• TalkMatters
    Psychological Counselling & Coaching

Anxiously-attached husband brings pain to partner

Childhood trauma affects personal growth

https://www.cosmopolitan.com.hk/cosmobody/trauma-of-abandonment Father's sudden departure caused pain that lasts Charlotte is a lawyer.  She joined Legal Aid Department after graduating from the University of Hong Kong.  She chose to study law to manifest justice, while working in the department fulfills her mission of supporting underprivileged people. Charlotte's father disappeared overnight when she was at elementary level. She has a vague impression of him.  She remembers that as a direct consequence, her mother went out to work in support of the family.  Though conditions were not easy in material terms, together with her grandmother and a younger sister, the family of four have been a caring and loving one. Dispute with boss unveiled vulnerability  Charlotte works from 9am to 9pm every day, a non-stop week in summer and seven full days in winter! She leads a successful career.  However, she has never gone into dating at the age of 40. Most of her cases are either domestic violence or sexual assault.  She appears to be a difficult lawyer to all the male defendants.  Sometimes even felt as too harsh on them! In a recent case, her boss wanted her to  file a Child Neglect case.  However, she insisted on attempting Child Abuse. The disagreement strained the relationship between the two. As a matter of fact, her boss felt that her personal judgement might precede a professional one. Fortunately, her boss has always supported her.  When this case settled, her boss suggested her to seek expertise assistance and to sort out her physical and mental well-being. There could be something to resolve. Absence of father triggered unhelpful self-defense In fact, Charlotte has always been doubtful of her over-commitment to work.  She immediately made an appointment with a female counsellor. In the first two sessions, they talked about family, growing up and work experience. When it came to her father, Charlotte expressed that he was no longer there. In the third session, when Father's Day was approaching, the two talked about impressions of their fathers.  Charlotte was not able to share details of her father.  Nonetheless, his sudden disappearance from her world was disturbing. Inexplicably, Charlotte got emotional. She exploded with tears.  Gradually she unfolded the truth that her father had left the family when she was 7 years old. The counsellor accompanied her to re-visit this past experience.  Charlotte went to a co-educational school, she tried to stay away from all male classmates. She also disliked approaching any male teachers at school.  She didn't seem to have any trust in men.  In addition, all her friends and idols were females. When she graduated from law school, she "logically" chose to join a chamber led by a female. Empty Chair Therapy, heals pain from deep-inside The counsellor facilitated her to slowly reconstructed her feelings of her father. It was immense anger and hatred. This is also a wound that needs treatment. She feels like being abandoned. Sometimes she would suffer from self-blaming for having done something that drove his father away.   Subsequently, she has not been able to accept the opposite sex. She has not attempted to love or be loved.  Her adolescence and early adulthood was deprived by these traumatic consequences. The counsellor used Empty Chair Therapy to help Charlotte process her intense negative feelings.  She imagined her father as sitting on a chair in front of her.  This was the scene - she woke up one day just to discover that her father was gone. Her mother was sad and angry. The feeling of loss, helplessness and abandonment has been consuming her. She was sad in the counselling room.  Fortunately the presence of a trusts-worthy counsellor was empowering.  The expectations and dissatisfaction deep in her heart was revealed.  Gradually, the counsellor also guided her to explore her father's situation at that time.  What were the challenges he could be facing, what has he done, did he have many choices to work on?  As a result, the same incident started to burden her less and she was able to feel relieved.  Traumatic symptoms are not easy to detect Due to the fearful nature of trauma, the individual inclines to cover it up sub-consciously.  Charlotte has luckily begun her journey of self-awareness and healing.  Thanks to her boss's observation and suggestion, her childhood experience and her value system were revealed in a safe counselling process. If your views are always different from the majority or there are exceptional emotions towards certain groups or behaviors, approach a trusted person to talk with.  Try to open up yourself.  A courageous conversation with your past could be helpful.  Let's open the curtain and allow the sunshine to come in. The sudden disappearance of Charlotte's father has destroyed the integrity of a family overnight.  To a child, she might perceive it as the smashing of a beloved toy.  The impact may be more lethal than the death of a closed family member or witnessing a fatal accident!  If the emotions continue to entangle, please seek professional help.