When therapists are faced with clients that have struggled in their life, we ultimately attempt to look for a source of the struggle. A lot of the time, this comes down to issues in childhood. Regardless of what type of hurt a client faced in childhood or even their teenage years, we know that this can ultimately impact the way that they see the world and themselves. For example: If a client comes to us and says that they feel unsafe around their partner when their partner gets angry (even if they’re not yelling or throwing things), we sometimes deduce that this is a normal trauma response to problems faced in their formative years. If this client grew up in a household that was full of anger and felt unsafe, this can unfortunately lead to issues in their current relationships. We, as therapists, know that anger is a normal emotion to feel. However, if a client is not used to feeling safe when someone is angry – this can lead to issues that they don’t expect.
So, how do we combat this? A step in the right direction is by honoring your inner child. I know, I know, it sounds a bit odd. You as an adult, however, are not the one that’s struggling to deal with strong emotions or conflict. It’s the younger version of you that is tugging on your shirt reminding you that they didn’t feel safe when they were young and faced with this, so why should you? This can lead to physical anxiety symptoms that you might not understand.
When you’re honoring your inner child and making them recognize that they’re no longer unsafe, it might feel a little weird. You see yourself as an adult. However, if you can, imagine the younger version of you in the situation you’re in. How are they feeling? How can you keep them from feeling unsafe or uncomfortable? The first step is simply reminding yourself, or the younger you, that you are no longer in that unsafe situation. You are no longer powerless. Another thing you can do is recognize that your feelings, no matter how the adult version of you is feeling about it, are valid to your inner child. The younger version of you is not well-versed in coping skills, they only want to feel safe and protected.
You can offer that protection to your inner child by honoring what they’re feeling and recognizing that it’s okay to have those feelings. In time, the younger version of you will learn that they don’t have to feel unsafe in situations that once scared them. Creating a mantra, or affirmation, for your younger self and for your older self can calm any anxiety that you’re feeling in the moment. If the struggle you’re having is with a partner, I would also recommend open communication with your partner - or couples therapy!
The therapists at Mindsight are prepared to help you (and your partner, if you want) help heal the wounds you received from childhood.
Shelby Case is a new therapist at Mindsight Louisville! Shelby's favorite things include spending time with her animals and her spouse, watching television (currently they are watching Big Brother), and taking road trips. When she isn't providing therapy to clients, she can be found playing video games (her favorite is The Sims 4) or spending too much money at a thrift store. Shelby's favorite color is green and her guilty pleasure is reality TV shows.
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