by Alison Marcelino and Stephanie Maloney
As part of the Conscious Uncoupling training, we attended a lecture given by Judy Waters, MFT, discussing “Healing Breakup Trauma.” In her talk, Ms. Waters explains how a break up can “live” in our body. If we have had childhood abandonment issues, a breakup will stimulate those early wounds. A client may show up in the divorce process as an angry, scared five-year-old child dressed in adult clothing.
Ms. Waters told us that the key to understanding trauma is to realize that it refers to an extreme stress that affects a person’s ability to cope with life. Psychologically, it is an overwhelming emotion and a feeling of utter helplessness.
The experience of trauma is subjective. Trauma, “big T” and trauma, “little t” are two different things. It is important to know the difference because experiencing death, divorce, or a move is a huge change of identity and context. Conversely, opening the refrigerator and finding your ex’s favorite mustard may not seem traumatizing, but often it is the small “t’s” that cause us to revert to that place of despondency. This is the re-experience of our previous abandonment wound or sustained trauma that is flooding our brains with stress hormones making clarity impossible.
When we are partnering with other professionals and working with our clients, we must keep the reality of their physiological emotional landscape at the forefront of our minds.
What I have noticed is everyone who has experienced trauma ends up expressing it differently. The most common responses include: abusing drugs, alcohol, or other self-destructive behaviors. However, there are also covert expressions to notice, such as an overwhelming investment into the details of the process, or conversely a lack of presence or ownership in the process.
As divorce professionals, we need to identify the trauma experience both for our clients and ourselves. Trauma is unavoidable. Acknowledging and allowing the trauma to be present gives an opportunity for healing.
Judy Waters is a Licensed Psychotherapist, a Spiritual Counselor, a Calling in “The One” Coach and a Feminine Power Coach. She has a private practice where she specializes in helping her clients overcome trauma, domestic violence, sexual abuse, eating disorders, relationship, family and career challenges. For more information please go to www.judyawaters.com