Our Wounds - Counselling London
Childhood Wounds We are all wounded in some way. Through the experience of learning how we affected our parents and how they affect us, throughout the transition from vulnerable infant towards autonomous adult, we all have some degree of narcissistic wounding. How we were seen, met, heard, understood, responded to (including mismatches between child and carer) affects our own script, relationships now and unmet mirroring. None of us have got through home, school life and the experience of people around us without some level of wounding so we had to create our wounded self. All of us have experienced the hurt feelings of our heart in childhood (including any traumas) from someone's comments or unloving behaviour, which was too big & hard to handle for a child, and we may continue coming from this hurt, unhealed child place in our way of being as an adult. Sometimes the very person we turn to for comfort for doesn't offer this. In most families there are a range of healthy and unhealthy dynamics and we may not have received the nurturing we needed and without adequate healing this can continue now in our relationships. We may have been on the receiving end of blame, criticism and end up blaming ourselves now. We may have felt neglected, abandoned, rejected, invaded or abused, having little trust now. Our childhood may have prematurely come to an end. From emotional deprivation, our wounded seIf (the part of us that through our need to survive things has learnt different ways of trying to control our painful feelings & outcomes to protect us) then becomes created, to help us survive. Yet our wounds don't have to be set in stone. To get our love needs met we learn to adapt. For some, beliefs can set in, that we are wrong, bad, it is our fault if we are being treated unlovingly or not protected. It is as if this wounded part of us believes we are unlovable, resulting in fear & pain, as if we are a lost soul at times. This belief can continue into adulthood as if we are bonded by our childhood wounds (see also Our First Relationship - Early Connections & Bonding Patterns) and these wounds may be connected to insecure attachment when younger. Isolated as a child, we can continue to isolate as an adult. We may have learnt to avoid any painful feelings, e.g. envy or jealousy, for protection. We may have closed off, shut down, numbed our feelings, bottled things up. What once protected us, may now be a barrier, as this avoidance of our wounds as an adult may now cause our suffering. As an adult now there may be a part of us that has a wounded heart, remains stuck in our old wounds, still grieving or re-enacting our unfulfilled childhood. We may have forsaken things in our childhood through our wounded, fearful self, that we no longer need to forsake now. These may have been things we couldn't handle in our past that we want to find the resources for now, so we can change the things we want to change. We may have convinced ourselves that there were things we could do to get our parents to love us and still try to control this in our current relationship, impacting on how we give, receive, share love. (See also Impact Of Our Past)
The wound is the place where the Light enters you.Rumi
We Learnt To Interpret How Our Parents Were "Loving" Our parents may have loved us under certain conditions:
- That we cleaned our room (equating love with tidiness, neatness)
- That only some emotions would be acceptable, e.g. if we never got angry, depressed (equating love with only allowing, expressing certain emotions)
- That doing things perfectly makes us loved (equating love with trying to be perfect)
- That we take on the career our parents expected of us (equating love with parental validation)
- That as children, we should take care of our parents, look after their needs (equating love with caretaking)
- That if we were "loved" with the messages given through food or through experience of sexual abuse then our wounded self equates love with sex or food (which may be linked to emotional eating now)
Beliefs From Our Wounded Past, Fearful Place Our wounded self focuses from fear. Some of us may experience a familiar voice of limitation from our wounded past - which back in time helped us survive, kept us safe, yet now may keep us small, limit us by struggling to take risks, because we are stuck in believing our old fears, e.g. if we want something to happen, our wounded, fearful self - that was formed in order to protect our survival (which we needed to do back then) will find reasons why things can't be done now. Self-absorbed, our entire focus may be from our wounded self, hoping that others will fix us, make things better, not judge us. Yet ironically it is often we who is doing the judging. Some of our beliefs may include that we are not enough, not liked, don't deserve to be loved, inferior (see also Self-Esteem, Confidence, Criticism, Insecurity & Assertiveness) we should just get on with it (see also Unhelpful Self-Beliefs Related To Our Esteem). If our non-responsive parents didn't have the ability to nurture us, give us enough loving time when younger (see also Relationship Style, Attachment Patterns), we can seek out others in our intimate relationships who treat us the way we wanted our parents to and feel ashamed and carry this with us now. We may also believe we need to be perfect, guarded, protect our heart until we know it's safe to love, that things are too difficult, we might fail, there is not enough time, that if we take responsibility for caring for ourself we will end up alone. And from a familiar wounded place inside of us (often influencing our early unconscious beliefs) and fearing loss, we may be attached to controlling outcomes, others (or our partner), which we cannot control. From our wounded place we may want to control others by believing we are responsible for their feelings or make them responsible for ours (see also Codependency (Co-Dependency) - Caretaking). In trying to avoid pain, emptiness our wounded self may believe we have to use strategies to get love, approval, affirmation, safety. We may also believe that trying to be safe - having control over this is loving which can result in anxiety. And from this wounded place of fear we will focus on the outside to obtain security, love and therefore try to control the outside experience, which of course we can't. Choosing our intent to be loving ourself may support us. Any limiting beliefs may not entirely disappear, yet as we step away from them, our attitude to them can transform and empower us so we no longer suffer because we got stuck in the past. A further challenge may be for our wounded self to believe and trust that our loving adult is taking, choosing a better path (see also Our Own Path Of Development), as we get in touch with our own truth. (See also Avoiding Fear & What May Lay Underneath It)
