Why do counsellors always have to drag up the past?
This is something I hear a lot and I can understand why people may not see the relevance of the past when they are upset about something that happened at work last week. Each of us is unique. From our earliest moments, we observe everything that we see and hear and everything that we see and hear is, of course, normal to us. We develop our self value according to our interactions with others and develop a core belief about ourselves that can affect us for the rest of our lives. If we are told to be a ‘good girl/boy’ for Mummy then this would imply that we should be compliant and we may then find it hard to complain or stand up for ourselves. Similarly, if we are told that we are ‘bad’ or ‘stupid’, this can become our identity and stops us from believing that we are capable and worthy of the things we would like. I expect we can all remember something that was said at primary school that still lives with us! To show how deep seated these early values can be, you may remember going to play at a friend’s house when you were young and how very shocking it was to discover that you were allowed to eat sweets before tea (or that you weren’t).So you can see how talking about early experiences is a very important part of counselling. Knowing your early experiences will help me to understand you better and how these have shaped your view of the world, your place in it and also the internal pressures and expectations you put on yourself. So when you come to see me about your anxiety around your forthcoming appraisal at work we can take into account the difficulties you had at school and your feeling that your parents never praised you and that nothing you did was ever good enough.Whenever I meet a new client I always go through their early life as I feel it is so important. This would not mean making my client relive every painful detail in great depth, it would be no more than about 5 minutes, I call it ‘a quick trot’. It is surprising how often my clients start to see for themselves the roots of their issues. This helps them to realise that their self identity is not fixed and that positive change is possible. So next time you hear that counsellors ‘drag up the past’ then you will understand the reasons behind it and how beneficial it will be for your therapy.