Everyone internalizes their family of origin’s history. While some of it is positive, unfortunately some is negative. When it feels like you can’t move beyond some of the familiar negative thoughts, experiences, behaviors and dysfunction from your past, then you’re stuck. To move yourself beyond this, you need to process and sort it all out. Continue reading
Today I’m reflecting on the many patients I have worked with and continue to work with that express how their past experiences, thoughts, emotions and feelings impact and converge upon the present day in their lives. Patients report that things seemed to be going fairly well and then they hit a wall, or felt immobilized, not able to function in their daily lives. This is not uncommon, especially if the past experiences were emotionally challenging and or traumatic.
The past is physically in the past however the emotions are internalized and stay with you, and when you are going about your daily lives, these emotions can get stirred up and can feel overwhelming. It doesn’t mean that you will necessarily know what is happening to yourself at the time, (an unconscious process) you might just feel tired, stressed, depressed, and unable to function much, some patients call in sick and report feeling as though they cannot give anything more of themselves. The unconscious motivates you at times to do impulsive things that are not helpful, and afterwards you mights ask yourself, why did I do that? That is the part of us that is hidden, internalized and needs to be talked about and integrated with the present.
This brings me to another very important point, taking care of yourself. Many people are so good at helping others, and they take pride in it too, but they have not learned how to take care of themselves. They are very accomplished, can take on great challenges and keep on going, like the ever-ready bunny. As the years pass, not taking care of yourself does catch up with you, the old way of just pushing through things doesn’t work any longer and you feel the stress and depression in a new way.
Integrating the past and present is a journey, and it helps you not to feel as scattered, overwhelmed, depressed. It takes time, emotional work, commitment, and determination, think of it as a giving to yourself.
Are there times you feel just helpless, even though you know you are not? It may take a little time before you can get yourself out of the stuck feeling. For many people this is a normal feeling to experience from time to time, for others, it can be an ongoing, debilitating feeling that can take days, weeks, months or years to alleviate or change.
Learned helplessness can happen to anyone and is most commonly influenced by the family environment. This post is not about blame, it’s about trying to understand our feelings, emotions and behaviors, and to learn about our lives. We learn most things from our family of origin, whoever may have raised us, our siblings, and extended family members. Again this all happens because that is how it took place and the family did what they could from what they knew at the time. In addition, some parents have had there own personal problems that influenced the way they parented their children.
Life is complicated and it is like a puzzle, taking one piece at a time and trying to look at it, wonder about it and figure out how and why things happened the way they did. From this point, people often say, ‘well now I’m an adult, things shouldn’t bother me now.’ It sounds good and logical but it is complicated because as much as we want to leave some of the past behind us, it is with us. We actually internal much of what we experience, the emotional and physical together. That’s why it can take time to change things, we have to work on them and practice to take new steps, over and over until it solidifies.
Think about it, when you work a puzzle, do you always get the piece in the right spot first try? Sometimes, but many times we have to study the puzzle, and the pieces, and come back to it over and over again until it fits together. Life is like that too, it always takes work, emotional work, psychological work, to make the pieces come together or to change it. If our parents felt helpless, and did not have the resources, support, determination, and motivation to do something about their problems, or were not ready to face their problems, then this learned helplessness can be passed on to us, unintentionally.