How do emotional traumas develop in families?

Families are living on a battlefield. The situations in our society have made it this way. How do emotional traumas develop in families?

Statistics about emotional traumas

Many professionals dedicate their time to studying this phenomenon. Among these professionals is Doctor Joyce Brothers, who presents some terrifying statistics (1984):

  • 8 million women are being frequently abused in their own homes. They are victims of men who had promised to love them.
  • About 3.4 – 4 million children are being physically abused by their parents.
  • The writer Susan Forward says that there are more than 10 million Americans who have participated in incest, and come from different economic, cultural, racial, educational, and religious backgrounds.
  • It estimates that by the age of 18, about 45 – 60% of children in this country have been victims of sexual abuse (DeMause, 1991).

What is a dysfunctional family?

Thus, a dysfunctional family is one in which conflicts, misbehavior, and, often, abuse by family members, happen regularly, which leads to other family members accommodating such actions. Healthy families also go through crises, but after the crisis, they go back to functioning normally.

To understand the process through which a family’s emotional dynamics transmit from one generation to the next one, we need to understand the systemic concept of the “intergenerational transmission process.”

It is the transmission of values, facts, secrets, stories, emotional dynamics, and dysfunctional behaviors from one generation to the next. When these aspects transmit in a non-elaborated or non-processed way, they go from one generation to another in the same way, affecting the family’s mental health and healthy balance.

Today, we will talk about the influence that the intergenerational transmission process has on the foundation of functional or dysfunctional families, o their characteristics. We also see how it causes emotional traumas and how the dysfunctional cycle in the family can be broken.

How do emotional traumas develop in a family?

Some families have dysfunctional behavioral patterns that go from one generation to the next. These patterns can be alcoholism, consuming drugs, emotional, physical, verbal, or sexual abuse, mental illnesses, and an autocratic parenting style.

Let me tell you the story about a man named Pedro. His life story is a sad one. I met him when I was living in Philadelphia. His wife, a church member, called me one day. She desperately said to me: “Please, Pastor, do something for my husband. He is addicted to heroin.” When he had no money to buy drugs, he would sell whatever he found in their house he could buy drugs.

One day, I saw him in an abandoned house buying drugs. He told me his story. His father was an alcoholic, so he introduced Pedro to that world when he was still very young. And, from that moment on, that teenager’s life of no control began. He went from drinking to consuming marijuana. Then, from marijuana to cocaine, and then to heroin. This is the story of a young man who grew up in a dysfunctional home and got lost inside the addiction maze.

Emotional traumas are common in dysfunctional families

The toxic effects of dysfunctional families cannot measure. Children are the most affected in this type of family. All of these maladaptive behaviors take away the possibility of having a happy childhood. They also avoid the parent’s need to become functional adults in the future. Behavioral patterns become a “family script.”

There are several clinical studies that it proved that small emotional wounds produce daily and the lack of attachment with our parents can produce traumas that last a long time. These emotional traumas were produced every time:

  • they were not taken seriously
  • when someone mocked them or made fun of them,
  • when they do not allow expressing what they felt.
  • Specialty, when they do not treat like people who have their own will.

Self-esteem and emotional traumas

And many wounds that were inflicted when they were told:

  • to go away,
  • get lost,
  • close your mouth,
  • get out,
  • do not act like that…
  • or do not be such a…

All of these experiences were emotional traumas that inflicted wounds on their self-esteem. Even if it was the scenario in your home and family. Or even if today it is the scenario you have in the family you have built. Well, I have good news for you.

Even so, the deepest traits of our personality affected by adverse situations can transform. Yes, with the desire to change and improve as human beings and to be the best version of ourselves in Jesus Christ.

  • Maybe this is something you already know, maybe you identify with Pedro’s story because you grew up in a dysfunctional home, a dysfunctional family.
  • Maybe you have not realized that those emotional wounds that have not healed yet are affecting your life and your own family’s dynamics, the family you have built.
  • Or, maybe you see yourself repeating those same words to your children, the words that hurt you when you were a child, and that your parents said when they disapproved of you.

Do you want to know more about this topic? Then, I want to invite you to read our next posts, in which we will continue studying the main effects and characteristics of dysfunctional families so that you can overcome these difficulties. God bless you.

How to deal with the insecurity in love

When we talk about the basis on which our affections work, we can easily think that the experiences that a person has lived can determine the lens through which he/she perceives life and the interpersonal relationships that he/she has built. But how important are the early experiences we live in our childhood? Can they affect the process of developing insecurity in love?

Let’s start with the concept of attachment style from Jhon Bowlby. What is attachment? It is the behaviors that result in a person obtaining or retaining the proximity of another differentiated and preferred individual. The importance of early relationships with parents or primary caregivers, that is, with attachment figures, is a crucial element in the formation of dependent personality traits. 

