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How childhood trauma can affect your relationships

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You keep telling yourself that it’s going to be alright and that you’ll push harder every single day. But inside, that inexplicable feeling always stops you from moving forward. When others laugh and remember their carefree childhood, you can almost feel your heart getting sadder. You didn’t have a carefree childhood nor did you get to cherish many beautiful memories most kids experience when they’re small. The feeling of growing up without fear is foreign to you as mostly you’ll find that you can’t relate to other people when you’ve faced traumas in your childhood.

Trauma, especially in childhood can have long-lasting repercussions that can severely affect your mental state. Your understanding of yourself and the world around you gets blurry and mostly, it’s hard to differentiate between right and wrong. Children in their growing years learn a lot from the environment that they grow in and if faced with physical or emotional abuse, it can sabotage their mental well being. With time, the abuse manifests into dysfunctional interpersonal relationships, ruining their life down the line.

What is childhood trauma?


Abuse can start from any point in life. Even if the child is less than 5 years old, they can face physical, violent abuse from their parents or someone they see daily. In most cases, abusive parents suffering from any mental disorder or anger issues beat their child vehemently, anytime. Verbal abuse such as swearing, shouting very loud disrespectfully, and saying extreme words of hurt come under abuse for children.

Other than this, children may also face traumas like sexual molestation or assault at an early age. This type of abuse can severely affect the child, inducing violent thoughts like running away or killing themselves. Witnessing or being a part of any physical accidents can also leave the child reeling from fear and phobia of moving further in life.

As a result of such instances, the child loses any sense of attachment or consideration when it comes to relationships with other people. Humans are social beings and to survive on Earth, they need to engage in relationships and friendships with others. If attachment itself takes an exit out the window, then there’s no space left for any improvement. Creating an emotional bond is just as difficult for them to even talk to others in the future.

Secure attachment is pivotal for creating a foundation of love, trust, security and understanding. It helps you take a step forward every time you take a step back. You current and future experiences depend on your attachment level with people, but if it never forms due to severe childhood traumas, it can lead to devastating results. Your ability to form attachment reduces considerably. If the perpetrators of physical and emotional abuse are especially your parents, then you’ll be stripped off any secure bonds and mental nourishment.

Impact of traumas on your future relationships


Researches have concluded that childhood trauma, whether it’s because of physical, emotional, sexual abuse or accidental wise can raise distress in adulthood relationships. Neglecting the child or constantly criticising them disrespectfully can induce similar behaviour among them when they become adults. Unintentionally, the trauma creeps in and threatens the interpersonal relationships at a vulnerable time.

These adults lose the ability to trust anyone easily. Facing early childhood trauma and abuse has depleted their senses of ordinary ways of reciprocation towards others. Thus, they prefer to stay away and are reluctant to engage in honest conversations and bonds with the fear that they maybe harmed again. Staying closed off, guarded, quiet and unsocial can rip off the opportunity of others even trying to help them. You’ll further develop the need to only rely on yourself and no one else. The trauma teaches you that you can’t depend on others because chances are more that you’ll get hurt again. So instinctively, it’s natural to push people away.

Furthermore, if anyone wants to create a bond with you, you suddenly become unresponsive of their feelings and fear of reciprocation of the same. This leads to paranoia and even if you desire intimacy, you refrain from doing so. Low self-esteem, trust issues, doubts about self-worth, lack of confidence are also factors resulting in emotional dysregulation. This part is really difficult as you may want comfort and understanding but you eventually end up resenting any such forms of vulnerable actions.

Unknowingly and without wanting the same, you grow barriers around yourself that feel burdensome and extremely painful to break down.

Therapy can save you from your trauma


People who experience childhood trauma also develop mental health disorders like depression, anxiety, borderline personality disorder and also lose their emotional and mental stability. Such destructional dynamics threaten your very sole existence. You tend to create a self-identity that revolves around mental issues, trauma and abuse.

But as we say, all dark pernicious clouds have a silver lining, is true. Just as you feel that there are no ways to save yourself from darkness, therapy comes and swoops you away from self-destruction. Mental health professionals or therapists are experienced people in their expertise who understand every problem that you face. Even if you struggle to speak, they wait patiently until you can utter a word perfectly. With their understanding and friendly guidance, you can slowly start considering that everyone in the world is not the same.

Whether it’s abuse from close ones or witnessing or being a part of a gruesome accident, they’ll help you to come out of it. Yes, it can be mentally challenging to revisit those memories again but for the sake of taking a step forward for yourself, you have to do it. The therapeutic process can give you insights and necessary skills to improve interpersonal relationships. Your therapist establishes a bond of trust between you both and thus, you can feel completely safe within the four walls of your therapist’s office.

Conversing and beginning to understand everything can bring you to a new-fund harmonious relationship with others. Being around sensitive, understanding people can work wonders. You must believe and find people who would want to be with you at any race of life. It’s all about taking that one step forward.


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What cooking skills should children learn? | Food

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What’s the best way to get children interested in cooking, and what should I teach them?
Georgie, Suffolk

The golden rule, says Thomasina Miers, is patience – and lots of it. “It can be a slow process,” she sympathises. “I talk about how delicious food is and always put olive oil, lemons and herbs on the table for them to add to their meal.”

And it’s a good idea to start them young. “Kids are mimics,” says restaurateur and author of Australian Food Bill Granger, “so they’ll do what you do.”

Darina Allen, who runs the renowned Ballymaloe Cookery School in Ireland, puts toddlers on stirring duty. A messy strategy, yes, so gird yourself. Granger agrees: “They’ll make your life hard,” he says “but just involve them.”

