It can be difficult to know what to say to a trauma survivor to help them open up. Here are some tips for your aid.
Healing through trauma will not take place overnight. It can take months, years, or even a decade for trauma to be worked through and released. If you are longing for sex with your partner, you will need to learn how to develop patience for having sex. However, it can be tricky for the person whose sexual needs are not met because the other person has sexual trauma.
My suggestion is that every person should ensure that their sexual needs are being met but this will require a great deal of communication and discussion. Ensure that neither partner in the relationship is being pressured or coerced to go beyond their comfort zone.
It is essential that both the partners involved in a relationship have a support system that helps each one of them to provide guidance, understanding, and tips on how to navigate the conflicting situations that emerge in relationships. Each person will have their own feelings and perceptions which are bound to create friction and conflict in the relationship. Recognize that each person may need a different level of support.
Effective communication is a key to developing trust and fostering the bond in a relationship. Learn and engage as much as possible through supportive communication. The survivor will need to learn to communicate their needs as openly and often as possible so that adequate support can be provided. The other person will need to learn how to create a safe space so that the feelings can be expressed without judgement. They need to learn that it is not about fixing the person but being with the person.
Feelings are not to be repressed but to be expressed. Listening is a very important skill, so learn how to become an effective listener. Show empathy, compassion, love and give re-assurances like: I have a sense of what you might be feeling. I hear you. It must be tough for you to be experiencing this. I’m here for you. You’re being loved.
The person’s body who has suffered sexual trauma can be on the alert at all times. The memories of past experiences, flashbacks, and nightmares can occur at anytime which may result in the person behaving erratically. As a partner in relationship with them, we need to be ready to face this at any time. Also, we should strive to make them feel relaxed and reassured as much as possible. Show them love, care, and create a space for them to open up more.
They may show this as a repetitive pattern and it can be very frustrating to have to deal with this, however, this is where one needs to learn how to deal with one’s frustration. Think proactively and aim at anticipating the behaviour and reaction of the person, note down the common triggers that bring up those memories for them, do reality checks as often as possible. Empower the person to have them pay attention to their own body’s signals and cues when they start feeling stressed and unsafe.
More often than not, people who are in relationships with sexual trauma survivors tend to forget to take care of themselves and to nurture themselves. Do note that it is important for both the partners in the relationship to take time for nurturing their own bodies and self in the way they would like to be nurtured. This means taking breaks when the body feels tired, relaxing, or engaging in an activity that brings peace to all the layers of the body. For one person it could be taking a walk in the park, for another person it could be dancing or singing or drawing. Identify the activities that give joy, help relieve stress, and soothe the nervous system. Avoid intake of alcohol, drugs, or unnecessary medication and eat a well-balanced diet that will keep the energy levels high and positive.
It is important that both partners pay attention to their emotions and feelings as and when they arise. All emotions and feelings need to be acknowledged and be felt through rather than repressed or denied. This will allow the person to release through their body and avoid creating resentment and numbness which can develop over a period of time when feelings are repressed.
Do note that either party can have a negative emotional reaction at any time so discuss beforehand what preventative measures or support measures can be taken when this happens. Most importantly, learn not to take things personally. If verbalising the emotions and feelings is difficult, express them through writing.
Both partners should learn different exercises that aim at providing grounding like breathing, Tai Chi, yoga, Chi gong. I teach a practice of Amplified Orgasmic Meditation which is a great sexual activity that can be easily practiced together. In this practice, both partners work on their own energies as part of healing and at the same time engage in sexual activity together which is done in a way that feels safe for both.
Pay attention to the sensations that arise in the body, learn about body awareness and body mapping, and you will come to gain a better understanding as to where in the body the emotions or trauma is being felt and stored. You can then use gentle tapping, massaging, affirmations, and breathing to help it release from the body. Mindfulness meditation, rhythmic movement, and deep breathing are very powerful practices so make use of these as much as possible.
Volunteer, meet friends and families, and engage in your leisure activities together if possible, as much as possible. Avoid isolation as much as possible, although sometimes quiet time spent alone might be needed. Withdrawal from others and life is not an uncommon urge for survivors of sexual assault. However, it can become a problem, so finding a balance is important. Both partners should try to find hobbies or get engaged in learning something new and, if possible, do things together.
It is highly recommended that the survivor enrol themselves for emotional detox or body de-armouring sessions. In such sessions, we look at the blockages, pain, and trauma that are stored in the cellular memory and then help to clear them using breathwork, massage techniques, sound, and body movement. I have worked with a number of clients who have had experiences of different kinds of trauma in their lives and every client has found these sessions to be very powerful and life-changing. Every session is designed based on the client’s needs and after thorough consultation. Ideally both parties in a relationship should actually have these sessions so that any unexpressed emotions, feelings and blocked energy is fully cleared.
Many times there will be situations of pain, anger, hurt, disappointment, or dissatisfaction that can be created for both people due to their relationship dynamic and it will be difficult to really work on these individually. Facing the effects of trauma together not only creates a positive attitude in life but also helps in creating a relationship full of love, vibrancy, deep intimacy, and happiness.
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