Where we all began
We were all once children, and psychology teaches us that our experiences as children informed a huge chunk of our personality and behaviours today as adults.
Despite that, many people do not realise where certain unwanted characteristics, reactions, triggers and behaviours come from until they enter therapy. Even then, it can be very difficult to truly be open to exploring where (and more importantly, HOW) certain issues began – usually through fear of somehow disrespecting or blaming parents and other caregivers for what they ‘did’ to us, or for certain painful moments that might not even have been their fault.
Away from Blame
I think it is a shame that Psychotherapy sometimes suffers from this image of blame. Therapy is not about blame, but about discovery. It is not about therapists accusing parents of being abusers, or dreadfully ‘wrong’ in their parenting tactics (though clients are welcome to express whatever they need to express about parental traits). Therapy is about the uncovering, exploration and allowing of personal emotions such as hurt, pain, trauma, etc, that may somehow have been buried in the past, or not processed in a healthy way.
It is about understanding the impact of something on the individual, rather than blaming the person or persons who “did” it.
Uncovering childhood experiences – good and bad- does not mean simply blaming caregivers. It means studying the impact of certain actions or words on our own psyche. It means understanding the dynamics of the family environment and our place in those dynamics. It means breaking down then piecing together the moments, memories and emotions that made our early years what they were, in order to see how they might be negatively affecting who we are and can be as adults.
In the process of exploring memories, there may be experiences of anger, frustration, betrayal, disappointment and confusion, just as there may well be experiences of happiness, joy, gratitude and hopefulness. All of these feelings are normal and the therapist does not judge them.
It is the therapist’s job to simply explore and understand their place in your life, so that you can process them and move forwards.
Why do therapists always talk about ‘processing’ feelings?
In therapy speak, to process a feeling means to feel it, first and foremost (really get in touch with it, know where it is held in the body and mind) then to understand what it is about and where/why it originated. The next step is to accept it as valid. If we don’t accept our feelings, then we don’t accept ourselves. If we don’t accept ourselves, then how can anybody else accept us? The last step is to decide if there is any action to take around that feeling in order to ease its impact on us. A therapist can suggest helpful actions to take, and can help you to move past difficulties in taking action.
Is childhood REALLY that important?
In a word, YES!
Tell a child a far fetched story and they’ll probably believe you. Ask a young child to look behind them because there’s a spaceship approaching, and they probably will. Ask an adult, and they’ll roll their eyes.
Children believe what adults tell them, because they see adults as all-knowing; the fountains of all wisdom. When we get older, we know that other people do NOT know everything, and do NOT have all the answers. But when we’re young, we only have the adults who are closest to us to teach us the ways of the world, and we believe they know enough.
What this means is that the messages we get from the adults close to us, really do stick. And the messages that we get about ourselves are the most important.
If we somehow are taught (passively or actively) that we’re not that intelligent, that we’re not that quick, that we’re nasty or somehow evil, that we’re not wanted or not lovable, those messages WILL hang around in our unconscious psyche.
Messages from childhood that hang around in our psyche become IMPRINTS. They form our internal truths about ourselves. Truths that we no longer need to hang onto as adults, precisely because they’re not true!
Sometimes, the messages were never true. Sometimes, they just are true no longer.
If you would like to explore more about who you are and where certain negative issues in your life are rooted, please feel free to contact me. I offer face to face psychotherapy counselling in Galway, as well as couples counselling and Skype or Email therapy.
I am also beginning a six week Healing Dialogue Circle in Galway from Saturday 2nd September. See here for more details and to sign up in advance.