Working as a therapist in my own practise involves dealing with many different issues. It’s understandable that people want to solve their problems as soon as possible. But often just looking at the ‘here and now’ is not enough, especially when deeper and unhealthy roots have taken hold.
My husband and I own a building company, and we are very aware that the foundations need to be stable and strong for us to build a solid and well-built house. In fact, if the foundations are not level or have cracks in it, it will affect almost every aspect of that house. If not now, later!
Just like that house, we need to make sure that our foundations are solid, and something that we can build upon.
Family of origin work is an important therapy that gives very good results. It is an intentional exploration of your history; including parental relationships, your environment, the existence of traumatic experiences and how you were shaped as a child and upwards.
This type of therapy is then used as a guide to challenge unhealthy belief systems, coping strategies and defence mechanisms in order to develop new and more healthier patterns.
The question is often asked: “How does my relationship have anything to do with my childhood or with my father”. This is a really great question and one that is misunderstood by many.
The lessons that we all learn from our earliest experiences, especially from the primary caregivers in your life, largely contribute to the way that your brain is wired; your vulnerabilities, your belief about yourself, others and the world around you. This is true about not only parental relationships, but other circumstances that have impacted you also. This means, that how you may be responding in your current relationship could well have a lot to do with how you learnt to respond as a child.
Here are some signs that it’s time to examine those foundations:
• You carry an underlying sense of not being good enough. • You struggle managing your emotions, ie. Are easily angered, sad or afraid. • Unhealthy relationships have become a pattern in your life. • You have trust issues that show up in your relationship.
The very first step is to be aware of those unresolved issues or traumas that are part of your history. Maybe you experienced a lot of bullying through school as a child; or your parents were highly critical; perhaps your father was absent, or there was abuse in your family somewhere; maybe there was a significant event in your life that left you feeling worthless; or you made a choice that had a devastating consequence. Without purposely acknowledging and dealing with these type of events, negative thinking and reaction patterns will continue to surface with often no understanding of why.
My challenge to you is to spend some time noticing your thinking, mood shifts and behaviours over the next week or so. Then ask yourself the following questions:
• Is there a pattern? • How did you handle the difficult situations that you experienced as a child? What did you do to cope? • Do you still use those same coping strategies today and do they now serve you? • Is it possible that you are operating from old ‘stories’ that no longer hold true?
Once you have identified unhealthy patterns, as simplistic as this may sound, you have to change! You can’t do the same thing and expect different results. You may have been powerless in your past, but you now have the power to change your future! Although change can be scary and cause anxiety, walking to the edge of your comfort zone and trying something different to break difficult patterns is all part of that process.
Clients who thrive are the ones that take something from a counselling session and do something different to produce a different outcome.
I want to encourage you to identify the unhealthy patterns in your life and then challenge them. I love this quote and I believe it to be true of you – “You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem and smarter than you think”!!
Fiona is a Counsellor & Family Therapist (MCouns, GradDip Psycho, AdvDipFamTherapy and her husband Rick is a businessman, speaker and mentor. Together they share a passion to help couples build strong & healthy relationships in the midst of a busy life.