Tell me about your parents…

Have you ever wondered why counsellors and psychotherapists are so interested in hearing about your parents?

It may feel as if you’ve come into therapy to deal with what it going on in your life right now, in the present and “digging” back into your childhood may seem irrelevant and perhaps even disloyal to your parents.

In fact, our past experiences often hold the keys to unlocking the chains around our present lives. As adults, our lives can be both enriched and limited by our childhood experiences and relationships. A mother’s unconditional love can be a blueprint for future tenderness in our own relationships with partners, friends and children. While the rejection and pain caused by an absent or cold parent can make future intimacies difficult, breeding distrust or anxiety.

Abuse in childhood undermines adult self esteem and worth, and research shows it increases the likelihood of chronic illness. The past influences the present. Therefore the work in therapy is not simply to learn about our pasts, but to understand how our past still lives in the present and continues to influence our actions and behaviours. By bringing it into our awareness, so we can learn to change and adapt.

In a Guardian article (August 2021), Straker and Winship wrote: “There is a misplaced stereotype that therapy is simply a process of psychic archaeology that involves a navel-gazing excavation of the past…  we do indeed ask about your mother – and your father, family and friends – but this is in the context of what is now unfolding in your life and in the consulting room. We are only interested in the past as it is lived in the present.”

They continue: “When we are born, we have few internal filters to structure the plethora of stimuli bombarding us. Slowly we begin to develop unconscious filters to organise our world. These filters are shaped by our experiences and by our inherent temperaments. Unconscious filters are extremely powerful and, overall, aid us in navigating the world, but they can become a hindrance…

“Psychotherapy aims to unpack these historical filters to free the present from the past.”

If you would like to explore how your past is living in the present with one of Mind Garden’s experienced therapists please do get in touch.