MEET ESTHER GOLDSTEIN
Esther Goldstein is a trauma expert in Long Island and New York. As a Trauma Specialist, Trauma Educator, and Founder of Integrative Psychotherapy, her goal is to make sure that her clients are set up with just the right customized therapeutic experience to help them along their healing journey.
Esther is also the founder of Trauma Therapists, which helps therapists improve trauma therapy clinical outcomes through expert support.
IN THIS PODCAST
- What is relational trauma?
- How are relationships built?
- How relational trauma can show up
- Shifting relational dynamics
What is relational trauma?
Usually when someone experiences something as a trauma, it either happened too quickly … Like [in] a single incident, or it could be like a consistent ongoing experience that is [or was] harmful, almost like the slow drip of water on a rock that changes the shape of the rock over time, and that’s called developmental trauma. (Esther Goldstein)There are different types of trauma, and they all fall under the same umbrella term but they can each describe different types and severities of trauma. With trauma, there is the perception of either a real or an imagined threat to safety, either to you or a loved one, and it’s characterized by three common factors:
- It was unexpected and you didn’t see it coming
- There was nothing that could be done to stop it happening
- There was no way for you (or the other person) to find safety in that moment
When we lose connection or we lose touch with ourselves and other people, then we don’t feel capable of being able to digest the [traumatic] experience. (Esther Goldstein)Due to a traumatic experience, you may lose connections with loved ones around you - your relations. With relational trauma, there’s either a lack of connection or the people that you are in relation with are not safe for you to be around.
How are relationships built?One of the main aspects of a relationship, whether that’s between family members, loved ones, friends, partners, or anyone in your community, is trust. Is trust being fostered and maintained? Or is trust being eroded? That is one of the main markers of a successful and healthy relationship or a relationship that could be emotionally unsafe.
How relational trauma can show up
When we come into the world, we develop a template … And our relational template, which means what we believe about ourselves and about others, is developed at a very young age. (Esther Goldstein)These templates can of course be shifted as you get older with therapy and intentional work, however, most people don’t do it, and it can end up leading their lives. That is why doing the work on yourself is so important so that you can let go of old and potentially harmful or damaging beliefs or patterns that you picked up as a child and reset them as an adult. What you want to look at are the patterns and the ways you interact, and the survival strategies that come out when a person is feeling relationally unsafe. Some of these strategies are:
- Walking on eggshells
- Insecure, clingy, or grasping for comfort
- Anxious and dreading the worst
Usually our templates are the way we do life, the way we do love, the way we do work … What’s your pattern? Usually we’ll start seeing a similar theme. (Esther Goldstein)There are also the classic responses to trauma:
Shifting relational dynamicsSome dynamics are harder to shift than others, but it can be done, especially because you always have control over yourself. No matter what someone tells you, you can choose who, how, and why you interact with someone, and you can stop or start at any time. You cannot control the actions of others, but you can always control your own - remember that, because that gives you power, autonomy, and it allows you to remember that you can always remove yourself from an unpleasant situation and make a positive change.
A lot of these people that are shut down [emotionally] also have been badly hurt and it’s not right for us to say; “Just go be open-hearted” … We want to make sure, like an adult, you can discern what’s right and wrong … As we do that healing … there’s energy then for connection. (Esther Goldstein)
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