I’ve been thinking about people who had dysfunctional, abusive and neglectful childhoods. How does this experience affect their capacity to have open, loving, caring relationships? – Does those early experience make them more susceptible to dysfunctional relationships?
How do people become aware of how their backgrounds have shaped their view life ? How do they break family patterns, dysfunctions and heal the hurt. How do they develop the capacity to have healthy relationships?
Unfortunately, many people do not realise how their past has affected them.
How do they develop a self-awareness of the patterns and malfunctions and not get drawn into them? whether that is in their friendship groups, families, or romantic relationships. How do they build a resilience and a higher expectation in human nature?
What’s the process that enables them to achieve that understanding?
One way in which people develop self-awareness learn to grow, becoming happier and healthier, is through therapy (also coaching and meditation)
I trained as a therapist 20 years ago and worked with adults, young people, and families. What came up always, were the struggles that they had in their relationships. I heard a lot of stories of family stress, unhappiness, abuse. Sadly, at times , they had experienced abuse aggression and violence.
The pattern of dysfunction played through many of the “problems ” presented by the child or the family.
The role of therapy is to create a safe space. It helps people open up and discover more about who are. It can also help them discover what past experiences might still be impacting them.
Sometimes people can be very aware of their past and want to move on but don’t know how. However , If you do not know what you want its hard to create a desired future. More so if your past was toxic. Knowing what healthy lifestyles look like might be quite hard. Its important to learn what you value. It helps to explore the kinds of relationships and what does and dosn’t feel right.
If you’ve not had a positive role model for relationships then you must learn what they look like and create it.
In therapy, the therapist aims to provide the right conditions for open communication. . The therapist may have a range of tools, to help the client explore their current situation. They can also look at how they would rather live their life.
In most therapy approaches, the key emphasis is on the client-therapist relationship.
The therapist also has skills that enable them to help the conversation. With each step, the client can explore areas beyond what they’ve known. They might have unresolved issues that is causing them pain.
As therapy moves on , the client may feel safe enough to share more about themselves. They may share things that they may never have before. Situations that have caused them pain and the range of emotions that they evoke.
Some of these experiences and the feelings associated with them may have been hidden for a long time. Each person is different, and their range of experiences. Thus, the issues they bring into adulthood and the way in which it affects them also varies.
Therapy enables the client to bring the past forward, learn from it, process and transform it. This leaves the client with a new energy in which to be able to engage with the world in a happier and healthier way.
Therapy is also where a client can experience the components of a good healthy relationship. Good therapy models respect and value for other people. The process also enables them to become aware of them and more self-directing.
Therapy provides a place where you are able to express yourself. Its where you have your experiences, feelings, and memories witnessed and validated.
The tough parts of therapy can be when you start to feel painful emotions like anger, frustration and shame. More profound insights may emerge along with the emotions contained within them.
Feeling negative emotions can lead to scepticism -that the therapy is not working. But it is often in those emotions where the process of transformation occurs. The process of shining a light on what was happening unleashes years of stored or blocked energy.
Relationships includes looking at close friendships too. There can be differing agendas and conflicting beliefs. People’s expectations vary and therapy can help unearth these. It helps expose the clients underlying beliefs and perceptions of themselves and others.
As a therapist, we also go through the same process, both in our training and after. We need to also develop this awareness to be effective for the people we work with. It doesn’t mean we are free from negative experiences and our lives are filled only with joy. Being human means embarking on a continuous journey of growth and personal development.
The impact of growing up in a family that was indifferent to you, or your voice felt small, can be huge. It can make some people feel lost and alone. Over time they might lose confidence in speaking up or tackling tough issues. It can then be very hard to discern who the right people are to have around. We form views about ourselves and others very early on. Learning to connect with others is part of the process.
Therapy can be a place to begin . It can be difficult however, for some people to accept the space offered. Sharing with another can feel like a huge step. But once overcome the benefits can be tenfold. A good therapist will outline the key things that help the client know what they can expect. Knowing the boundaries and expectations is key. Yet things change over time and evoke new feelings. Exploring these changes is really helpful as someone is learning to find their feet. Its why in any relationship, its good to take it slow.
As people develop self-awareness, stories ,beliefs about themselves and others emerge. These stories may have been hidden deep for a long time. Through this process, they are both heard and received.
The more you notice how you feel, what fits with who you are, and what you want, the more discerning you can be. This is especially important when in the early days of a relationship.
You are then able to create the right boundaries and only accept people in your circle that match those healthier ways of being.
The stories, patterns, and insights shared with the therapist are heard, valued and not exploited.
In unhealthy relationships, one person can be exploiting another, sometimes in very subtle ways. The interactions can be geared towards the needs of only one person. Dysfunction shows itself through a range of interactions. Sometimes those are overtly abusive, yet people don’t always recognise it . Its even harder to recognise behaviour that is not overt.
Sometimes we can miss the signs, the red flags waving right in front of us. Or for some everything ticks along and feels ok , then one day it shifts. There can be several reasons why signs are missed.
Sometimes we know that we feel a little uncomfortable. We don’t like about whats been said or how we were treated. But instead of saying anything we allow it to pass. In families where there was a lot of violence , small indiscretions can go unnoticed. It was the high level aggression that people learned to avoid.
Talking it through can help you learn to see more of what is actually happening.
Once the client has experienced being heard and valued, they grow their capacity for deeper experiences, without becoming lost scared or confused.
They develop the insights needed to remain aware of what’s happening to them. Previously, they would have got caught in the drama or the day-to-day transactions.
They can also learn to remove themselves when emotions are high, or heated. They can develop the strength and emotional resilience to return at another time.
Clients can be exposed to the darker nature of others. Its not always obvious and wont realise it until the connection has been formed. At this stage people often struggle to leave as they have invested much of themselves.
Also, no one likes to feel duped, or taken as a fool. This can lead people to staying in situations far too long. They can feel ashamed at having entered them in the first place.
At other times, we may only focus on the small aspects of the relationship that feel good; ignoring doubt or that little voice. We may ignore our gut feelings, something is not right. We need to listen to this voice and make it grow stronger.
These experiences are not only for those who are more vulnerable. Sometimes these things happen to the people you wouldn’t expect.
Colleagues have met woman, who were strong and independent who overnight were traumatised. They had become involved with someone who was able to get under their radar.
In therapy, considering close relationships is one aspect of the work. Struggles with relating can spill over in to work too. Sometimes early patterns re emerge. Low self esteem, fear at speaking up and setting poor boundaries can create problems too. Its often when someone starts to feel stressed or taking time off sick that motivates them to seek help.
its at this time true transformation can begin.
Never ignore those deeper feelings of unease. they are telling you something. Get some time out so that you can distance yourself from external distractions . Reflect on where it feels ok and dosnt.
If you feel flat, anxious and upset most of the time, or afraid of someones reaction then you really need to see help.
If there are some signs of anger and aggression in the relationship, or you feel controlled or manipulated , then get out.
Usually , when we take action to deal with issues, its at that point we learn about the other. Its when you notice how the other person treats you indicates. It indicates their capacity to have a decent honest open dialogue. Its where they attempt to not only hear you but reflect on what been said. If not then there could be some early signs of a poor relationship. Sometimes people can grow together, but thats where the work begins. First you have to discern how healthy or damaging it is. Sometimes that’s a challenge to do that on your own.