Adult Wounds Through carrying a collection of childhood wounds we may be at some level living as an adult child, eternal child. From childhood, we may have inherited some distorted views about what love is. Sensitive at times, often it is easier to see wounds in others that are our own. It may not be unusual for us to attract partners who remind us of one of our parents or who are at a common level of woundedness (see also Fear Of Separation, Loss, Rejection & Abandonment Issues), yet also we have the opportunity to attract others around us at our common level of health so when we are loved, accepted for exactly who we are we are also able to accept, love ourselves. All of us have felt wounded as an adult (and maybe our own parents at times were too wounded to help us). And in these deep wounds we may try to ignore or bury them, cry or feel like crying like a child. Some of us can get easily punctured or wounded and often we have familiar hooks, triggers, where our buttons can get pressed. Some of these wounds may never entirely go away. We may no longer want them to pervade our life (or the unhelpful habitual thinking patterns, running commentary of our wounded self). Many of us try to avoid feelings, which we believe we can't manage, which may be associated with primal wounds when younger, which we may continue to carry now in our painbody. We may get anxious or insecure, maybe believing love isn't safe or love means loss (of ourself or the other). We may turn to unhelpful habits or addictions. The effects of bullying now or in the past can have huge impact on us. There may have been experiences we couldn't handle when younger (that live on now), because we didn't know how to back then, which we can now address with our adult resources (see also Struggling To Grow Up). Our wounds, wounded feelings, responses may include:
- Beliefs that we are not good enough
- Remaining stuck in our head and struggling to connect to the innocence of our childhood
- Living from fear-based "truths"
- Wounded pride
- Wounded sadness
- Hurt feelings (and how we get hurt in relationships)
- Anger, resentment
- Fear, anxiety
- Blame, control & criticism in our relationship
- Our regrets
- Guilt or shame
- Insatiable unmet needs & wants
- Envy, jealousy
- Emptiness, Loneliness
- Grief, loss, sorrow
- Our sensitivities
- Struggles with accepting painful realities
- Stuck in self-pity
- Struggling to put trust in us
- Difficulties listening to our own intuition
- Wanting others to take responsibility for our feelings
Primal Wounding A further wound for many of us may include managing the gap (our need for certainty or struggle to bear the unknown) between what we take ourself to be - our previous familiar sense of identity and who we actually are - our Self and we can feel stuck, lost (or stuck in our painbody) inconsolable - as if experiencing a dark night of the soul which can be a source of spiritual suffering. The counselling explores how our primal wounds can be healed.
Our Wounded Behaviour Feeling bad inside - beating ourself up, we can blame others. We can express anger in unhelpful ways. Like wounded animals under threat some of us can attack others, yet struggle to acknowledge the part of us that is wounded. Others simply withdraw or turn to unhelpful habits or addictions. Our wounded behaviours may point to the need to manage our pain or hurt differently.
Abandoning Ourself When we are in our own wounded place it may well point to our own inner abandonment of our fear-based small or adult self, where we prefer to control and are unable to come from our integrity. So if our own essence got squashed, invaded, unheard or ignored, or we received mixed messages because for whatever reasons our parents were ambivalent or unable to tune into us, give to us validation, reassurance, recognition, approval, acceptance, we too may do the same, not listening or responding to the wounds from our childhood or adult wounds now, mirroring what we experienced when younger (and this can echo into fear of loss, abandonment, rejection in our relationship). We may experience our wounded self (e.g. as bad, unworthy, with much to do or fixed, that we must change and understand everything) as an illusion based on our false beliefs. From the eyes of our wounded self (see also Responding To & Managing Our Painful Feelings Back Then & Now) we may struggle to see our essence. Some of us may take some sort of negative pleasure from staying wounded or becoming like a victim. Soothing ourself, being able to lick our wounds & being resilient may assist. Learning to trust again, be intimate, coming from our core self, less our wounded self (ego) may be important to us (see also Lack Of Love - Trying To Heal Our Parental Relationship From Our Wounded Self). When we abandon a part of us in specific ways, we may not only ignore, disrespect ourself, but also ignore the effect on others, who may also feel disrespected. Being in the present moment may support us.
Reactions Our psychological wounds can affect our physical wellbeing (see also Our Body's Interconnectedness To Our Thoughts, Emotions, Etc). We may also have redundant beliefs about us & the world. Others may experience a sense of meaninglessness. And feelings which were too hard to experience as a child, may resurface in our adulthood, and our behaviours can cover them up. When we do this, our wounded self re-emerges, where we can become self-righteous. We may experience our own shame or harsh judgement. Some of us may not be in touch or resent this wounded part of us. Others may be so fully in touch with our wounds, that we can't see our way out. Struggling to accept our childhood wounds, we tend to blame either us or others for them. We may withdraw or become resentful, rageful. Any unloving or controlling behaviour we experienced, we now inflict on us & others. Especially if we are carrying earlier shame, we may for example believe we have to punish our parents and never be happy - that we would rather remain miserable, even at our own cost, otherwise our parents would win, control us or believe they were good parents. Yet blaming our parents for what happened may keep us trapped as a victim (see also The Impact Of Our Past Affecting Us Now, Including Our Relationships). Treating ourself with kindness, compassion, may be missing (see also Lack Of Love - Trying To Heal Our Parental Relationship From Our Wounded Self).
Compassion For Our Wounded, Fearful Self Living from our adult self may be important for us and our wounded self may need our compassionate attention, as we bring this part of ourself on board. The wounded part of us (who may feel hurt, angry, anxious or depressed) - living behind our masks, defences, created to hold unbearable fears, painful feelings, which threatened our survival, because things were too big or dangerous to us back then, may have prevented our real self emerging, deeply feeling our feelings, which can bring grief, anger. We may never know all the details of exactly what happened. We may be faced with risking opening our heart, deeply & patiently connecting with ourselves, opening to others in deep, meaningful ways, as we let go of what we need to - no longer attached to outcomes, controlling others, trusting that all will be well, that we can relax because we are being our self - real. Our wounded self may also need to engage with a spiritual connection as part of our healing. The counselling may also explore our healthy strategies or lessening the impact of our triggers. These may include scanning our body with what's going on, grounding ourself, connecting to our breath, mindfulness, meditation, self-soothing. It may help us to discover, nurture our own creative responses, including what comforts us physically, emotionally, being with supportive others, so we are not alone and we grow. Counselling and psychotherapy can support us in honouring, validating, appreciating, having warmth, respecting & giving attention to our wounded self (and being aware of the associated memories), so we can now understand, process and manage painful feelings, emptiness, loneliness and through connection with the innocence of our inner child, be in our own loving adult, seeing love for what it actually is, re-parenting our wounded self, taking full responsibility for our feelings, thoughts and any wounded, controlling behaviours viewing them with lightness, humour.
