Early experiences involving developmental shock, trauma and stress form the foundation for intractable conflict in adult relationships. Developmental psychologist John Bowlby said in 1969 that early relational experiences create a child’s internal working model of reality. Longitudinal research by Krause & Haverkamp in 1996 indicated that the internal working model of reality remains virtually unchanged through a person’s lifetime unless there are focused interventions such as counseling to change it.
PTSD & Intractable Conflict
It is possible to have post-traumatic stress patterns even when you have no memory of early shock and trauma experiences. We believe that the single most significant cause of recycling, intractable conflicts is the undiagnosed developmental shock, trauma and stress wired in people’s nervous systems.
Through our clinical research with hundreds of people in our private practices, workshops, and classes, we discovered that the concepts of PTSD and developmental trauma helped our clients both understand the source of their present-time intractable conflicts and to find effective resolutions to them.
By identifying traumatic events experienced during the first three years of their lives, our clients were able to correlate these early events with the kinds of conflicts they are struggling with in their primary relationships. Once they find this correlation, they typically felt immediate and immense relief.
We often hear our clients say, “Now it all makes perfect sense. I just thought I was crazy! or For the first time, I feel compassion for myself when I act so weird. I understand why I do what I do. When I see other people doing irrational or crazy things, I just remind myself that they are in a trauma state and cant help themselves in the moment.”
Developmental Shock and Trauma
Developmental shock and trauma are stored internally in the brain and nervous system as pictures, words, feelings, body sensations, spontaneous movements and relational dynamics. Each shocking and traumatic event is stored in compartmentalized modules containing a unique combination of sensory components. Relationship dynamics involving the interaction between children and their parents or other bonded caregivers, are a central component of the memories associated with traumatic events.
For example, a child whose mother had frequent bouts of dissociation during the first three years of her life becomes sensitized to people with blank, distant expressions on their faces. She experiences her mother’s dissociation as an emotional and energetic abandonment. When she sees vacant facial expressions on her teachers, friends or love partner, she gets triggered and regresses into a post-traumatic state.
The visual trigger of a blank, distant facial expression also activates the adrenal stress response, and stimulates the release of contents held in of a memory module. This module contains the thoughts, emotions, body sensations, spontaneous movements and relational memories with her mother in which she felt abandoned.
The phenomenon of regression is a unique post-traumatic symptom that feels like being catapulted back in time. It also includes an unconscious urge to reenact the experience of the original trauma.
Experiences of replaying an event from the past in the present time are often accompanied by feelings that are similar to “dé-j