Repeating the Pattern of Dysfunctional Relationships

How We The Pattern Of Dysfunctional Relationships by Dr Melanie Salmon

Repeating The Pattern of Dysfunctional Relationships

How We Repeat the Pattern of Dysfunctional Relationships In Adulthood by Dr. Melanie Salmon

Our childhood experiences can have a significant impact on our future adult relationships, they often repeat trigger a pattern of dysfunctional relationships in adulthood. So much of our life is determined by the experiences we had as a child, especially when we were very young, under the age of seven. If our childhood was a traumatic one – neglectful or damaging in some way – subconsciously we will carry that into
adulthood.

One way we notice our past impacting our present is in the relationships we seek and the patterns of behaviour we repeat.

Early dysfunctional relationships

The very first relationship we have is with our primary caregiver – it’s usually mum, but it might be dad, a sibling, a grandparent, or a nanny – and this will ‘set the template’ for all our future relationships.

If we were unable to bond with our primary caregiver, if the relationship was full of criticism and it was emotionally, mentally, or physically destructive in some way, then we are very likely to have absorbed that behaviour – that ‘template’ – and will find ourselves repeating it in our adult relationships over and over again in almost the same way.

This is why you may find that you have very similar relationships that end in similar ways. You repeat the same mistakes yet discover you cannot do anything consciously to break the pattern.

 

Boundaries and Dysfunctional Relationship

 

Relationship boundaries

So, what is a ‘healthy relationship’ and what behaviours are not so healthy? Let’s look at boundaries in adult relationships, three common types on the spectrum.

When we speak of boundaries, the best way to understand them is by visualising the boundary surrounding a property, the fence for example. The barrier between the property and the outside world. We will use this as a metaphor for our own boundary, our energetic boundary: what sort of quality does your fence have?

Keeping our metaphor in mind, we will now look at the first common type of relationship boundary: ‘underbounded’.

 

Underbounded

If we have an underbounded fence, if we don’t have a good healthy boundary keeping the outside world out, then we are inclined to feel smothered in our relationship. Our partner will come far too quickly, far too much, into our space, thereby taking us over. We are likely to feel overwhelmed.

Underbounded boundaries will generally stem from a childhood where the primary caregiver was very fearful. For example, every time you left their sight, they would call you back and try to hold on to you. This type of early relationship creates an underbounded future for the child. A child from this start in life will be anxious and clingy, and when it is time to separate, e.g. time to attend school, there will be many problems separating from mum.

 

Overbounded

Next, we have ‘overbounded’. In simple terms, overbounded is the opposite of underbounded, meaning we were not able to get what we needed from our primary caregiver as a child. In essence, this is an absence of the primary bonding experience: skin-to-skin, eye-to-eye contact, giving an emotional closeness crucial for normal development as a baby.

This occurs in any condition creating mum to be shut off: postnatal depression, her own trauma, alcoholism, etc. The consequence is that ’we’ the child felt neglected emotionally. In this scenario, we (the child and then the adult) will build an impenetrable wall, rather than a fence, around ourselves in defense. A brick wall 20 feet high that prevents anyone else from coming in and hurting us again. All of this is an unconscious process which we are not aware of until we have difficulty connecting as adults.

 

The Pattern Of Dysfunctional Relationships In Adulthood

The pattern of dysfunctional relationships

As you will no doubt see, underbounded and overbounded are the two ends of the
spectrum: you may let everybody in, or you may let nobody in. Neither is conducive
to a healthy relationship, and both can be traced back to the relationship we had with
our initial caregiver.

Although the above is a simplified explanation – we have not covered everything in between – it serves to illustrate the impact our early relationships can have on our adult behaviour.

 

Healthy boundaries
Finally, we have a relationship with healthy boundaries. Neither underbounded nor overbounded, in this relationship we have clearly defined boundaries. We are very clear what our fence looks like, and we choose who we let in; we have the ability to refuse entry to anyone else.

Those who go into a relationship with healthy boundaries will have a very different experience to those who enter one based on childhood traumatic experiences.

 

Breaking the Pattern of Dysfunctional Relationships

So, what can be done? While we might like to, there’s little we can consciously do to break these patterns of behaviour: the relationships we seek and the boundaries we have.

 We are a product of our past. Every experience we have ever had, good or bad, is imprinted within us, crystallising as the core beliefs, or ‘truths’ we hold about who we are and how the world works. This is our conditioning, and it is ‘stored’ in our subconscious mind.

Everything that has happened to you right up to this very moment has moulded you into the person you are. In this way, our past directly influences the way we see, feel and act today. The way you behave in your relationships. What you choose to do –or not do.

 

Changing The Trauma Stories

And so, the only way to change these sorts of trauma stories is by working with the subconscious mind, as explained by pioneering epigeneticist Dr Bruce Lipton who ‘found that our DNA and genes are not the ones controlling our bodies, but that our DNA is controlled from signals that come from outside the cell, and these are signals that come from the energetic messages from our thoughts, both positive and negative.’

As trauma gets hardwired into the brain, it does not go away unless you have a technique that can access the subconscious mind and work specifically and carefully- and delicately – with the issues, like my own work QEC. That can then allow for full healing.

Changing Our Limiting Beliefs

By changing our long-held limiting beliefs and releasing ourselves from traumas of the past, we can alter our behaviour and adjust our boundaries, fundamentally changing the way we feel about ourselves and the world around us. Most commonly used for working with trauma, depression, grief and loss, stress, health, and relationships, you can learn more about the QEC method here.

