Why Did This Happen?
Many adults believe that their long lost childhood experiences have no bearing on their mental health. I can’t count the number of times I have heard someone say that their childhood was fine. And that they are “happy with what my parents taught me.”
On the other hand, I can count on zero fingers the number of people who are completely happy with all their behavior.
More often than not, I hear folks say there are plenty of things about their life they wish were different. People don’t understand why they cannot stop doing things they want to stop, cannot start doing things they want to start, or never finish things they began. They wonder where their depression comes from. Why they are getting panic attacks all of a sudden, why they blow up in anger, or why they are addicted to something.
When Our Behaviors Defy Logic
The answers to these questions, and to most of the questions about our behaviors that defy logic, lie in our childhood. The fact is that as young children (0-6 years old), we developed responses to confusing or painful experiences that we still use today. We use them when things trigger memories of those difficult childhood times. Whether we remember those times or not, it becomes our knee-jerk reaction.
It is important to understand that the experiences that hurt, confuse, frighten or terrorize a child do not have to be what we would consider horrific or terrifying from an adult perspective. Just enough to cause a child emotional difficulty without sufficient support to handle it.
2 Reasons Mental Health Triggers are Hard to Spot
Unfortunately, as adults, mental health triggers are often hard to recognize for at least two reasons:
FIRST – There is usually no obvious logical link between events in everyday adult life and difficult emotional experiences in childhood.
SECOND – Difficult experiences from childhood are forgotten for a reason. They were very painful. We developed ways to cope with them, like make them disappear from our consciousness. We did that so they would not hurt so much and we could move forward in life like good little boys and girls.
Out Of Control
Now, fast forward 10, 30, 60 years. You are not functioning the way you want to be. Suddenly, you are behaving in a way you cannot seem to control. Unbeknownst to you is a storehouse of painful emotional experiences that control you. As a result, random experiences in your current life trigger those old experiences. Since you have been taught to overcome emotional difficulties with reason and logic, you are likely to characterize your symptoms as an indication that there is something “wrong” with you.
Try Something New
Instead, try recognizing symptoms as an indication that the logic and reason you have used to “shelve” legitimate feelings has broken down. Now it is time for you to discover and express those feelings at an appropriate time and place, without fear of judgment or rejection. Therapy is one of those places.
Want to know more? Give me a call. We’ll talk.
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