Perhaps controversially, Allen then turns to knife skills: “Lots of parents wouldn’t be happy with this, but from three and a half to four years old they can hold a knife. It’s vital they’re shown how to use one safely, keeping the tips of the fingers tucked under the knuckles and, if they’re using the tip of the knife, to put the index finger along the back of the blade.”

Don’t be afraid to deploy underhand tactics, AKA bribery. Miers suggests banana and chocolate bread or fairy cakes to tempt five-year-olds into the kitchen: “They’re fun and sugary – you’ve got to get them that way.” Allen finds success in drop scones: “Children can put spoonfuls on to a frying pan, wait until the bubbles rise and burst, flip over with a palette knife and cook on the other side.” If enthusiasm wavers, baker Lily Jones, founder of east London’s Lily Vanilli, relinquishes control over decorating cupcakes or cookies: “Their enthusiasm can drop off a cliff abruptly, so I’m quick to do the boring parts.”

By the time they’re eight, Granger looks for dishes with a bit of a process: “Pizza dough is great: I use three cups of flour, a cup of water and a couple of teaspoons of yeast.” Kids can then go all-out on toppings. Try quick and easy dips, such as hummus, which children can cut celery and cucumber into sticks to dip in, or get the box grater out for vegetable fritters (Allen recommends carrot and spring onion). Miers says: “A cheese and herb omelette is also a good skill to have. Children can grate cheese and cut herbs (with scissors if their knife skills aren’t up to it).”

Come 12, Miers ups the ante with homemade pasta, while Granger makes life easier with a gnocchi bake, adding a simple tomato sauce (using passata) and mozzarella. Crumbles and traybakes (think flapjacks) are, of course, good for most ages, but Jones suggests adding basic icing techniques to their arsenal too: “Use a dessert spoon to scoop icing on to a cake or cupcake, then use the back of the spoon to create waves and spread on the icing.”

When they hit their teens, it’s time to experiment. “Find out what their favourite food is and get a cookbook,” Granger says, who then puts them to work cooking for friends. “After all, kids like showing off.”

Do you have a culinary dilemma? Email [email protected]


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My stepson saw an explicit video of his dad on my phone. What should I do? | Life and style

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My husband of 10 years used to travel a bit on business, and we would send each other explicit photos and videos of ourselves. I thought I had hidden all incriminating images in a protected folder on my phone, but, the other night, while I was randomly flicking through old family videos with my husband and 13-year-old stepson, up popped a video of my husband in all his glory, holding himself. There was stunned silence from the two of us, then panicked laughter, while my stepson looked at me with a bemused “busted!” expression. He still seems unconcerned about it, but both of us feel terrible. Should we have a conversation about it, wait to see if he acts any differently towards us, or trust our first instinct, which was to be a bit embarrassed and then pretend it never happened? We’re not a prudish household, but we figure that forcing him to talk could make this episode even weirder and more awkward than it already is. What should we do?

Our children pick up on our attitudes towards sex without any words being spoken. In fact, the most powerful learning they receive is the unspoken message. They easily absorb how each parent views sex, through our reactions when sexual content appears on TV, or the way we react when someone alludes to sex in conversation. Given that unspoken messages are the most powerful ways parents communicate ideas and feelings about sex, you have already let your stepson know everything he needs to understand about this. He is old enough to put it into context, and if he questions you in the future your job is to simply give a relaxed answer. You were right to normalise the accidental revelation, and there would be little point in returning to the subject.


  • Pamela Stephenson Connolly is a US-based psychotherapist who specialises in treating sexual disorders.

  • If you would like advice from Pamela on sexual matters, send us a brief description of your concerns to [email protected] (please don’t send attachments). Submissions are subject to our terms and conditions: see gu.com/letters-terms.

  • Comments on this piece are premoderated to ensure discussion remains on topics raised by the writer. Please be aware there may be a short delay in comments appearing on the site.


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#EtimesSuaveMen: Five ways men can experiment with scarves

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Whether it is to protect yourself from the cold weather or you need a statement accessory, every man requires a scarf or two in his wardrobe. And, now as the winter season is approaching, it’s time to get creative with your scarf draping styles. Be it a casual or business look, learn stylish ways to wear a scarf. Here’s a look at five ways you can wear a scarf and beat the chill in style:

Casual
For a simple and casual look, you can pull off a laid-back style with your scarf. Wrap the scarf around your neck and pull out the ends and adjust at the same level. You can tuck it into your jacket or layer it on top of a fuzzy sweater.

casual scarf men

Smart Casual
If you’re not a fan of the ‘too casual look’, you can drape a scarf over the shoulder. Simply drape the scarf over the neck and keep one end longer than the other. This can help to add a touch of finesse to your casual look.

casual scarf

Formal
For a formal setting, it is important to drape the scarf with clean lines for a smart look. With a suit, you can try the ascot knot by draping the scarf around the shoulder and form a cross. Then, put one end under the other and pull it up to make a knot and tuck it in for a neat look.

Ascot knot

(How to tie an ascot knot, Photo: Blacklapel)


Business
For a business or official meeting, your scarf needs to look sophisticated and sharp. Ascot and loop knots can work well for a clean look. For the loop knot, fold the scarf in half and wrap it around your neck. Next, add the loose ends through the loop to make this knot.

loop knot

loop knot

(How to tie a loop knot, Photo: Blacklapel)


Evening
Whether you’re wearing a tuxedo or a suit, a stylish scarf can make a sartorial statement. It’s best to stick to fine fabrics like silk and cashmere with subtle patterns. You can wrap the scarf around the neck and tuck it behind the lapels of the jacket as shown in the photo.

scarf with suit


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