other health problems.

For those with healthy relationships, their immune systems are stronger and they may even recover more quickly from disease.

Therefore, finding the root cause of relationship trouble and effective solutions is extremely important to a long, healthy and happy life.

What’s not so obvious is that, while there are plenty of difficult people and dynamics that make relationships challenging, relationship troubles can also be caused by trauma, affecting you and the people in your life in ways that may surprise you.

In this guide, we’ll break down 3 not-so-obvious ways trauma impacts your relationships, plus what you can do to address the trauma affecting your connections with others.

1. Trauma Makes It Difficult To Connect with Others

Do you struggle to “click” with people, move relationships beyond the acquaintance phase, or feel isolated in social situations? 

You’re far from alone. It’s a common issue my clients have experienced.

The first step to addressing your difficulty connecting with others is to understand that these challenges may be rooted in trauma, especially childhood trauma

If you experienced a traumatic event—violence, abuse, abandonment, a serious injury, or a time where you felt especially scared or helpless—this may have changed the way your brain treats relationships and social connections.

Where a brain that has not experienced trauma sees love, connection, and comradery, a brain that has experienced trauma sees risk and danger, which may make it hard to connect with others as the brain wants to avoid experiencing this pain again.

Instead of feeling calm and ready to engage others, a brain with trauma may intentionally keep you from connecting with others, defaulting to what it considers a “safe” zone.

The way your mind perceives things is defined by your atmospheric conditions: the combination of experiences, genetics, and environment that shaped you into who you are today. 

Introduce several different atmospheric conditions into the mix and it’s no surprise that these, paired with the results of trauma, can lead to messy relationships.

A difficulty connecting with others is often related to the next effect of trauma: hypervigilance.

2. Trauma Can Make You Hypervigilant

Your brain’s primary goal is to keep you safe and alive.

While this was especially useful when humans lived a more dangerous, risk-filled existence than today, this default state can create issues for us in modern times.

In the past, our brain kept us safe from packs of wolves by operating in a fight, flight, or freeze state: to fight the wolves, flee from the wolves, or freeze and hope to not be seen (and eaten).

It was a simple, trustworthy way of getting through life. However, today, in a world much different from the past where wolves are not often a danger, our brain still operates this way. Your brain “remembers” big events for later so it knows, in a split second, how to react. These events are stored in your memory in high-res: images, smells, sounds, and other tiny details are recorded to protect you.

However, your brain may be hanging on to troubling, traumatic events. Long after the moment is over, the trauma is looping in your subconscious; your brain thinks it’s keeping you safe by being hypervigilant, however, it’s actually no longer useful.

While everyone occasionally feels “on edge” or anxious at times, this becomes troublesome when it affects relationships or becomes a persistent part of your life. Hypervigilance can lead us to big, explosive fights or subtle, silent struggles, always primed to react.

For example, a man whose parents fought loudly and violently in front of him may shut down during a conflict with his partner; in childhood, it was safer to freeze than confront. Stuck in this trauma loop, the brain uses what it learned.

Or, you may get quickly agitated and aggressive at even a slight offense. With trauma still looping in your subconscious, your brain may feel an extraordinary need to stick up for you after learning what happens when you don’t.

Of course, hypervigilance can come in many forms and consequences, as unique as the people who experience it. From being overly aware of the words or tone someone uses to not wanting to displease others to lashing out aggressively, trauma can leave its mark on us, and our relationships, in unexpected ways.

Sometimes, hypervigilance leads us to avoidance and isolation, making forming or sustaining relationships even more difficult.

3. Trauma May Cause Avoidance and Isolation

Because our brains are so good at keeping us safe, trauma can cause our brain to see relationships as a threat or, at the least, a reason to be cautious.

This can manifest itself in avoidance and isolation, actively avoiding social situations that are linked to trauma or isolating ourselves from others altogether. It may make us push others away, sabotage blossoming friendships, and make us fiercely independent and alone.

If you learned through a traumatic event that it’s not safe to trust others, be vulnerable, express your ideas and emotions, or stand up for yourself, your adult relationships may reflect this.

For example, if you were the victim of intimate partner violence, it may be challenging to form deep, romantic relationships; although you’re no longer being harmed by this abusive partner, your past trauma may view all romantic partners through the lens of avoiding abuse.

Or, perhaps you were humiliated as a child in front of your class. Your brain may associate groups with pain and rejection, causing you to withdraw from group activities. You may isolate yourself from others because your trauma is still looping in the background, telling your brain: groups are not safe for us!

In more extreme cases, like with PTS, a drive to isolate may be particularly common as trauma distorts how that person relates to themselves and others. 

One TIPP client, Brad, a military veteran, experienced traumatic events while serving overseas. Despite trying to live normally, Brad became increasingly and purposely isolated from his friends and family, never sharing his traumatic experiences. He suffered from night terrors and feared for his own safety. 

However, after completing one four-hour session of TIPP, Brad returned home, free from night terrors, and re-engaged with his friends and family. He was able to move past his isolation because his trauma had been eliminated.

I began to isolate myself more and more from friends and family. It’s really hard to explain why, but I was just different and I know that some veterans will relate to this fact. My kids, my family, everybody, friends, and coworkers, it seemed like, in my mind, they treated me a little differently in my eyes. I thought they had changed, but in reality, it was me who changed and I didn’t know how to return to the person that I was. 

After years of night terrors that led to my moving into the guest room of our home, my wife shared the problem with a coworker who paid for one of their kids to go through the TIP program before and it worked for that individual. He stated that the TIPP program was designed to reset the mind and clear the way to greater calm, focus, and really optimal performance.

I was really skeptical but still gave it a try. I thought, why not? This is the last thing. My wife and family noticed an immediate change afterward. That same night I slept through the night. I had zero nightmares, and to this day, I have not had one nightmare since.

If this sounds like good news for those whose relationships are suffering due to trauma, it is. 

While the consequences of not dealing with trauma can be incredibly painful and unpredictable, the solution to resolving trauma is clear and proven.

You’ve been taught that you need to cope, manage, and live with your trauma-rooted challenges, such as anxiety, stress, addiction, PTS, or panic attacks. 

But there’s a better way.

Resolve Trauma and Create Meaningful Relationships

The TIPP program can help you reset your mind and resolve trauma looping in your subconscious so you can reconnect with and repair relationships that suffered due to unresolved trauma. 

It’s been proven to help people with all manners of trauma process their experience and move on, using the latest research methods and neuroscience. 

Through in-person sessions or the TIPP Digital Experience, you can get to the root of your trauma, heal it,  and resolve relationship problems, no matter how long you’ve been dealing with them.

Take the first step towards ending trauma and getting richer, deeper relationships. Learn more about the TIPP Program here!


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