Should We Enter A Relationship To Heal Childhood Trauma? | Vietcetera
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Jun 27, 2024
Better LivingWellness

Should We Enter A Relationship To Heal Childhood Trauma?

Many people misunderstand the concept of intimacy, reducing it merely to physical touch. However, true intimacy involves respect, understanding, and genuine love for one another.
Should We Enter A Relationship To Heal Childhood Trauma?

Source: Khooa Nguyễn for Vietcetera

Just as we require food, water, and shelter to survive, love and emotional connection are also fundamental human needs. Without love, can we truly thrive?

This question often arises among those who have experienced broken relationships or grown up in dysfunctional families. However, with appropriate counseling, individuals can overcome past traumas and build lasting relationships.

In this episode of EduStation, host Hung Vo discusses with Dr. To Nga, an expert with dual PhDs in Marriage and Family Therapy/Counseling and Quantitative Measurement in Educational Psychology from the University of Minnesota.

Dr. To Nga brings her extensive experience as the operator of two counseling and psychotherapy centers and as a psychology professor at Fulbright University, providing her insights on intimacy and emotional healing.

Without love, can humans truly survive?

According to Maslow's hierarchy of needs, love and close relationships fall under social needs, which are essential for human survival alongside physiological and safety needs. While fulfilling our physiological and safety needs brings us happiness, meeting our social needs brings a sense of fulfillment and happiness.

Humans, unlike many animals, develop slowly and rely on communal living for survival and continuity. For instance, it takes a foal just a few days to learn to run independently, whereas a human baby takes about nine months to learn how to walk. This prolonged development period underscores our need for interdependence, which necessitates love and connection.

According to Dr. Hoàng Minh Tố Nga, a lack of love could lead to human extinction. | Source: Khooa Nguyễn for Vietcetera

Dr. To Nga highlights this point by referencing the COVID-19 pandemic. During this time, some individuals disregarded public health guidelines, such as wearing masks and avoiding gatherings, leading to widespread infections within families and communities.

This example demonstrates that without mutual care and consideration, humans can suffer greatly. It emphasizes the crucial importance of loving and supporting one another for our collective survival.

Discover your attachment style: Do you have secure relationships?

Love is essential for human survival, but if we do not learn how to "love" during our formative years, how can we connect with others as adults? This question brings us to the concept of attachment styles. Attachment theory, developed by psychologist John Bowlby, explains how the bonds we form with our caregivers in childhood significantly influence our adult relationships.

There are four primary attachment styles:

  1. Secure Attachment: Have no difficulty expressing feelings and communicating desires.
  2. Anxious Attachment: Tend to be controlling, pursue intimacy intensely, but often worry about the stability of their relationships.
  3. Avoidant Attachment: Fear intimacy, highly value personal independence, and struggle to express emotions.
  4. Anxious-Avoidant Attachment: Fear of both closeness and intimacy, and concerns about the loyalty of others.

Three out of these four attachment styles are considered insecure. They often develop in individuals who grew up in dysfunctional, neglected, or emotionally abusive families. For example, in a family where one child receives more attention than the others, the less-attended children may feel emotionally "abandoned." Although their basic needs are met, they lack emotional nurturing from their parents.

These children grow up with a void in their minds, leading them to seek others to fill that emptiness and validate their worth. However, no one can truly fill this void because every relationship requires mutual effort. If one expects love without reciprocating it, sustaining the relationship becomes challenging.

Dr. To Nga emphasizes that no one is to blame for lacking love during childhood. It's also difficult to blame our parents or grandparents, as they did their best with the resources they had. However, it is crucial to recognize that addressing these psychological issues is our responsibility as adults. Our partners can support us in this process, but they should not become our sole source of emotional stability.

Sexual attraction alone isn’t enough for deep relationships

Many people equate intimacy with sexual intercourse, believing that readiness to "sleep together" signifies a deep connection. This view is limited and incomplete. True intimacy goes beyond physical contact and involves respect, understanding, and love.

True intimacy involves comprehending a partner's past, empathizing with their behavior, and supporting them in addressing psychological issues. It means being vulnerable, open, and ready to both offer and receive help. This depth of connection is what we should aim for in any close relationship, not just romantic ones.

To deepen their understanding of each other, couples may benefit from the guidance of a psychologist, who is trained to facilitate better communication and connection. Dr. To Nga also critiques the numerous self-help books that focus on attracting others by changing one's appearance or behavior, rather than addressing internal issues. Such superficial changes can lead to manipulation and eventual disappointment.

Dr. Tố Nga points out that manipulating others will never address their core issues. | Source: Khooa Nguyễn for Vietcetera

If you find yourself stuck in a problematic relationship but still value your partner, consider new approaches instead of repeating old, ineffective patterns. As the saying goes, if a door remains stuck despite repeated attempts to open it, it’s time to seek another way out.

By addressing underlying issues and fostering true intimacy, individuals can build healthier, more fulfilling relationships.

Translated by Thúy An