Dissolving Childhood Trauma © Martyn Carruthers

Online Help: Coaching, Counseling & Therapy

Many adults suffer from childhood trauma.
Do you suffer from your parents’ drama or conflicts?
Do you want to free yourself from toxic family attachments?

Relationship goals can include a desire for partnership or parenthood, etc, or can be the shared goals of partners, families and teams. Relationships can be strongly influenced by relationship entanglements, fixations and bonds.

Relationship bonds refer to obsessive beliefs and compulsive behaviors. Bonded behaviors can be on a spectrum from ambivalent commitment to total obedience. Toxic relationship bonds can motivate obsessive compliance, addictions, compulsive behaviors and lingering limiting beliefs.

Even after I had left home for eight years, I wasn’t living my own life. It was like I was living my older brother’s goals. For example, I tried to copy his career and I was only attracted to women who looked like his wife. You helped me clean up this mess. I stopped being a cheap copy. Now I live my own life. Toronto

As relationship bonds are not limited to people, I formulated a hierarchy:

  • Bonds to possessions, things, places, buildings, parts of town
  • Bonds to activities, games, ritual movements, cultural activities
  • Bonds to to schools, colleges and professional organizations
  • Bonds to beliefs – fixed ideas about people or things – “All men are xxx
  • Bonds to values – fixations – “my values are better than your values
  • Bonds to identity – fixed ideas about the nature of self – “I am X
  • Bonds to the world/universe/cosmos – “The world is Y

We help people change their bonded beliefs and behaviors. We coach people to explore what prevents or support success, and to change unwanted influences on their thoughts, emotions and behavior. These influences often show up as fixations, obsessions and compulsions.

Who is Conscious of Relationship Bonds?

Few people seem aware of who really influences them. Some people recognize the influence of authorities such as parents, bosses, presidents or religious leaders.

I designate bonds as conscious, knowable and taboo. I help people evaluate and change unwanted bonds to people, schools, religions, etc, and to reject unwanted marketing and other manipulative influences.

Children bond to people who meet their needs. Bonding is almost certain in the first year of life, unless the parents are severely disturbed. Trauma, bipolar or attachment disorders may result if bonded relationships are threatened or severed.

As family members seem to be the most influential people in our early lives, I help people discover if they accepted limiting beliefs as rigid truths, and to discover if they accepted substitutes for parents, siblings, partners and children etc.

Assess Relationship Bonds

  • Evaluate body sensations
  • Observe nonverbal signals
  • Evaluate emotional reality
  • Evaluate metaphoric reality
  • Observe relationship behavior
  • Explore relationship history
  • Explore blocks to goals and plans
  • Explore the origin of limiting beliefs
  • Explore psychosomatic symptoms
  • Explore obsessions or compulsions

In practice, I focus on relationships that people want to improve or end, and on the relationships that somehow prevent or delay their achieving their chosen goals. (Bonded relationships need not be current, nor with living people. Often, people want and need to clarify relationships with past partners and/or with people who are missing or who have died.)

We think of bonds as reciprocal attachments, which people expect to continue, and which, if interrupted, may affect the behavior of both people.

1. Observe external behavior

People who feel pleasantly bonded to other people usually appear relaxed, happy, and enthusiastic while with those people. People who are unpleasantly bonded may express stress, irritation and depression when together. It’s not difficult to observe human bonding behavior – it can be difficult to help people interpret and change it:

Observe Bonded Behavior

  • Behavior when together
  • Time and place together
  • Reciprocal attachments
  • Nonverbal signals
  • Inclusion in relationships
  • Excuses, blame, complaints

By nonverbal signals I refer unconscious body movements and vocal changes. Common nonverbal indicators are that the voice becomes quieter and the tonality becomes childish. I note a person’s gestures when talking about a relationship – gestures often indicate body locations affected by bonds. (This gave rise to our study of those parts of the body often called chakras. People often touch these places unconsciously when discussing relationships – see Relationship Yoga).

Behavior such as forced laughing and limited responses are more likely in conflicted relationships. You can observe people’s ability to recognize and respond to each others’ non-verbal cues (e.g., eye contact, smiling, touching, voice tonality etc).

  • How and how often do the people touch?
  • Do they make eye contact and smile at each other?
  • Do they seek comfort and guidance from each other?
  • How do they respond to each other’s signs of hunger, thirst or fatigue?

You can assess how a relationship is perceived by a human system (e.g. school, work, friends, neighbors or extended family). This can include:

  • Does a person rely upon and trust their system?
  • Does a person identify self as a member of the system?
  • Do other members consider that person to be a member?
  • Is a person accepted as a system member by the larger community?
2. Explore Relationship History

I find the best predictor of future behavior to be past behavior, and relationship history provides important information when assessing bonds. As I explore people’s relationship history, I ask about pregnancies, births, parental conflicts, partnerships, parenthood and deaths, etc. This can be enlightening.

3. Evaluate Descriptions of Subjective Experience

The closest relationships in people’s lives are likely with their parents, siblings, intimate partners and children, and with people who are perceived as substitutes for family members. Our systemic diagnosis helps us assess the closeness and type of relationships as a basis for change.

A trainer suggested that we cut our connections with every person every day. I did this and it felt good but I have since divorced and I am not motivated to visit my family nor my children … that trainer had an ugly divorce following sexual affairs with his students. Hawaii

Known bonds (e.g. I feel connected to my ex-partner) are often described as dark or gray connections to another person. Some therapists recommend cutting these connections – and I absolutely don’t. At risk is your ability to bond to people at all.

We joined Amway and tried to recruit our family and friends as instructed. After a year we had no friends, only “business associates”, and we were becoming evangelical. After we quit, it took us years to create a new circle of friends, who we now treasure. That ‘business opportunity’ now feels like a ton of black weight on our shoulders! Arizona

Therapists who try to make bonds go away, may dissociate or fragment the bonds. A common consequence is that the emotions and beliefs become diffuse – and much more difficult to manage. We often help people recover from such techniques and mentor damage.

Continued: Assess Relationship Bonds – Part 2


Do you want to change unwanted beliefs, motivations and obsessions?


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