The wound is the place where the Light enters you.Rumi
Our Hurt Feelings & Emotional Pain
Don't consent to be hurt and you won't be hurt – this is a choice over which you have control.Epictetus
Protective Patterns, Over-Defensiveness We all have our egos, defences, protective patterns (partially formed from our early attachment, bonding affecting our relationship and attachment style now). Our defences (e.g. withdrawal, deadness) are adaptations, serving a purpose, and we need them to protect ourselves, as a compensation. They are often an appropriate response to situations back then we couldn't manage, but may not always be helpful now. Utilising our personal boundaries, protects us & we need these attributes and responses, yet for some, our boundaries may be overly rigid become like barriers and although an adult now (see also Struggling To Grow Up), we may fear relinquishing our familiar defensiveness, cover up being defensive including how upset we are, our hurt or become cynical, sarcastic, arrogant. We may feel inferior - maybe through resignation, compliance, or superior - maybe through resistance. Others may show indifference, brood, covertly, overtly sulk (often through hurt or anger), be in rebellion, especially in our relationships - maybe through using silences, withdrawing. We may suppress, repress our feelings, internalising them, withdraw, withhold or compartmentalise things, splitting things off through all or nothing thinking. Some may become overly-defensive - responding disproportionately to something, e.g. by minimising painful feelings, devaluing personal closeness, become emotionally distant, comparing, unnecessarily competing, numbing our feelings, closing off, shutting things down, bottling things up, controlling, withdrawing or attacking in our relationship (compounded when feeling overly sensitive when our buttons are pressed, triggers or hooks get activated). Our ego may be driven by what others think, our reputation, our fears rather than who we are - our self, our values, just being. The therapy can support us in exploring what it is we may be defending against, any old defences or protective patterns, old survival traits, we continue to justify to ourself, which may now be redundant. We may for example have felt powerless or like a victim when younger, yet this may not support us now. When we are being defensive, these uncomfortable feelings (often of emptiness) can be experienced differently in our body. Sometimes we may need to get out of our own way yet from the place of our ego we must be right as we tightly hold on to our defences (maybe living as if only we count). We may also want to respond to things differently, so we are freer to relax, have peace of mind, accept others' points of view, acknowledging we may not always be right (see also Getting It Right, Needing To Be Right, Righteousness). The counselling and psychotherapy may also explore what part of us is in denial (reality distortion), resistance, intellectualising, struggling to let go, our stumbling blocks, obstacles, reluctances, our intentions behind our thoughts, the benefits and meaning of what is being defended against, who or what we are trying to control and any other ways we can frame our beliefs, so they support us, as we get in touch with our humility, dissolve our ego when we need to supported by reflection, stillness and balance. Usually there is no substitute other than feeling our core pain and finding our own way through it out to the other side. The children's book "We're Going On A Bear Hunt" in an amusing way tells us this: "We can't go over it. We can't go under it. Oh no! We've got to go through it!". The therapy may also consider how our own sense of worth, confidence holding back any change, may adversely affect us and also explore how our defences may also impact upon our relationship, e.g. projecting onto our partner our unwanted feelings and how free our choices to be open, vulnerable in giving and receiving love so we no longer abandon ourself. When we drop our ego's defences we may experience a sense of meaninglessness. Others may experience authenticity when we leave our ego at the door.
Denial ain't just a river in Egypt.Mark Twain
Lonely Inside Some of us may experience deep loneliness, emptiness from the place of our wounded self or suffer from existential angst. Counselling & psychotherapy can provide the space to reflect upon these issues alongside supporting you connecting with aspects of yourself, which may have laid dormant (see Connecting To The Innocence Of Our Childhood - Our Child Within).
Hurt Feelings & Emotional Pain In Relationships There may be hurt in our relationship. Often we can attract a partner, who has a similar level of need (or childhood wounds), in the hope that they meet our needs and heal our wounds. Each may have abandoned themselves in order that the other heals them. We may gravitate towards a partner similar to our parents that we have unresolved issues with. Each others' wounds can get reignited & the challenge in counselling & psychotherapy may be to find ways to heal our own childhood wounds, hurt feelings and meet our own unmet needs. We may also select a partner, who seems less wounded than us in the hope that they can look after us & be in the perfect relationship of our dreams. Conversely, ignoring our own wounds we may believe our partner is more wounded, or carries all the wounds. Stuck in our wounded place we may try to control our partner & outcomes by believing that if we get their love, all will be well, or that if we love enough, we will be loved & powerful. Some of us may struggle with asking for what we need or stating something like "You can't be responsible for our feelings, but this is what it made me feel". Much of what happens in our relationship may be occurring unconsciously.
Our issues only get triggered within our relationship - not when we're alone. The closer the relationship, the deeper the wounds become activated, providing us with opportunities to heal whet we need to heal.
