Client: “You know how people antique their unfinished furniture, hitting it with chains to make dents that make the furniture look old?”
Client: “Well, our parents used to hit us so often and so viciously that we used to joke about being shellacked.”
And so they joked about it. Some joke, huh? Adults who have been abused in their families of origin tend to minimize or not recognize the abuse. Every mental health professional recognizes this phenomenon. Rationalizations come in so many forms that it would take a 10-page paper to list them all. Most common is “This is just how people used to be raised back then. Why are you making a big deal about it?”
Parents are the people who are supposed to love us the most in the world. Children love and idealize their parents, no matter what. It is painful to think of oneself as a victim.
When children are treated badly, they unconsciously have to decide whether their parents were terrible or whether they were bad and so deserved the abuse. Almost all abused and neglected children feel that they were the bad ones.
Much of what happens in psychotherapy involves the client coming to understand what actually happened to him or her when they were a child — understanding how it affects how they view the world and other people in their life today.
As part of a clinical evaluation, I often give clients an elaborate questionnaire detailing things that might have happened to them as children. The questions are as varied as asking whether a parent ever was cruel to a pet of yours, or whether you were not fed adequately or were given food that was spoiled.
In the beginning of the evaluation, people are asked a general question about how their childhood was. It’s a frequent occurrence that my clients tell me that they had a fine childhood, but then, on the detailed questionnaire, they check off multiple boxes detailing abuse and neglect.
This questionnaire is in the back of my book SexSmart, but you can also get a sense of what happened to you in your childhood just by looking a summary of SexSmart on my website.
In reality, any kind of trauma that occurred to you in your family affects your sexuality too, and that’s why my book on sexuality actually works as a very good screening for any kind of family of origin trauma or abuse that you may have experienced.
Being curious about your childhood is worthwhile, especially if you have low self-esteem, difficulties trusting and negotiating in relationships, chronic couple problems, no friendships, are often anxious, feel chronically depressed, or have sexual problems.
One of the most gratifying parts of being a psychotherapist is helping people understand their past so that they can have more love, joy and happiness in their current life.
© 2023 NewsmaxHealth. All rights reserved.