The past is not the past!
Many people think that counselling is pointless because "the past is the past" and that raking it up won't make any difference because "it can't be changed". It's the same kind of reasoning that says that there is no point in grieving a loss because "it won't bring them back". Yes, the past is the past, but what we often overlook is that the effects of that past are still affecting the present. That's the only reason why in counselling we do look at the past: to understand - and change - how it affects the present.
The point of grieving is not that we hope that those tears would bring someone back, it's about getting to terms with and find meaning in the effects of that loss. The past often holds the key for problems we experience in the present. For example, if a boy learned to be silent as a child and didn't get much attention, then he probably will find it very difficult as a grown up to talk to his partner, to share his thoughts and feelings because he simply doesn't know how to do it. If he didn't get much attention as a child he probably won't give much attention to his partner or his own children, or even to himself; he won't know how. If a girl learns from the start that she is worth less than her brothers, and less important, she will keep feeling this even as a grown woman, probably mostly unconsciously, and unconsciously she might hand on this lack of self-worth to her daughters.
Neglected children - physically or emotionally - usually keep neglecting themselves as grown-ups and sometimes become neglectful parents. Many people who go to counselling say that their childhood wasn't too bad, kind of normal. But when they look a bit closer they realise that maybe there wasn't real closeness in their families, that there were no hugs or loving words, that they played alone most of the time, that they were mostly afraid of their parents, and that they thought this was "normal" and maybe still think this today as grown-ups. When they look even closer at the ways of their parents, grandparents, maybe even further back, they start to realise that this distance and coldness was handed down from generation to generation, and that they're doing it again, right now, to their own children. They may feel empty, lonely, anxious, depressed or angry, but it never occurred to them that these feelings might have something to do with the way they grew up. We can break this destructive chain and create a better life for ourselves and for generations to come! What responsibility and power we hold in our hands! Let's use it for the good!
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About Judith Schuepfer-Griffin
My name is Judith, and I'm writing in the way I do because I would like to make psychological thinking more accessible for everyone. I have noticed that it often helps to create a context within which new ideas make more sense. With my articles I'm trying to create that context and hopefully also an enjoyable reading experience.