Our Hurt Feelings, Emotional Pain Some may be used to looking after others' hurt & pain, yet struggle to recognise their own (see also Codependency (Co-Dependency) - Caretaking).Certain pain, that comes from deep inside, can take time to be discovered. Our hurt feelings can linger when we continue to replay and hold on to past hurts in our mind. Hurting so much can stop us being positive. We may have learnt to suppress our hurt feelings, emotional pain, get stuck with it, feel sorry for us or dump hurt onto others. We may want to hurt others, lack sensitivity or care about other people's emotions. Taking things personally, others may be very sensitive to being upset or hurt, overwhelmed by emotional pain or fear (including fear of rejection, abandonment). We may find it hard to communicate what it is that is painful, hurting us, reflect & gain insight into our hurt feelings, emotional pain. Sometimes people deliberately hurt us and if so we may need to take care of our inner child, not be around others who may not realise they are being uncaring or hurtful. On other occasions it can be our wounded part is being triggered by what we are telling ourself - making things up, nothing to do with others hurting us. We may be so wrapped up in anger, frustration, resentment, have become unhappy and other wounds we carry, that the world looks different. Our emotionally painful feelings can hold us back, forgetting what's important to us, taking us further away from any goals, plans. We may struggle to let go of our hurt, forgive, so we take our power back, move on & learn to trust ourselves again.
The truth that many people never understand, until it is too late, is that the more you try to avoid suffering the more you suffer because smaller and more insignificant things begin to torture you in proportion to your fear of being hurt.Thomas Merton
Responding To & Managing Our Painful Feelings Back Then & Now In our formative years we may have felt overwhelmed by painful experiences or lacked secure & loving attachments. People may have treated us badly, they may have left or died, we may have felt lonely, scared or inconsolable. Back then we developed ways of managing, burying our pain (maybe copying how others tried to cope, shutting down our emotional pain or acting it out), so we could survive within the limited tools we had available (some may hold nihilistic beliefs now). Wounded, we may have developed fantasies in our interpretations, held on to assumptions to avoid what was too painful back then and continue to do this now, continuing to believe that ignoring our feelings will ease our pain. Avoiding our pain may not necessarily support our resilience. The systems for responding to & managing our emotional pain became our way of coping, including our judgement, blame, shame, guilt or control, developing loyalties, oaths or sacred cows, turning to unhelpful habits, addictions, which now hold us back. And our ways of coping back then may not be working for us so well now if we are miserable or empty inside (see also Impact Of Our Past). Serving us little purpose, we may no longer want to carry the hurt or burdens of our past. Dropping our hurt, letting it out, moving towards a different place, may now matter to us. Becoming no longer afraid of our core painful feelings, experiencing them, learning to manage them, acknowledging our suffering & love, may deeply affect us, as we liberate ourself from our past feelings. Some people experience the benefits of releasing any negative feelings to the power of the universe, spirit asking for these to be replaced by acceptance, peace, love. Counselling & psychotherapy can help us with our grief, letting go, responding to & managing our old childhood wounds & emotional pain now, taking responsibility and being with this wounded part of ourselves, able to endure suffering and open our heart, with our sense of calm, compassion & responsibility, so we are more connected with who we are, rather than our wounds, as we develop our resilience maybe choosing the long way home. Stronger inside we may be more equipped to respond to hurt in our relationship, marriage - much of which may be linked to our early attachment, relationship style. And when we do feel hurt or pain, we can say something like "You can't be responsible for my feelings, but this is what it made me feel".
Healing Our Wounded Self Sometimes past events affects how we cope with life now. When we were younger, it can be as if we have created a wounded self in order to help us survive pain, hurt, loneliness, helplessness, heartbreak. We learnt many protective strategies, behaviours, to avoid the pain which back then we were too small to manage. This ingrained wounded part of us also carries various false or limiting beliefs, e.g. that to hurt is a failure, defeat, that we are empty inside, that others, especially our partner, should treat the way we wanted our parents to. We may have got used to pain rather than believing we can reduce it, heal it. We may also need to heal from any unhelpful beliefs that there is something wrong with us. It can be a challenge to unpack our own judgements of our behaviours and beliefs, learn about them, be in touch with our pain & innocence of our inner child, no longer dependent on others to make us feel loved, safe, freer to choose pleasure rather than familiar pain (see also Victim Or Martyr). Usually when we avoid emotional pain, repressing it, warding it off, it increases. Recognising our pain (see also Our Painbody), accepting it, that negative experiences & painful emotions are a part of life, yet disidentify from them can help us embrace our painful thoughts and feelings, so they no longer hold us back as we develop our own ways to overcome them, compassionately healing what we need to heal, maybe discovering wisdom from our wounds. We may want to open our heart to the depths of our soul - our suffering & love, be emotionally freer. The counselling and psychotherapy can support you utilising your personal boundaries in this process and also considers the forces of the unconscious, integration of all your feelings.
A pearl is a beautiful thing that is produced by an injured life. It is the tear [that results] from the injury of the oyster. The treasure of our being in this world is also produced by an injured life. If we had not been wounded, if we had not been injured, then we will not produce the pearl.Stephan Hoeller
Finding our way through our pain, authentic, core, existential life feelings, psychological wounds, feelings of depression, can strengthen us (see also Emotional Responsibility, Emotional Energy, Emotional Health, Emotional Wellbeing, Emotional Evaluation, Emotional Strength, Emotional Resilience, Emotional Intelligence, Emotional Growth, Emotional Maturity - Being Emotionally Connected). The counselling and psychotherapy can be a containing space to hold, express our pain because joy and pain come from the same place in the heart and when we put a lid n our pain, stuffing it back inside, we put a lid on our joy (see also Suffering & Love). Finding our way through our pain (and sometimes the flow of tears can help us navigate through our pain) - not from our wounded past but through our loving adult can empower us, put us in touch with our home truths. Our emotional pain can be seen as a message that our thoughts, choices, behaviours are not working and understanding the meaning of these messages can enable us to learn what needs to be accepted or changed and for deep healing to happen as we take responsibility for what we can do differently. Most of us don't welcome emotional pain (see also Overwhelmed By Feelings - Managing, Balancing, Overseeing & Transmuting Our Emotions, Core Painful Feelings). Our physical pain reminds us of a need to pay attention and respond to what is happening in our body and our emotional pain may also be viewed as a symptom that something inside of us needs attention. Our pain (see also Our Painbody) can help us take stock, review our lifestyle and who we are, change what we need to (however it would be counter-productive to try to heal our parental relationship through our wounded self). When we no longer are stuck in our past clamp our pain down, suffer (maybe from a belief inside our wounded self, who is invested in suffering, because it may have been taught that god wants us to suffer), we can learn how to hold our wounds that were previously raw or overwhelming by being anchored, grounded, centred in ourself, where our emotional pain can broaden our perspective, as we no longer try to fix pain by focussing back on it, but also facing it, embracing it, helping us value the preciousness of life, enabling us to be more appreciative, creative, compassionate, reaching out to supportive others, belong, moving us forward and motivating us by fighting back and improving ourselves with the potential to open up our sense of joy, humour, playfulness, laughter, aliveness.
