The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast with Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby
A healing relationship is one that helps us regain our sense of value, autonomy, safety, and respect — our birthright as human beings. After bad experiences that may have seemed to call these basic truths into question, healing relationships can affirm these truths to us, building our self-esteem, confidence, and sense of security in the process.
Let’s try a little thought experiment — think back to a time when you made a truly regrettable mistake. When you were filled with regret and would have given anything to hop into a time machine, blast off to the past and undo what you’d done.
You probably felt pretty bad about yourself at the time. Was there someone you turned to, who listened with compassion and understanding? Maybe they helped you remember that, despite your mistake, you were still a human being worthy of love and respect, even at a moment when you didn’t feel like it.
I hope so. And if you have had an experience like this, you’ve been touched by a healing relationship, an important topic we’ll be exploring on today’s episode of the podcast.
My guest is Paige M., a marriage and family therapist and coach here at Growing Self. Paige is an expert on healing relationships, and she has some fascinating insight into these nurturing connections and the positive impact they can have on your life.
Healing relationships are so important to all of us. In fact, they’re the key component of effective therapy. So learning to cultivate healing relationships in your own life is incredibly worthwhile. This conversation will help you recognize a healing relationship when you find one, and embrace the experiences that will allow you to grow into a happier, healthier version of yourself.
Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby
The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast with Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby
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Healing Relationships: Episode Show Notes
What Is a “Healing Relationship?”
The safe, therapeutic relationship between counselor and client is the foundation of all effective therapy. But other important relationships in our lives — with partners, friends, family, even coworkers — can also be incredibly beneficial to our mental and emotional wellbeing.
Maybe you’ve experienced this. You may have been cheated on by an ex, but the next person you dated showed you it was safe to trust again. Or maybe you had a teacher who humiliated you when you gave the wrong answer, but other teachers were kind to you, even when you were wrong.
These are the kinds of corrective experiences that take place within “healing relationships,” and they are so important for anyone who has experienced relational trauma (which is to say, everyone!).
When we have new experiences with safe people who treat us with empathy and respect, we offer our brains “counter-evidence” against old narratives about who we are and what we deserve, helping us regain our feelings of safety, security, confidence, and trust in our connections with other people.
Can You Heal While In a Relationship?
You may have heard that it’s best to get over any past relationships before moving into a new one. This isn’t bad advice — getting back to your feelings of wholeness and happiness as a single person can be an important part of breakup recovery. But in reality, many relational wounds stick with us, even after we’re feeling “over” the relationship in question.
If you’ve been betrayed in the past, it’s totally normal to have trust issues in new relationships, even if your current partner has been nothing but trustworthy. If you’ve experienced a traumatic abandonment, you may be anxious about being left again, and that anxiety might show up as controlling behaviors toward new partners.
When you’re in a healing relationship with a safe, trustworthy person, you can begin to notice these feelings, and then attend to the old wounds triggering them in the present with self-compassion. By being mindful of your feelings and where they’re coming from, you can avoid acting out, and instead have conversations with your partner that help you both understand each other better.
How to Heal from Relationship Trauma
As young children, we’re completely dependent on our caregivers to meet our physical and emotional needs. If we don’t get the care, love, and support we need at this vulnerable stage of our lives, it has a profound impact on how we see ourselves, and how safe and secure we feel in the world.
Children who suffer neglect or abuse can carry the residue of relational trauma well into adulthood. They can develop issues like chronic stress, difficulty regulating their emotions, or difficulty making contact with their emotions at all.
These are remnants of the survival mechanisms that protected your psyche as a little kid, but as an adult, they can keep you from being open and present in relationships. Learning about these survival mechanisms usually isn’t enough to shift them, but gathering new experiences that help you feel autonomous, safe, respected, and loved by others can be.
Experiencing healing relationships can help you begin to let go of some of those defenses and become more vulnerable, open, and secure.
Healing Relationships: When It’s Time for Therapy
Healing relationships are a beautiful thing, but we can get into trouble when we start to believe the power of our love is enough to heal another person. It’s a seductive idea that comes from a good place, but it won’t lead to the healthy relationship you want and deserve.
If your partner has a problem, like an addiction or severe trauma, the healing relationship they really need is with a professional, who can guide them through a structured, evidence-based healing process. If you decide it’s your responsibility to help them heal, that relationship dynamic can easily veer into codependence, which isn’t healthy for either of you.
When someone you love has lingering relational trauma, you can be a loving pillar of support, but you can’t take charge of their healing.
Building Healing Relationships
Compassionate, emotionally-safe relationships can teach us it’s safe to trust other people, be our true selves, and be open to deep, meaningful connections.
When you build healing relationships with others, you’re not only getting companionship. You’re laying down new connections in your brain, and helping yourself become the authentically happy and healthy person you were born to be.
Healing Relationships: Episode Highlights
[01:20] Healing Relationship
- Paige leveraged “healing relationships” through her own work with trauma survivors.
- In therapy, predictability and structure are essential to creating a safe space for clients who are going through trauma.
- Reciprocity of love and support are crucial in healing relationships.
[12:03] Adverse Childhood Experiences
- When adults are incapable of addressing their child’s emotions, they would manifest them in an uncontrollable manner.
- In some cases, the traumatic experiences of children lead them to pushing people away to protect themselves.
[18:03] Healing From a Traumatic Relationship
- Individual therapy is beneficial for clients who have experienced numerous traumatic events.
- A healing relationship is egalitarian; both sides need to be accountable to one another.
[25:14] Attachment Styles vs. Relational Trauma
- There's an overlap between attachment styles and relational trauma.
- The types of attachment styles are secure attachment, anxious attachment, and avoidant attachment.
- For people with relational trauma, their style of attachment can be disorganized.
[35:29] Addressing Trauma in a Relationship
- Externalize the trauma.
- Have an open and honest conversation about your traumatic experiences.
- Reflect and validate the harm that was done.
Music in this episode is by Oliver Riz, with the song “Healing Love.”
You can support them and their work by visiting their Bandcamp page here: Oliver Riz. Under the circumstance of use of music, each portion of used music within this current episode fits under Section 107 of the Copyright Act, i.e., Fair Use. Please refer to copyright.gov if further questions are prompted.