Long-standing emotional difficulties

Long-standing emotional difficulties can be deeply ingrained and go back to our childhood. We all remember some hurt feelings we experienced as children, stemming from critical comments or unloving behaviour towards us. In many families there is a range of healthy and unhealthy interpersonal dynamics. Some of us have felt criticised, neglected, unloved, abandoned, invaded or abused, emotionally or physically. This leads to people feeling wounded.

As children, to get our needs met, to survive psychologically and emotionally, we learn to adapt our behaviour, which can become deeply ingrained. Emotional deprivation can leave us feeling unlovable, causing us fear and pain. It can cause us to develop defence mechanisms which protected us as children, but are unhelpful in an adult world. This can lead to behaviour which we ourselves find difficult to make sense of, or understand, like self-destructive or self-sabotaging ways of operating.

If we were isolated asa child, we may continue to isolate ourselves as adults, protecting ourselves from difficult relationships or painful feelings. However, the very mechanism, which once protected us in childhood, can become a barrier or a cause of suffering in adulthood. We may still be grievingor re-enactingan unfulfilled childhood dream or we may have given up important thingsin our childhood, which we no longer need to forsake now as adults.

Many people felt bullied when they were children, like bullied at school or at home and may still feel bullied as adults, perhaps at work, the bullying has not gone away, just become more subtle, or people find themselves being emotionally manipulated. The effects of bullying can continue to influence us in the present. As children, if we were bullied, we may have felt angry, lonely, isolated, passive, self-critical and frustrated. This may have led us to become socially awkward, detached or simply overly compensated by covering up, even to ourselves, how much the bullying has affected us. We may well have felt humiliated and ashamed and perhaps even now in small ways continue to be intimidated by others or may even have become bullies ourselves.

We may end up feeling bad about ourselves, beating ourselves up, blaming ourselves, expressing our repressed anger in unhelpful ways, or we may simply withdraw and perhaps turn to unhelpful habits or destructive addictions.

Feelings which were too difficult to manage as a child may well resurface in adulthood. This may lead to our trying to cover up unbearable feelings. We may experience a strong sense of shame, humiliation or harsh judgement. We may at times resent this wounded part of ourselves. Some of us may be so fully in touch with our wounds, that we can’t see our way out of the pain. Struggling to accept our childhood wounds, we tend to blame either ourselves or others for them. We may become resentful, bitter, rageful or simply withdraw.

There may be guilt, shame, humiliation or self-loathing. This can feel debilitating, as we may feel disgrace, remorse for whatwe have done or for who we are or what we have become. We may also feel guilty for things we haven’t done, for not being the person we would like to be, filling us with a sense of self-betrayal and deep regret. Fear of humiliation, embarrassement and exposure can go to the core of our shame. This may leave us out of touch with our needs, our vulnarabilities, fragilities and feelings of tenderness. We may find it impossible to forgive ourselves, yet our guilt and shame can have healing attributes when we allow ourselves to reconnect with our deep sorrows and pain, reaching towards some form of reparation, restoration and empathy. The therapy can allow space to talk these feelings through. Becoming genuinely proud of who we are and what we have become may be important. Letting go of guilt and shame may be a process we need to go through. Soothing ourselves, being able to lick our wounds and becoming more resilient may help us to learn to trust again, rather than abandoning ourselves to despair.

We may learn, through the counselling and psychotherapy, to meet our own needs, heal our own wounds and become more robust in the future.

When we were younger, we may have felt overwhelmed by painful experiences and had a lack of secure and loving attachments. We may have been treated badly, they may have left or abandoned us or died. We may have felt lonely and frightened. We developed ways of managing our pain to survive. However, our ways of coping back then may not be working for us so well now if we are miserable or empty inside. The counselling and psychotherapy can help with grief, letting go and managing our old wounds with a sense of calm and responsibility so that we feel more connected with who we are, not just with our wounds.