We are not held back by the love we didn't receive in the past, but by the love we're not extending in the present.Marianne Williamson
Guilt, Shame & Loathing
Healthy Guilt Healthy guilt is natural and healing. It is important because it leads to a positive response, being accountable for our actions and remedying situations, taking responsibility for our choices if we haven't behaved in ways that is not in the highest good of us and others. Healthy guilt is when we have deliberately set out from our wounded place to hurt others. When we've actually done something wrong, harmed someone. Our feelings of guilt or remorse developed from our own conscience are entirely appropriate. We may feel genuinely guilty for what we've done - maybe something ethically or morally wrong, intentionally hurting someone, and want to make an effort to correct, put right our mistakes and apologise. Healthy guilt helps push us to correct our mistakes, ask for forgiveness from the person we hurt, and helps change our ways.
Unhealthy Guilt, Toxic Guilt - Feeling Guilty For The Wrong Reasons Disappointed, we may wallow in our guilt, have regret for what could have been. Others can even "get off" on feeling guilty - take some sort of masochistic pleasure in doing so, almost enjoying it at some level. Unhealthy guilt wastes our energy when we tell ourself we've done something wrong when we actually haven't - that we had no deliberate intent to harm anyone and if someone takes our well-intended behaviour personally, gets upset, hurt, angry with us for doing what we want from our highest good we don't have to carry unhealthy guilt or believe we are a bad person. This toxic guilt is especially true if we (usually our wounded self) take things personally, believe we are responsible for others' feelings or that it is our fault, even though we have done nothing unloving, where we not only take on our own guilt but also unnecessarily allow others to make us feel guilty, as if we are responsible for their happiness. We may accept this blame from others because we would like to believe we can control others' feelings (e.g. for them to be happy). This form of guilt, alongside our self-blame, self-criticism, self-judgement (some of it from our childhood) can weigh us down, be a burden and we may be carrying a guilty conscience (or respond by trying to please others, give in to them, not assert ourself, live in in codependent ways). Sometimes we can feel guilty about things we have no reason to, as if something sits there on our shoulder. What we tell ourselves - our self-judgement & critical voices, anger, depression, anxiety dating back from the connections we made from our wounded feelings, may also affect our guilt & shame now. We may even feel guilty for things that haven't even happened (as if the ghosts from the past are present now). We may feel guilty for having any needs, asking for them, saying "No" or guilty for what we do well, relaxing, enjoying anything pleasurable or having fun (as if we don't deserve this). We may also feel guilty when not sacrificing ourselves, yet end up feeling like a victim, martyr. We may not only feel guilty for things we haven't done, but also experience existential guilt for not being the person we would like to be, and the counselling & psychotherapy can help support us through this. We may blame, criticise ourself, even for the things outside of our control, as if we omnipotently believe everything should be in our control. Counselling & psychotherapy can support us in no longer stewing in our guilt, so we can forgive ourselves and the therapy may also include exploration of our unhelpful habitual thinking patterns, negative thoughts & their meanings. The therapy may also explore our thoughts about perfectionism and need to get things right. "I should..." may be a frequent, nagging voice. Our pent up guilty feelings may be stuck in our body, which may need to be released, grieved. We may also be stuck with regrets, wondering "What if?", "If only", which feeds our guilt, and struggle to move towards "What now?" or allow our positive thoughts, actions (see also Healthy Side Of Being Self(ish)). Certain types of guilt may affect us:
Survivor Guilt Some of us may experience unspoken guilt for being alive - that we have survived when others haven't (see also Grief & Bereavement Counselling London) and this "survivor guilt" can affect us in all sorts of ways. (See also Grieving To Let Go) When we experience others' tragedies, catastrophes, deaths, including suicide, we can feel fortunate, grateful, appreciative, bitter-sweet, all out despair or feel guilty for simply existing. We may have overwhelming feelings of helplessness, powerlessness. In some sort of trauma state, we may be confused, avoid aspects of our life. We may feel unsafe wherever we are, become either vigilant or detached, isolated, obsessed over what happened, feel unworthy, ambivalent about living, fixate on the meaning of life. These understandable reactions affect our health and relationships. Underneath our remorse, guilt we feel may live a deeper level of sadness, grief which may stop us accepting what happened, feeling better, fully living our life, moving forward, expressing our emotions, connecting and doing things for others, enjoying the gift of our life with others. The counselling for survival guilt listens to what's going on for us, acknowledging our needs in finding ways to commemorate and honour the people who were lost, alongside exploring our genuine culpability any distortions of our assessment of responsibility, any false sense of believing we are able to control, what's not in our control, due to random forces, fortune, what could have been predicted, prepared, prevented. We may experience:
- Guilt About Surviving - Coping with the fact that we've survived can be challenging. Wondering why it wasn't us, we may believe we did something wrong by surviving death, tragedy. Questioning life's fairness, justness, we may feel we don't deserve to be safe, should have been harmed, died.
