“What you do you mean I have trauma and emotional wounds? I’ve never been abused. My dad would stop talking to me for days whenever he was mad at me, but that’s not abuse. Is it?”
“What do you mean I was parentified at a young age? I’m the oldest, and as the oldest, I was expected to take care of myself and my younger siblings. It’s called earning my keep while my parents are working.”
“My parents had to work, so no one ever checked my homework or asked me how I was feeling. They put food on the table and clothes on my back. They said I was lucky to have that, because there were other kids in the world who didn’t. I spent a lot of time alone. I cleaned up a lot, so that my parents wouldn’t get angry at me. I tried to stay out of the way when they were home.”
“I never felt good enough, but that’s not their fault. I was just way too sensitive and they were preparing me for the tough world out there…and that meant criticizing me before the world could so that I would know how to handle it.”
“We traveled a lot. I went to all the best schools. So what if they didn’t pay attention to my emotions? I feel like I hardly have room to complain when other people out there had it worse.”
If you identify with any of the statements above, I want you to know that I see you. The one who struggles somewhere between independence and a sense of loneliness. You know, like struggling to make sense of your childhood and not knowing why you have such a hard time with your parents, and why you felt so alone growing up. Or maybe, you do know why distressing feelings and body sensations show up at the mere thought and sight of them. Maybe you feel like, there’s no sense of “crying over spilled milk.” After all, you turned out okay, right? Yeah, but I’d like to think that spilled milk still leaves a stain, whether you cry over it or not. The question is, how do you deal with the stain?
The role that parents or caregivers play in our development as children, is important to the kinds of emotional resources we gain. We build emotional resources by watching how they’ve dealt with their own emotions; how they’ve expressed them; suppressed them; or even how they became overly reactive to them. Such as through anger, through yelling, saying hurtful words, and using alcohol or drugs. They might have become so consumed by work or their friends that you were often ignored. Or maybe there was the underlying tone, “We don’t deal with emotions here. Figure it out on your own time.”
You might have even had a parent become so consumed by their romantic life, you were not the priority. Then, there’s the possibility that you were exposed to beliefs and messages that to be loved, you had to behave differently. You were forced to guess what was appropriate or not, by observing the responses of your caregivers in comparison to other families of friends. Now, as much as you’ve tried to be different, you find some of those annoying patterns showing up in you and your relationships.
Perhaps, you have trouble sustaining healthy committed relationships. Trust, vulnerability, and emotionally connecting with others takes more time for you. Your attachment style is either really anxious or avoidant (don’t worry we can talk about that later on). You don’t know how to change the patterns of self-sabotaging thoughts and behaviors that keep you stuck and causes the life you want to feel out of reach. I get it. Now, let’s get you to where you want to be in life. We’ll do this, by going through some of the painful experiences you like to avoid, and we’ll create a more coherent narrative. One, where you are able to cultivate more security in yourself and in your relationships.