Traumatic Breakups and Infidelity
Continuing with the last article’s theme of the impact of unresolved trauma on relationships, I share two additional client stories. Alana was a client who experienced a very traumatic breakup with a man with whom she had become infatuated and emotionally dependent upon. By the time we met, she had spent the better part of a year seeing both a psychologist and a psychiatrist, but neither talking nor taking medications made a difference for her. She was diagnosed, unfortunately, with the symptoms of depression and anxiety. She also feared that her mother would die, and she could not stop obsessing about her ex-boyfriend. There were days when she could not get out of bed or stop crying, and her mood swings were significant enough to alarm her friends and family. After a few weeks of specifically addressing the breakup, her low self-worth, and her lopsided perceptions of her ex, Alana’s sadness, fears, and mood swings had vanished, her confidence had increased, and her perspective on past and potential relationships improved dramatically. Once again, the solution was to focus on the underlying issue and not the emotional symptoms.
Sometimes, a traumatic experience can stand in the way of repairing a damaged relationship, as was the case with Amy, a married woman who had recently caught her husband having sex with another woman in her own bed. While marital therapy had helped her to consciously agree to forgive him and salvage the relationship, Amy was unable to do so fully. In other words, she wanted to forgive him, but her subconscious mind seemed unable to let go of the anger. Notice the internal conflict between the conscious and subconscious minds. Her therapist had even diagnosed her with PTSD, complete with hypervigilance and vivid, multi-sensory flashbacks.
Forgiveness and trust require cooperation between the conscious (decision) and subconscious (acceptance) minds. Unless the subconscious agrees to accept and let go of the past, the trauma remains alive, so there can be no true forgiveness, and trust cannot be rebuilt. Very simply, I helped Amy to change the way she remembered the moment when she walked in on her husband, so it was no longer upsetting. The flashbacks stopped immediately after our session, and she was able to rebuild her relationship, still consciously aware that he violated her trust and would need to earn it once again. She forgave, but she did not (fully) forget. A couple of years later, I learned from the client who referred Amy to me that she had become pregnant, so I considered that a sign that her relationship had improved.
In my final article in this series on resolving trauma and the underlying causes (vs. treating symptoms), I’ll wrap up with my thoughts on the future of such interventions and issue a bold challenge to my fellow health and wellness practitioners.