- Guilt, Remorse From What We Should Have Done - We may hold an exaggerated sense of our own responsibility, what we could have done to prevent it, be in a state of self-condemnation. We may have remorse for not doing enough or should have done things differently, tried harder, have known things.
- Guilt, Remorse Over What We Did, Said, Didn't Do Say - We may feel guilty, have remorse for actions, things we did, didn't do, said, didn't say.
Holding On To Guilt, Shame Guilt can be viewed as a feeling of having done something bad, whereas shame can be experienced as we are bad. Our guilt & shame can be a strong driver for what we do & how we are in the world. We all have personal sensitivities to shame and guilt. Some, wrecked by guilt, may feel remorse, regret, disgrace for what we have done or said - our behaviour or self-sabotaging ways, the mistakes we've made. Ingrained inside, we may have become ashamed for who we are & what we've become, affecting our decision making. We may have a sense of self-betrayal or deep regret, self-loathing or hatred. Some of us may "go on guilt trips" (or be in contact with others who try to make us feel guilty, ashamed), have a "guilty conscience", "guilt complex" as if carrying a burden, beating ourself up so much so that we may struggle to pinpoint exactly why we feel guilty - for what we've done or are ashamed of - for who we are, being human.
Shamelessness Shamelessness can be positive, so our behaviour is shame free. However, if we don't have any experiences of shame, or act cool as a defence, that shame never affects us, this could be problematic, if we end us treating everyone as an object, lack empathy. As if lack of shame is a good thing, we may feel omnipotent. Our healthy shame is part of being human, it regulates us and for those of us who are actually shameless, feeling shame would be an achievement.
Hiding Our Feelings Out Of Shame We may have a public self very different to our private self in order to hide our shame. When we experience certain feelings, e.g. sadness, vulnerability, anger, our need to be loved, we may feel ashamed. We may have difficulties receiving love, struggle to ask for what we need, get our basic dependency needs met, walk around on eggshells. To block our own shame some of us can hold on to an inflated sense of self or try to shame others, so to camouflage our own shame.
Carrying Shame Shame is part of the human condition. For some, core shame can be repressed deep inside of our heart, contaminate our life, be devastating, have a strong hold on us rendering us powerless (and the more defended we are - the greater the shame). We may feel unworthy - not enough in many ways. Our shame can manifest as believing we are inherently flawed, inadequate (with the false belief that something is basically wrong about us, we aren't good enough). Sometimes unaware we are experiencing shame, we may feel shame unconsciously yet carry it in our demeanour, bow our head, drop our eyes. Our shame may also carry biological responses (e.g. blood rushing to our head). Burnout can be a result of shame. Most of us experience shame, some of this may be generational, which we continue to carry now. We may have memories of being spontaneous & surprised, playful, happy, excited, maybe passionate about something, just being natural, possibly innocent or vulnerable, and this innocence, vulnerability may have got crushed, where we may have been ridiculed, humiliated, shamed. Unexpected, unanticipated shameful events may have happened in our past and there was no one to help, compassionately acknowledge what we went through & repair the damaging effects. We may have needed reassurance, soothing, some empathy and acceptance with what we experienced. And we may fear disconnection, not belonging now. We may have experienced traumatic events, been too exposed or hold secrets from our past, which may be corrosive and contribute to our sense of guilt, shame or humiliation. Body shaming may have happened. Empty inside, every so often we may have triggers & reminders now about our shame for things that happened a very long time ago (see also Non-Responsiveness, Empathic Breaks & Frustrations In Our Early Life). We may feel ashamed now if others blame us or are jealous of us, as if somehow something is wrong with us. At the heart of our shame may live fear of abandonment, rejection. For some of us, it can be as if there was no one there for us to trust then and we may abandon ourselves now. We may struggle to build shame resilience, regulate our shame now in our life (see also Bringing Our Shame, Guilt Out Of The Dark Can Help Alleviate Us From It). Washing away our shame, healing this, may be important to us, so it no longer distorts our self-perception.
Shame & Its Effects We have all done things we are ashamed of. Shame is universal and we all carry stories around this. Trauma generates shame and the shame we feel is traumatic in itself, overwhelming at times. The shame and humiliation we experience can be debilitating, crushing our confidence, propelling low esteem, which tells us we are not enough, unworthy. Our shame can almost feel innate. Disgust, embarrassment, fear of humiliation being "found out" (often as a fraud, impostor), can go right to the core of our soul, as if we are not willing to expose who we are, even to ourself or ask for what we need. We may also be ashamed of our needs (e.g. sexuality, self-pleasure) or certain feelings, especially connected with our sensitivities, vulnerability, tenderness, intimacy, loneliness and need to belong. We may have become reliant on others to relieve our shame or try to please others. The burden of shame we carry (and associated off track thinking), can spiral, weigh us down, or make us want to withdraw, both in our relationship and personally so we don't dare to be more or assertive, creative, etc. Turning inwards on ourself, fear of failure, shame & exposure may be carried in our painbody, gestures and demeanour, alongside a sense of learnt helplessness, inadequacy, powerlessness. Squirming or struggling to assert ourself, it can be as if we want to disappear. We may have gone into hiding ourselves, even our good qualities. Feeling "wicked" inside, we may hate a part of us - loathe ourselves, be self-persecutory, feel despondent in our self-hatred, as if our shame has become toxic - see also Being Our Own Self-Critic. (The therapy can also explore any pay-off we get out of any self-hatred, self-persecution.) We may even feel we deserve these bad feelings. As if we are irritable and wicked inside, caught in our self-loathing & self-hatred, we may want to stop feeling guilty, ashamed and numb our feelings, turn to unwanted habits or addictions, which feed off each other. (Alternatively we may manufacture puffed up outward confidence, esteem to others, yet feel deeply ashamed inside - see also Living As If Only We Count.) We may be seeking self-loathing help, self-hatred help. Disguising our shame, we can feel deflated, rejected, understandably hostile, angry, often unaware of the link. We can turn our anger inwards on ourselves or onto others. A cloud of disappointment, depression may hang over us. Our flight, fight, freeze mechanism (freezing the shame - becoming passive, helpless) may be evoked. This frozen, unacknowledged shame (often unconscious) may become toxic. In its unhealthy, toxic aspect, we can have negative self-beliefs, destructive behaviours including in our relationship by becoming controlling, blaming, criticising. We may feel like a victim - even a martyr, struggling to be compassionate and forgive ourself, accepting our past, so we value our self and feel safe now.
