Our childhood experiences shape our daily responses

Much of what we feel, how we react and the impulses that we have, have been laid down in our childhood and very early adolescent years. That is not to say that we cannot shift and change these, but the older we get, the more difficult they are to change and shift.


However, change is always possible, though this needs consistent work through counselling, care and the empathy of a trained counsellor who can develop a strong therapeutic relationship with their client. The client and therapist working relationship therefore sets the foundation stone for trust and healing in the future.

For many, the chance to reflect, think about and work towards change comes about when there is a major life change that takes place. Divorce, deaths and house moves usually come high up in the stressors that bring out early learnt behaviour patterns, be they disregarding others, consistently blaming loved ones, or not allowing partners to be part of life-changing decision-making processes.

These are just some examples, and others include more drastic learnt behaviours such as emotionally ‘shutting down’, thrill-seeking behaviours or drug and alcohol abuse. The latter are behaviours that seek to provide some form of emotional self-regulation for the affected individual by numbing out emotional traumas and scars that may have developed during childhood or adolescence. 

So, our early experiences of the world through our parents and carers will have long-lasting impacts on the future of our lives. Only by reflecting, acknowledging and working through past experiences, behavioural activities and traumas, can individuals learn to let go of harmful or damaging patterns that they have developed over time.

It is also important to acknowledge that working through this process also means that individuals need to develop a strong sense of self-compassion and self-care in a world that leaves us with little time for this as we are expected to do more and more in shorter periods of time. It is so easy to be self-critical in today’s world and this is at the heart of much of the low self-esteem that people feel. This is felt even more if individuals grew up in families where name-calling, shaming, verbal abuse and threats were part of the communication styles that were used by parents.

This is why making time for yourself is important. Whether that means walking for 30 minutes a day where you can free your mind, meditating or working with a therapist, such activities are an investment in ensuring your mental well-being in the future. 

Furthermore, at times of self-doubt and self-criticism, it is always important to reflect on whose internalised voice it is that is being sharply critical. For some, it could be the historical voice of a parent or carer that was seen or heard to be attacking or it could be the internalisation of experiences around events like bullying that took place at school. Knowing and being aware of who and where that critical voice originated from, is the start of a process of acknowledging that it does not belong in you anymore and that it was never yours to carry. From this point onwards, the healing process can start.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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London, SW7
Written by Fiyaz Mughal, OBE FCMI MBACP
London, SW7

Fiyaz Mughal OBE FCMI MBACP has worked for over 25 years in communities and is a qualified therapist. He specialises in conditions such as generalised anxiety, social phobias, OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorders), panic disorder and also works with clients to explore impacts of geographical dislocation, faith, identity and intersectionality.

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