People seek out therapy when there is a problem that is painful and making life hard. As we start to dive into what’s going on today and how to make it better, we often end up taking a journey back in time to discover when the seeds for present day problems were planted.
Our life experiences are like a backpack that we carry around with us everywhere we go. As kids, we didn’t always have a choice about what got packed into our bag.
Our parents may have put things in there that didn’t belong to us (intergenerational trauma).
Mean girls may have put things in there in middle school (feelings of unworthiness).
A narcissistic partner may have tossed a few boulders in there that weighed us down (self-doubt and trust issues).
Addiction may have wreaked havoc in our family system (sadness and instability).
There’s a lot of things that end up in our bags that we carry with us for YEARS, and there is often a common thread of chaotic experiences in places that were supposed to be safe and nurturing.
Burdens from the past can evolve into all sorts of problems in our adult lives: anger, relationship issues, people-pleasing, and unhealthy boundaries are all symptoms that can pop up in unwanted places as we progress into adulthood.
These experiences end up being internalized as “my fault,” which leads to feelings shame – and shame is what keeps people from asking for help.
Even though we didn’t pack our bag alone, and a lot of what is in there is really unfair and not our fault, it is still our job in adulthood to figure out what to do with all of it.
Our default reaction is to desire to rid ourselves of these hardships and to banish them to a place where we don’t have to deal with them, feel them, or think about them. However, this avoidance ends up having the opposite affect; our problems get bigger and more overwhelming the longer we go without addressing them.
The more we try to ignore wounds from the past, the more they end up affecting us in important places – especially our relationships. Forming and maintaining secure and trusting attachments in our relationships can become a huge source of pain and struggle.
So how does therapy come in?
Therapy involves trusting someone else to unpack your bag with you so that you can determine what you need to heal from and release – and what you want to hold onto and cherish.
For every painful memory, there are probably some really good things in there, too – places you were supported; times you accomplished something; and other nurturing experiences. Sometimes we need someone else to shine a light on those things as we look at all of our memories spread out on the floor.
The journey in therapy becomes this: we accept the invitation to listen to what our present-day problems and symptoms might have to tell us, and we start to work toward a place of healing where we can cultivate more love for ourselves.
With compassion and openness, we seek to understand our stories so that we can start to let go of old narratives about ourselves & start creating new ones.
This process might feel overwhelming at first – after all, prior to this, you’ve had the “childhood stuff” zipped up so tight that it’s hard to even know where to begin. Sometimes it can take a while of getting to know your therapist to develop a sense of safety and trust in the process – and that’s completely okay! Therapy is about you, your needs, your pace, and your process. I’m here as a listener and a supporter toward goals that you identify – on your timeline.
Therapy can offer a safe and supportive space to empower you to do the following:
- Start to break generational cycles of trauma, unhealthy coping patterns, and pain
- Challenge old beliefs about yourself that don’t work for you anymore
- Become more intentional about the type of parent you would like to be for your own children
- Learn to set better boundaries
- Experience more clarity about our future dreams and seek that out with newfound confidence
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