Origins Of Our Core Shame The origins of our core shame may include shameful memories of:
- Being shamed as a baby or child, setting up false beliefs about our self (see also Our First Relationship - Early Connections & Bonding Patterns,Insecure Attachment - Avoidant Style Of Attachment/Relating (Becomes Dismissing Style Of Relating As An Adult))
- Not being loved in the way we needed and blaming ourselves for this as if there is something intrinsically wrong with us, believing we are bad, flawed, defective, inadequate, unworthy
- Being bullied, singled out, marginalised, being humiliated, ridiculed, being shamed by others for being alone, different, banished, believing we are at fault
- Taking things personally when we don't really need to
- Believing we can't be loved for our vulnerabilities
- Absorbing our parents' shame & false beliefs (e.g. not living up to our parental expectations or our own self-ideal)
Taking On Others' Shame & Blame Embedded In Our Culture Inequality can lead to shame. With its origins in family, society, culture (e.g. money, ageing - especially in women, sexuality), most of us have shaming memories from specific times and places in our history triggering our life now, some of them unconscious, e.g. non-responsiveness or empathic breaks in our early years. These memories impact upon our shame now. Some of us take on others' shame, blame, turning this on to ourselves - taking in people's shaming, blaming as ours. Feeling lonely or heartbroken, that we are being treated badly, helpless over others' feelings or behaviour, taking their responses personally, we may struggle to accept our helplessness over them (see also Receiving Our Partner's Projections). Giving up our need to control others and our willingness to feel our core painful feelings may support us as we no longer abandon ourself, when someone else is unloving to us.
Bringing Our Shame, Guilt Out Of The Dark Can Help Alleviate Us From It Our guilt, shame, when shared and brought to light with compassion, can have a healing transformative value (especially for those of us who are shy). Distinguishing between our toxic shame (e.g. when we were inappropriately shamed) and healthy shame (when we acted badly), may be important, so when we are in touch with our healthy shame - the social emotion that regulates our social interactions, it can help us be real, shape our morality. Letting go of trying to get love from others as we give this to ourself may also help bring our shame to light. Believing we cause others to feel and behave the way they do, the therapy can allow the space to talk about, express, share, explore our own guilt, self-hatred and shame at our own pace - in its healthy & unhealthy aspects, so we don't have to feel so inadequate, are not so wracked with or wrapped up by our shame, guilt. Letting go, trying to control others, outcomes, can also release our core shame. When we let go of our guilt & shame (and unhelpful background voice, e.g. "Who do you think you are?"), self-criticism & blame through our sorrow, allowing room for reparation and restoration, we have the potential to feel more contented and thrive, boosting our esteem & confidence. Rediscovering the healthy side of being selfish, allowing out our tears, vulnerability, light-heartedness, playfulness, carefreeness, laughter, fun and our sense of humour, creativity, our healthy sex life, desires, passion, which may have got lost, buried, crushed or shamed, may also be important to us. Being genuinely proud of who we are and what we have done, in touch with our own values may matter to us. Our shame can also motivate us. Counselling & psychotherapy can support us in bringing our shame out of the shadows and into light having courage to face our shame, healing this shame & any guilt that has surrounded us (including secrecy, silence, judgement) - a place we no longer want to live from, so when we bring our shame out of the dark we are able to live from our true identity, feel what we want to feel, change what we want to change, experience our emotional health. And through our self-compassion, authentic pride, our own personal power, being in our own inner authority with a sense of coherence, continuity, internal safety, embodying our self, feeling safe in our body, connected to our centre, we can recover our sense of self without suppressing guilt and shame any more.
We are born shame-free.
Trauma & Its Effects Sometimes past events, traumas (including trauma handed down from the previous generations) affect how we cope with life now. We can experience trauma when our very Self has been invalidated, overwhelming us, affecting our ability to cope, flooding our anxious mind's capacity to think clearly. Adverse childhood experiences - a parental separation, a parent being mentally ill, neglect - can be traumatic for us. Childhood wounds, grief (maybe through early bonding patterns affecting and shaping our development, neurological pathways - what is called developmental trauma, including emotional, physical, sexual abuse, neglect, abandonment, invasion, etc. or important needs weren't recognised, met, also later in life through annihilation, ridicule, violation, humiliation, shame), prolonged stress, anxiety stored in our memory, can continue to traumatise us affecting our safety, integrity and we may have become understandably defensive. We can space out, feel paralysed about making decisions, or have panic attacks related to memories of past traumas. What was unbearable, threatening then can become unbearable and continue to be threatening now. We may also experience past traumas (triggers now, affecting our posture, body-shape, painbody (body, feelings, mind connection, patterns of behaving, thinking, thoughts, beliefs and triggers, narratives. Past events, traumas may continue to affect our relationship, esteem, arousing fear, stimulating our fight, flight, freeze response, as if we flee our body at times, flee towards spiritual enlightenment. Sometimes we can even now experience intense, disproportionate responses to trauma triggers. And many of these responses including any repetition compulsion (re-enacting, returning to situations reminiscent to the original trauma or certain reminders to the original trauma, as if an attempt to get our needs met differently and heal the original trauma in a hope of a different outcome), our relationship style may be unconscious. And stuck in a sort of survival mode, we can sometimes lose our sense of self, feel isolated, go numb, dissociate, feel unbalanced, as if watching ourself from afar as if there is an invisible barrier between us and the rest of the world. Others may experience neuro-diverse conditions (e.g. ADHD.) We may have developed depression, anxiety, addictions. We may have tried to put these overwhelming events in a box yet they come back to us. Learning to soothe ourself may be so important. Stuck, lost, caught somewhere between the past, present or future, the impact of certain traumas, even as a bystander may continue to affect us now to such a degree (e.g. flashbacks, events that happened a long time ago, which continue to be lived in present - remaining lodged in our brain where certain sensory components re-trigger our brain acting as reminders and we may become so overloaded that specialist PTSD help may be required so we learn to see these events as part of our past - that they are not in the present and our traumatic experiences do not define who we are).
