Why Does My Therapist Ask About My Childhood? - An Excerpt

Posted on Thursday, 1st August 2019

This is something people tend to wonder quite a lot. I thought this article explained it in a succinct and undestandable way.

"Looking at the past may seem incongruent with your current difficulty. You can’t change the past, so why does it matter?

Our early relationships, our family dynamics, our friendships and our schooling, the way we learned to adapt to our surroundings, and the way our unique personality shaped and perceived our experiences, all mix to form the ingredients that make us who we are today. We cannot change what has happened to us. But if we are suffering in the present, understanding how past experiences exacerbate current problems can enable us to reframe our thoughts and better regulate our feelings in response to what is happening today.

Oliver learnt, in childhood, that it was safer to push his vulnerabilities out of awareness and show the world a hardy front. He later found a way to compensate for this lack in himself by choosing ‘needy’ partners. When trauma in adulthood triggered feelings of vulnerability and helplessness, he became anxious and overwhelmed. His once-successful survival strategy – disowning his vulnerable feelings and placing them safely into others – now fails him. Developing emotional insight into his past and present experience, Oliver comes to realise how, and why, he came to manage his feelings in this way. Liberated from the emotional shackles of his past, he begins to find new, more balanced ways of coping with these feelings in himself today.

How do we recognise the past in the present? Relationships are one window to our history’s imprint. Our minds internally map our early relational experiences, guiding the way we relate to others. This includes the way we relate to our therapist in the present. (Often called transferece). Within the unique conditions of the therapy setting, our therapist can help us to recognise the way that our past relationships influence us now. This is a powerful tool for change.

The past matters only because it is present, unconsciously tethering us in its murky depths. Bringing our patterns of relating into awareness helps free us from our historical script allowing us to come to know our range of feelings and review the way we relate today, both to ourselves and to others, opening new possibilities for our future. Sometimes, to go forward, we have to take a step back."

An excerpt from an article on Welldoing.com by Shelley Williams, published in July 2019

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