Transference and Complex Trauma

Complex trauma refers to the effects of enduring intense stress, particularly within relationships that should provide trust and safety especially during childhood. This type of trauma can have lasting consequences on one's emotional well being. These experiences influences one's perceptions of others.


Zina Ortiz

11/19/20233 min read

EMDR Psychedelic Assisted Therapy Trauma Anxiety Denver Colorado
EMDR Psychedelic Assisted Therapy Trauma Anxiety Denver Colorado

Complex trauma refers to the experience of multiple stressors, within familial or caregiver relationships. These stressors can include forms of abuse, neglect or exposure to dysfunctional family dynamics. Given that trauma often begins in childhood it can profoundly influence how individuals view themselves, others and the world around them.

Effects of complex trauma leave emotional challenges. Individuals who have undergone trauma may encounter difficulties in managing their emotions. These individuals experience relationship struggles, establishing and maintaining relationships can prove to be quite challenging.

Complex trauma has the potential to impact self esteem and hinder the development of a sense of identity, therefore one's perception of self is negatively influenced by these negative experiences.

Understanding transference in therapy occurs when feelings and reactions from one's primary relationships are projected onto the therapist. It's like carrying emotions from these primary relationships carry out to the therapists and other relationships. As I have explained before, and in previous blog posts, the central nervous system collects information on how to connect with others. These lessons on connection are learned in early childhood from one's primary caretakers. If there was neglect and/or abuse, then the central nervous system learns that affection, connection, or love is unsafe, inconsistent or painful. This phenomenon can occur without us realizing it!

Transference occurs within the context of every relationship such as at work, friendships, family, and romantic interests.

Oftentimes past emotions surface in Therapy. During sessions, emotions or reactions associated with relationships often resurfaces. It is the nature of the work. As a therapist I provide a lot of psychoeducation about transference, helping the individual be aware of their perceptions of me, which we can then address by paying careful attention to body sensations, emotional reactions, thoughts, and sometimes memories. I then help clients connect these observations to past experiences in their relationships.

This is a great opportunity for healing! By leaning on the transference we then can observe and witness this mechanism of survival. It presents an opportunity to explore and understand how past experiences impact our emotions and relationships.

The past lives in the present. It is inevitable. Humans are creatures of habit and apply what has been learned to other situations, and generalize.

By acknowledging and discussing transference individuals bring awareness to these dysfunctional patterns of relating, and awareness is the precursor for healing.

When it comes to complex trauma cases therapy requires many approaches. Our therapists employ techniques like talking therapy, somatic, contemplative, and/or brainspotting therapies to facilitate healing. Complex trauma shapes our experiences. With therapy that incorporates concepts like transference it becomes a path towards healing. It's like untangling the threads of the past to create a narrative for our future.

Keep in mind that the healing process resembles a ship leaving the port and therapy provides an environment where you can safely look into these thoughts and experiences to foster awareness, and that is just the beginning. The interplay between trauma and transference in therapy holds a high degree of value; it's akin to a dance of emotions, perceptions and dynamics that profoundly impacts our experiences.

Complex trauma leaves long lasting marks that pose challenges, in managing emotions forming an identity and maintaining relationships.

The impact of complex trauma runs deep, showing how these experiences shape the way individuals perceive their interactions. Exposing these patterns and shedding light into them we can break the spell of complex trauma. Healing from complex trauma really feels like a spell has been broken!

Transference refers to when people redirect their feelings, desires and expectations from relationships, onto others. It's a process that often occurs unconsciously when clients project their emotions onto their others.

In the context of trauma transference takes on a meaning. Clients may not project feelings onto their therapist but also feelings of fear, distrust or anger stemming from previous traumatic experiences. These projections provide insights into the clients world by revealing the wounds that need attention.

The therapeutic relationship itself becomes a means for healing. When clients establish a connection with their therapist they can change their patterns of relating and develop ways of engaging with others.

In his book "The Body Keeps the Score " Dr. Bessel van der Kolk highlights the importance of feeling secure in our relationships with others. He suggests that these safe connections are crucial, for leading fulfilling and meaningful lives.

At Elephant In The Room LLC we help clients address Complex Trauma, including issues related to transference using a variety of therapeutic methods. Come see us! Be The Hero Of Your Own Story!