Counselling For Trauma There is no one-size-fit-all method for healing trauma. Distinguishing between the HSP and trauma may be important for some of us. We may never know all the details as to what exactly happened in our past. And without being caught up in past traumas or unnecessarily over-traumatising ourselves again, the therapy can listen to how we are still affected by trauma and what resources now help us, so earlier wounds become tolerable. Taking back the ownership of our life may be important, so we move on in our life. We don't have to talk about our trauma. And we may want to reduce the intensity of trauma memories without talking specifically about them or re-triggering them. And for others it may help to slowly process what happened and our feelings as painlessly and effectively as possible without re-traumatising ourself, being able to put the brakes on, when we need to (where we don't have to necessarily piece together again the whole story of what happened), in a contained way, so we are able to have perspective, go to a safe place inside ourself whenever we need to. The trauma counselling offers support in finding our own ways to manage uncertainty, any overwhelming emotions, thoughts, so we feel safe enough now and learn to regain a sense of control, trusting ourself, others, our senses, intuition & inner knowing - gut feelings, hunches, instinct to consciously accept, know and heal our wounded parts. We may also want to update redundant beliefs, reactive strategies. Having self-control over our behaviour, being able to ensure our own safety now and those around us may be important. This may involve understanding the links between our memory and any current external/internal triggers from these memories (including certain environments / circumstances / situations, thoughts, beliefs, a look, mannerisms, being touched in certain ways, specific tastes, smells, sounds, fabric, emotional sensations, etc.). Trauma is about the internal impact on us, as we disconnect from our self, body, gut feelings, present moment. The trauma counselling may also explore our healthy strategies for lessening the impact of our trauma triggers. (For some changing our perceptions can also help stop our triggers.) Becoming very locked into the present moment, where time can merge, when the past, present and future conflate as one, we may have gone numb, tuned out, may be frozen inside. And for those of us traumatised (it may be as if we space out, tune out, go numb, numb our feelings, are in a daze, experience lethargy - close off, shut down, bottle things up, switch off) as if there was no yesterday, tomorrow. The therapy may include expanding our imagination, activate the experience that the past is different to the present and future, and that our imagination can let us see ourself on paths not yet written, or to re-write ones that we believe were unchangeable by re-conceptualising the past, future and our own word internally, so we can see new possibilities, paths, feel liberated. Grieving old traumas, letting go of what we need to let go of, including any shame, transforming this, understanding the flight-fight-freeze mechanism, taming our fear (often aroused by previous traumas), may be important when this puts us in touch with an empowering narrative (e.g. "It's over now", "I'm a strong person"). We may want to be more in touch with our personal power supported by regulating our feelings, our resilience, live a more enriched life in the present moment in touch with our sense of direction. This may include grounding ourself, mindfulness, meditation, self-soothing, our own personal creative responses, including what comforts us physically, being with supportive others, so we are not alone in it, living life to our full potential. Others have found that part of our trauma healing process may include counter-intuitively practising deep gratitude for the experience itself, that we have survived, grown from this. When traumatised, we are not seen and understood for who we are, nor do we feel held. Exploring what holds us now may be important. And trauma isn't about what happened to us, more about what happened inside us (trauma comes from a Greek word "wounding" - relating to lack of wholeness, manifesting as disconnection in our life), and because this happened inside us, it is present in us and because it's present in us we can do something about it, be strong. The therapy for trauma may also include practising, visualising self-acceptance, closeness, bringing our self back home (re-owning all the parts of us that may have been cut off), fully inhabiting our body, our self, so we gain a sense of comfort, internal warmth and safety. (See also Coming To Terms With Our Past)
Supporting Someone Close To Us With Trauma It can sometimes be distressing for us to be with someone we care about who is traumatised therefore we may need to take good care of ourself. It can be tempting to take it away, rush healing or judge them. Sometimes just listening, being with them can help healing. The counselling for trauma can also be a space to talk about this further.
Specific Questions About Counselling For Childhood Wounds, Guilt, Shame, Self-Hatred, Self-Loathing We may have questions about emotional pain, how to stop feeling guilty & guilt therapy, dealing with shame & shame therapy, e.g.:
- What is emotional pain?
- Shame help, shame problem - what is the meaning of shame? What is shame counselling?
- Healing shame - is dealing with shame possible and how can shame therapy help?
- What is the difference between feelings of guilt and feeling ashamed?
- Feelings of guilt - how can I stop feeling guilty? Does guilt counselling help?
- Why am I so wracked with guilt
- Why do I so feel guilty
- Exactly what is a guilty conscience? Can guilt therapy help?
- What is a guilt complex? How can I get guilt help?
- Is overcoming guilt possible?
- Dealing with emotional pain - how to deal with emotional pain?
- Emotional pain help - is healing emotional pain possible?
- What is the difference between self-hatred and self-loathing?
- Self-hatred help, self loathing help - what is self-hatred therapy?
FAQs about the Counselling London practice based in Kings Cross, Camden:
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