• TalkMatters
    Psychological Counselling & Coaching

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.

Let negative emotions unveil our true needs and yearning

How often did you experience strong negative emotions in the past week? Negative emotions, if not processed properly, could be disturbing. Nonetheless, they may not be the culprit of issues we are facing, nor a main hurdle of our wellness ! Emotions are just signals and how to understand them is the key job to be done.  These signals reveal the nature of our basic needs and guide us to see if such needs are being fulfilled. By exploring and reflecting courageously, we empower ourselves to make sense from our past experience.  What are the insights brought by Mei Changsu of Nirvana in Fire (a Chinese drama series) and Neo of Matrix? All of us could be living in a Matrix look-alike, going through the same trajectory as Neo.  He was betrayed, beaten up and manipulated N times.  Neo deviates from the program set by the Mastermind. He has the capability to love,  analyze and make choices. However, it is exactly these qualities that put him under a bigger burden than the rest of his race. "I don't like the idea that I'm not in control of my life", the lack of control and loss of autonomy is believed to be a common source of human frustrations. Morpheus of Matrix said, "What is 'real'? How do you define 'real'? If you're talking about what you can feel, what you can smell, taste and see then 'real' is simply electrical signals interpreted by your brain." In a nutshell, emotions are messages! We feel "happy" because we have a positive experience with someone or something we enjoy; we feel "angry" as something we cherish is exposed to violation and we don't want it to be lost. When feeling angry, our pupils dilate, heart beats faster and fists are clenched to get prepared for a fight.  Then, what is the thing that we hold dear for such a defense? How comes the situation hurts and brings us anger .... efforts not being appreciated, love not being reciprocated, or fairness and justice not being seen? What are the different messages different emotions are trying to make? "Despair" and "disappointment" may reflect deep-rooted responsibility and commitment; "sorrow" and "guilt" are products of love and care, and there is always hope being embedded.  Our emotions are part of our cognition and value system. Every day, we traverse between acts of learning and growth, self-defense, giving and taking.  In actuality, we are just choosing to practice the values ​​and sense of self that we deeply believe should be chosen and practiced.  Interestingly, this represents not only the greatest virtue of humanity, but also our biggest limitation! I am watching Nirvana in Fire recently.  Mei Changsu, cast by Hu Ge, once said, "As long as you have desires and emotions, you can never be free." When his friend was worried about the future, he comforted him, "Why bother when things haven't reached that point yet?" In a nutshell, how to perceive our "emotions" is the job to be done.  These signals are revelations of our yearning and whether such needs are being met.    When you experience negative emotions next time, take a deep breath and try not to control them. When emotions start to go and if you feel ready, decode the message that is delivered.  Maybe it's the affirmation from our parents, gestures of love from our partner or recognition from the boss.  Hence, let the insights empower you to interpret and communicate them more effectively! photo credit: hello-i-m-nik-iMwgWUbXxms-unsplash