Security or insecurity in love

In some cases, people do not establish an adequate secure attachment style and can establish dependent relationships with others. Such relationships create a feeling of insecurity in the person. It is due as their family and their home do not constitute the secure base of love, care, and attention that they needed during their formation and growth. So, it is here where the basis of a secure or insecure attachment determine. It is the way of perceiving and developing an individual’s interpersonal relationships that will depend on it.

When an infant receives affection, spoken with love and with words of encouragement while in his/her mother’s womb, the infant can enjoy the loving touches from the parents after the infant is born. The infant’s needs can be met when he/she is comforted in moments of anxiety or sadness, and when the parents are available whenever they are needed. 

When affective needs meet, the infant will build a secure attachment toward his/her primary caregivers. He will have a solid foundation to build future interpersonal relationships. This happens when concepts of love and what it means to interact with other people are clear, and later, in adult life, the person will be able to enjoy healthy interpersonal relationships in which he/she can feel happy, fulfilled, and loved.

Insecurity in love since the beginning of life

When the opposite happens: when, from his/her life in the womb, the baby feels rejected, feels neither loved nor expected, when he/she is born and does not receive enough love, words of affection, or caresses, when he/she cries and is not comforted, his/her needs are not met. When he/she experiences difficulties due to having poor communication and/or relationship with the parents or primary caregivers, the attachment formed will be an insecure one, leading to experiencing insecurity in love. 

That baby will not feel loved or supported and will feel that his/her needs are not important. He will feel that the demands for affection are illogical and have no foundation. So, he/she must seek his/her value in other people because it has not been given to them.

He/she will feel that they must seek to increase his/her self-esteem through the approval and admiration of others, he/she will not know how to establish a healthy interpersonal relationship; He/she will not know how to face and solve problems effectively. His/her concepts and guidelines for life as a couple or family will be distorted because he/she was a victim in his/her early childhood.

Two possible scenarios

As we can see, they are two different scenarios. In one scenario, those who have formed a secure attachment since childhood will be able to establish healthy interpersonal relationships. He will do it from a base of emotional intelligence, love, happiness, understanding, high self-esteem, and self-worth.

The second scenario generates insecurity in love

However, the other scenario is a negative one. There the person has a base of insecurity, fear, anxiety, fear of abandonment, and unmet needs. In this scenario, the person will function for manipulation, emotional dependence, and a search for the approval of other people. He will do that to achieve the value that was not received and the level of self-esteem that is so needed. He will seek the love that is longed for, though the person does not know how to achieve it.

When a person is based on insecure attachment, he/she feels empty or with his/her emotional needs unmet, he/she will try to fill that inner emptiness through a relationship with another person, and will not know how to be alone in his/her internal world.

That person will seek the interpersonal relationship he/she has established — with a friend, counselor, church pastor, family member, boyfriend (or girlfriend), or spouse — to feel the love and security that experiences have not provided.

The problem arises when the fear of rejection, of not acceptance by others, or of not being loved dominates the person’s behavior. It distorts the fundamental concepts of healthy human interactions.

How to make a self-analysis

It is not an easy task to analyze our interpersonal relationships from an “outside” perspective or to be objective. For this, we would need to visit internal spaces in our memory. Places that store painful memories about experiences that scarred us. These places determined our perception of friendship, love, attachment, and all the foundations of a healthy relationship.

But, to overcome the effects of insecure attachment, you must first understand what love is from God’s point of view. In 1 John 4:18, we read: “In love, there is no fear, but perfect love casts out the fear; because fear carries with its punishment. Whence, he who fears has not been perfected in love.”

In true love, there is no room for fear. You must accept and understand that you must love yourself as God loves you: with infinite, constant, unconditional love. Love yourself as you are. Love your essence so that you can fully see who you are and who others are.

Value yourself so that you do not seek your value in the other person. Work on the emotional deficiencies that you can identify. If you have resentment or hate towards someone from your past, ask God to help you forgive that person. To overcome what he/she made, you must not seek to solve the things of the past while seeking approval in the present.

How to deal with your insecurity in love

 If you feel abandoned, understand that God is with you and always will be. He accepts you as you are and will help you value yourself for who you are. Love without expecting to be loved the same way, not all of us love with the same love language. Do not seek other people for the qualities that you do not find in yourself. So, work to improve and give the best of you, without looking for them to approve of everything you do.

Get some alone time, do not become careless or lose yourself in trying to meet other people’s expectations. Do not disappear into who you are. You will do it by trying to please your friends, your partner, co-workers, church brothers or sisters, pastors … nobody. Have a sincere and true relationship with God. This way, you will be able to fill the emptiness you feel inside. Besides, you will be able to love and receive love as God loves you to be from the moment He created you.

Pray to God and ask him to transform your heart, to break your schemes and preconceptions based on fear. Love without expecting to receive anything in return. Strengthen your love and self-worth so that you can establish interpersonal relationships of full happiness and love.