Customer: “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 hit us so often and so hard that we joked about being bombed.”
And so they joked about it. A joke, huh? Adults who have been abused in their family of origin tend to minimize or not acknowledge the abuse. Every mental health professional recognizes this phenomenon. Rationalizations come in so many forms that it would take a 10-page article to list them all. The most common is “That’s just how people were brought up back then. Why are you making such a fuss 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 yourself as a victim.
When children are abused, they have to subconsciously decide whether their parents were terrible or if they were evil and therefore deserved to be abused. Almost all abused and neglected children feel like they were the bad guys.
Much of what happens in psychotherapy involves the client understanding what really happened to them as a child – understanding how it affects how they view the world and other people in their life today.
As part of a clinical assessment, I often give clients an elaborate questionnaire detailing things that might have happened to them as children. The questions are as varied as asking if a parent has ever been cruel to one of your pets, or if you weren’t fed properly or received spoiled food.
At the start of the assessment, people are asked a general question about how their childhood was. Frequently my clients tell me that they had a great childhood, but then on the detailed questionnaire they check off several boxes detailing abuse and neglect.
This questionnaire is at the back of my book SexSmartbut you can also get an idea of what happened to you in your childhood just by looking at a summary of SexSmart on my website.
In reality, any type of trauma that happened to you in your family also affects your sexuality, and that’s why my book on sexuality actually works as a very good screening for any type of original family trauma or abuse. that you may have suffered.
Being curious about your childhood is worthwhile, especially if you have low self-esteem, difficulty trusting and negotiating in relationships, chronic relationship problems, no friendships, are often anxious, feel chronically depressed, or have sexual problems.
One of the most rewarding parts of being a psychotherapist is helping people understand their past so they can have more love, joy, and happiness in their present life.
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