It’s always the same: After a few sessions or minutes in therapy, my clients begin to talk about their relationships, either with their romantic partner or a sibling or a parent. They tell me how difficult some things have been, how deeply hurt they feel, how betrayed, jealous, or resentful they feel within a specific relationship in their lives.
Progress in Talk-Therapy Starts with Hearing about the Clients Childhood
The classic idea about therapy that is we talk and talk about the client’s childhood. Although the best of therapy is not mere talking all the time, there is great truth about the importance of one’s childhood. Our initial wounding happens when we are little and after this wounding, a whole structure of defense strategies gets erected which then masquerades as our true personality.
A child who was abused might become extremely reserved. Those who don’t understand his wounding might simply think he’s an introvert or just shy. What could actually be happening is that this child is severely wounded and no longer trusts anyone. This child’s true personality could be very outgoing and animated, but he won’t (and can’t) access these traits because of the unhealed and undigested wounding he carries.
The Hope is that Clients Learn to Reclaim their True Selves
His journey to reclaim his true self is going to include recognizing what happened to him. He needs to, eventually, come face to face with the destructive actions of his parents and how these actions impacted him. He needs to feel the shock of those terrifying moments of abuse. He needs to claim his power now as an adult by getting righteously angry at these behaviors that wounded him deeply. Make no mistakes here, true healing and growth is a messy process.
Deep therapy can be extremely helpful and life changing. The only thing that can be even better (ideally along with therapy) is having great relationships.
We get wounded in relationships and we heal the most deeply also in relationships.
Every client I have ever worked with, every client who is trying to leave behind an addiction suffers from a severe case of shallow or continuously dysfunctional relationships. Either they are surrounded by those who simply don’t want to (or don’t know how) to treat others more respectfully and lovingly, or my clients themselves have simply given up on relationships altogether.
I haven’t met one client with great relationships who is also struggling with addiction.
I have come to believe, deeply believe, that the quality of our relationships are the most powerful immune system we have against isolation, depression, stress, suicide, addiction, and trauma.
Do you want to have an amazing life? Have great relationships. Do you want to feel deeply happy and at peace? Have great relationships. Do you want to live and feel fully? Have great relationships.
It is that simple and that difficult.
Great Relationships are an Indication of a Happy, Peaceful, Fulfilled Life
Having great relationships means, among other things, that I am so aware of my wounding and conditioning (along with my outdated coping mechanisms) that these no longer have such a strong grip on my life. Having great relationships means that slowly but surely I am leaving behind who I think I am and who everyone else wants me to be, so that I can give a chance to who I really am.
When honesty, authenticity, sensitivity, and integrity function together, we cannot help but have truly amazing relationships. Deepening our experience of life, we are making life truly beautiful for ourselves and by doing the work that must be done, also for so many others.