Complex Trauma

Complex trauma is often defined as an on-going stress that feels threatening to one's survival. As children we are psychologically and physically dependent on our parents. Adult children of alcoholics, addicts and/or mentally unstable parents, often struggle with feeling a sense of security in their primary relationships. They don't feel safe because their model for attachment was unpredictable, frightening or unreliable. For example, a narcissistic mother may have been unable to empathize with her child's needs. She may have rejected her child and criticized her/him for being overly dependent. Alcoholic and bipolar parents may have mood swings that threaten a child's need for consistency. Both examples leave one feeling deeply unworthy.

As adults, people with complex PTSD return to a crisis state. They sometimes create conflict because it feels familiar. Other times, they withdraw from love because the stakes of feeing disappointment are too intense. Ordinary love requires compromise and a mutual exchange of affection. This too, can feel like an impingement. 

A psychodynamic therapist recognizes the struggles of adults with complex trauma.  The therapist can provide valuable feedback on one's pattern of relating. She can validate the patient's desire to withdraw, or the patient's intense emotional reaction to present day relationships. In therapy, one can experience trust, safety and respect. It's a place to reflect and and heal from one's childhood. One may emerge capable of finding loving relationships, at last.