Comment From Tammy Fontana, All in the Family Counselling Centre, Pte. Ltd
I am providing some perspective to give when reading the following article from the author Darlena Cunha. I found this article on the Washington Post. I thought it was a great article addressing an all too common theme I see in how people are approaching parenting. This approach to rescue a child from their difficult emotions has many negative consequences for children
The other reason I really liked this article is because it illustrates so nicely the relationship between therapist and client. At the start of therapy, and often throughout therapy, with those clients that stay with me long-term to work on their development, I will address our relationship.
The relationship aspect of therapy is the most important aspect of healing for the client. As a therapist, I take on a parental-type role, much as what the author describes for how to parent. Many of my clients with emotional regulation issues and feeling processing issues have missed out on very important developmental skills because their parents were not able to give them what they needed at key developmental times.
Symptoms people present with in therapy from missing or inadequate emotional regulation parenting in their childhood will look like poor interpersonal skills such as a difficult ability to be emotionally close to another person. It will also affect sleep-wakefulness, physiological thresholds of arousal, meaning the person will experience a lot physical pain or psychosomatic pain. The person will also have varying degrees of challenges with interpersonal awareness and skill and lowered abilities of locus of control.
In more emotionally childhood neglected clients, the symptoms the experience will be more severe. They will have the issues mentioned earlier, but more intensely and more of the symptoms. The additional issues these clients will be dealing with are more intense coping mechanism of denial, black and white thinking, fantasy, flooding, displacement, regression and disassociation.
As a therapist, I am providing my clients with the ability to learn to process their feelings, especially the difficult ones of disappointment and shame. I provide an emotional container for the client to sit with these uncomfortable feelings. Often, in really difficult times, the client can lash out at me or project their feelings onto me, much as the child in the article does to the parent. The person is not bad, but rather they are dealing with feelings and emotions that are too big for them contain and process. I help the client to sit in and work through their feelings so that they can learn and grown.
As human beings, we need to learn how to deal with stress. Life is very stressful. Healthy parenting is a model by which the parent helps the child to learn how to acknowledge, process and deal with stress. In a healthy parenting model, the always loves the child but at the same time finds a balance to hold the child accountable. When this doesn’t happen because the parents did not get this as a child themselves, they will not be able to do it for their own children. Thus, why we see patterns of dysfunction in family histories.
Most people normalize their childhood. This is what allows dysfunctional parenting models to continue on to the next generation. However, we are in a special time in history when we have a more stable world. We are not at war, we have largely a stable economy and good health. People are now able to address, through therapy, their missing development. Therapy helps to heal people by giving them the ability to connect with their feelings and integrate their experiences to make better choices.
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