 

Trauma and the Physical Body

Trauma And Physical Pain. Why Chronic Pain Can Be our Physical Response To A Traumatic Event

Trauma and the Physical Body by Dr Melanie Salmon

Chronic pain is not always the result of physical injury, it may be the body’s response to a traumatic event

Not only damaging to our mental health, trauma can also have an incredible impact on our physical body. Some chronic pain complaints, for example, can be attributed to residual trauma, our body responding to past events through muscle tensing.

So, what is chronic pain? What types of chronic pain are psychological? And how can past trauma affect our current physical state? 

What is chronic pain?

In the UK, around 28 million adults are affected by some type of chronic pain (42% of the population) and globally, more than 1.5 billion (American Academy of Pain Medicine). That’s 18% of the world’s population. 

Chronic pain is defined as pain that lasts for at least 12 weeks, although it may in fact last for several years. It can limit your mobility and reduce your flexibility, strength, and endurance, making it challenging to get through daily tasks and activities. 

 

Collectively, we can categorise chronic pain as somatogenic pain (the cause is found within the structure of the body, the ‘soma’) and psychogenic pain, with the most common types of pain (across both categories) including headache; post-physical trauma pain; lower back pain; arthritis pain; neurogenic pain (pain caused by nerve damage); and psychogenic pain. The latter describes pain that isn’t caused by disease or nerve damage, the cause is thought to be in the mind. 

Trauma and the physical body: psychogenic pain

Psychogenic pain is chronic, disabling pain that is primarily caused by psychological factors. Factors such as beliefs, emotions, fears, or mental illness – like depression or anxiety – can trigger, exacerbate, or maintain pain that started in an innocuous way, such as an accident or fall.

Dr Robert Scaer (amongst others) has shown that chronic stress and trauma has a profound impact on the entire mind-body system, resulting in disease, sometimes decades later. 

Scaer studied the ‘diseases of the freeze’ – those diseases originating from a dysregulated autonomic nervous system – as a result of trauma. This includes chronic psychogenic pain. 

He showed that the majority of what we consider to be ‘arthritis’ of the neck and back is in fact myofascial pain associated with stress and trauma. An MRI scan shows no relationship with pathology. 

Trauma and The Physical Body by Dr Melanie Salmon. Trauma and the Physical Body by Dr Melanie Salmon Chronic pain is not always the result of physical injury, it may be the body’s response to a traumatic event Not only damaging to our mental health, trauma can also have an incredible impact on our physical body. Some chronic pain complaints, for example, can be attributed to residual trauma, our body responding to past events through muscle tensing. So, what is chronic pain? What types of chronic pain are psychological? And how can past trauma affect our current physical state? 

Trauma and the physical body: myofascial pain syndrome 

Myofascial pain syndrome (MPS) is a description of muscle pain: pain and inflammation in the body’s soft tissues. A chronic condition that affects the fascia (connective tissue that covers the muscles), it may involve either a single muscle or a muscle group. 

Myofascial and related chronic pain is often traceable to complex childhood trauma and is always distributed through the back. This can be explained by understanding the back’s role in protecting us from physical trauma or threat. When threatened with violence, the back will step in to protect the body; the muscles of the core are intensely activated, pulling the body into a contracted foetal position for self-defence. 

Picture a five-year-old child who waits for her father to come home. A bully, her father often threatens to beat the children when they’re naughty and walks through the door shouting. Immediately her body reacts by moving into a defensive position. 

If she’s safe enough to do so, she’ll curl up into a foetal position to get the best protection she can. However, if she is unable, she will form an incomplete foetal position. Her body will still want to contract but can’t. This incomplete foetal position will be stored in her muscle memory: tense and trying to contract without being able to. 

The emotional memory of this event is stored in the muscle groups involved in the defence forever afterwards; the emotional memory of trying to defend. The neural pathways are set, and in later life when the body experiences chronic stress – any stress – all these muscles will contract as they always did before, pulling tight into the same type of protective response. Instead of pulling the body into a foetal position, however, the muscles of the back and neck ache with widespread myofascial pain. 

This type of pain is uniquely stress-related.

Neglect and the physical body: example case study

Trauma may lead to a life of low-grade sustained vigilance, sensitive to environmental as well as internal triggers. 

If you can imagine a child that was repeatedly bullied from the age of six years old, while trying to find their place in the world and connect with society, they are rejected and lack social bonding. At home, parents are absent because they work all the time and therefore don’t offer sufficient care-giver support.

The child grows up with low self-esteem, feeling unworthy and unsafe in the world; trust in them and others is diminished. They may develop an inability to express themselves and repress their emotions for fear of punishment, judgement, or rejection. 

 

When confronted with a difficult situation, they bottle their emotions and feel internal anguish, repeatedly releasing toxic stress chemicals into the body. 

 

Their immune system is compromised, making them more susceptible to illness. Over time, they develop chronic pain. 

Healing trauma: body and mind

 

What has emerged from pioneers in the field of epigenetics and neuroscience, is an understanding of the importance of healing past trauma – and doing so by working with the subconscious mind.

While we cannot go back in time and ‘un-experience’ a traumatic event, our history is imprinted within us, crystallizing as our core beliefs or “truths”. To effectively heal from our past we must bypass the rational mind and access the source of our belief systems. 

 

Using the QEC method, we are able to change the belief systems and conditioning

that no longer serve us. The neuroplasticity of the brain allows us to ‘rewire’ our neural pathways, freeing us from the limitations of our past.

In this way, we can fundamentally change the way we feel about ourselves and the world around us.

Most commonly used for working with trauma, depression, grief and loss, stress, health and relationships, you can learn more about QEC here