Relationships as Replay
When I work with a woman in my Integrative Psychotherapy practice, I encourage her to share her story so that she may see how the patterns in her current life are a potential “replay” of her early relationships with primary caregivers. Acknowledging past difficulties begins the process of creating new experiences in the present and future.
Women who get into relationships that mirror those they had with their abusers mostly do so unconsciously, in an attempt to build mastery. Often they believe, “This time will be different.” Unfortunately, this is rarely the case.
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When a woman describes a current relationship as troubling to her, I will always ask, “Who does this remind you of?” Undoubtedly, conflicts with the other person have “historical” components to them, possessing similar negative dynamics that have appeared in her past, which is why they are extra charged and upsetting. For example, a woman who was bullied as a child may realize that she is being bullied by her current partner. At first she may not see the repeated patterns. In time, however, they will become more obvious, eventually reaching the point of being undeniable.
Identifying historical patterns not only offers a window into how she felt while growing up, but one into her current relationships, as well. Once we identify her relationship patterns, we can plan an approach for correcting behavior, setting boundaries and speaking up.
I work with women to have “corrective experiences” in current times. Corrective experiences are those that challenge clients to bring about new behaviors. Repeated patterns do not only show up for victims of trauma, and are not limited to romantic relationships; one can unintentionally replicate unhealthy historical patterns with friends, bosses, co-workers, etc.
Some women that I work with consider themselves to have “bad luck” when choosing friends or consider themselves bad judges of character. This is not the whole story; while growing up, they were conditioned to make excuses for bad behavior, and may not even realize that they are doing it in adulthood.
Women as Prey
Emotionally manipulative people can prey on women who have been abused as children, as these women are often starved for attention, have low self-esteem, and are easily controlled. Emotional manipulators sense this. They study their target women’s interests and vulnerabilities in order to win her trust and then move the relationship quickly to the next level. These women are flattered, believe they have “finally found the one,” and go along with it.
A woman who is targeted by an emotional manipulator has an inkling that things have moved too fast, or that something is not quite right, but because she has learned to bypass her body’s natural threat detection system, she “lets it happen.” Her partner may tell her that they share a “special relationship” and that it is “true love,” and because she wants to believe it, she allows it to progress quickly.
An emotional manipulator may attempt to isolate their woman from friends and family. They will be possessive and controlling. At first, she sees this as “finally being taken care of.” However, in time, she realizes that she has lost her identity and her voice.
Her partner might gaslight her, making her question her own thoughts and abilities so that they can maintain control. She will make excuses for her partner’s bad behavior.
A relationship with an emotional manipulator can be very difficult to remove oneself from. Some emotional manipulators will stalk their victims, making it necessary for her to get law enforcement involved. I have worked with women on the arduous task of extricating from a relationship from an emotional manipulator. It is not only possible, it is crucial to your wellbeing.
Women are unconsciously attracted to partners that feel familiar, and commit to people who end up treating them similarly to their abusers. They remain in these relationships because they were convinced early on that love and abuse can co-exist.
Trauma survivors were raised under the illusion that everything in their household was fine, when it could not have been further from the truth. Since she depended on her caregivers to meet her basic needs, she could not risk them being mad at them, for fear of abandonment. So she turned her angry feelings that were meant for her caregivers, towards herself.
These angry feelings became imprinted onto her psyche and trapped in her body. They caused her to hate herself. In our work I utilize Integrative Psychotherapy and Somatic Experiencing to assist her to sort of this all out, and to restore her mind and body to the state of loving herself.
Pay Attention and Slow it Down
When a woman I work with is getting into a new relationship, I encourage her to pay attention to the “red neon flags,” or behaviors that might indicate that her new partner is controlling. While I recognize that it feels good to fall in love, not paying attention to important warning signs is what could cause a woman to find herself in a relationship with someone who started out as wonderful, but turns out to not respect her in time.
I want to help women choose their relationships, rather than “fall into” them. I always encourage women to talk about their new relationships in sessions, so that together we can decide if the person is worthy of her trust, and matches up to who they say they are.
Women feel empowered when they recognize that they are no longer stuck in a role that was assigned to them years ago. They thrive when they use direct communication skills, speak up for themselves, and command the respect that they deserve.
Women flourish with this new understanding of relationships in combination with direct communication skills. I am honored to support women through this evolutionary process.
What My Clients Say
I remember I was so nervous to have my first session with Heidi because I did not know what to expect but because she was so patient, kind and understanding she made me feel very comfortable to open up. One of the main things she’s helped me accomplish is to stand up for myself, communicating, and also has helped me to not overthink my decisions. I look forward to our sessions every week because it gives me a chance to talk about the strengths and weaknesses I’ve come across and her guidance has really helped me. Thank you Heidi!
I started seeing Heidi when I was having trouble at work. I really liked her practice of meeting with you so we could both decide whether we were a good fit for one another. Her warm and welcoming demeanor put me at ease almost at once. Heidi is a great listener, and very thoughtful in her responses. As a result of her guidance and support, I was able to overcome my fears of career growth. Her techniques made it possible for me to succeed in my endeavors to find a new, more suitable position. After 20 years in the workforce, thanks to Heidi, I was finally able to find the right professional environment. Heidi has also helped me grow in my personal life. She has opened my eyes to focusing on what is important to me, and not just accepting things as they are if it is not right for me. I have gone through a few heartaches, and thanks to Heidi, I have been more selective and that has led to a much more fulfilling outcome in terms of relationships, whether it be friends or romance.
I would not be where I am today without the work I've done with Heidi. This includes navigating a career as an educator, aiming for growth and still maintaining my sanity. It also includes learning about myself, my impulses and strategies to deal with those, as well as learning to set boundaries with those around me. Heidi has helped me not just find my voice, but to clarify it and use it to support my strengths and goals.
Empathy is the truest mark of a psychotherapist, and Heidi's ability to truly listen and care is what makes her such a fantastic therapist. Throughout my time with Heidi I always felt supported. Her understanding and flexibility went a long way towards creating a safe space. I can honestly say much of the progress I have made, the confidence I feel now, is directly because of our time together.
Most of my life I lived with a feeling that something was off. I could never tell what it is, but the feeling was always there. I came to Heidi in hopes of "saving" my relationship, and through our work I found something better, I found myself. Before Heidi I was skeptical of therapy, I thought only "crazy" people went there. At first I was nervous and uncomfortable, but Heidi was so gentle, empathetic, and non judgmental that I soon was looking forward to our sessions. She gently guided me on the journey of discovering truth about my childhood and the suppressed feelings that I've been carrying around for decades. With Heidi I discovered psychosomatic therapy (somatic experiences), and consciously experienced parts of myself I didn't know existed. I now know where the feeling of something being off comes from and why it's there. I've become connected to my body and my emotions, I've learned how to be empathetic, non-judgmental, and loving towards myself. Heidi showed me how good it feels to be seen and heard for who I really am.
It has been difficult for me in the past to open up completely to therapists in the way that I needed to in order to benefit from the service. From day one, Heidi always made me feel comfortable through being genuine, present, warm and non-judgemental. This allowed for me to completely open up, be vulnerable and bring to sessions the topics that I deeply needed to speak about. Heidi is creative and open-minded and she helped me to have to develop a more hopeful and expansive worldview. I always looked forward to our sessions together.