Understanding oneself usually means going back to the early years of childhood, where all memories and ideas about the world begin. These templates form in the brain and are influenced by a combination of temperament and traits, life experiences, and relationships, in particular with primary caregivers.
There are many important considerations when thinking about what happened in one’s childhood—good things, confusing things, and for some, the start of a world of fear, sadness, feelings of loneliness, or perhaps just a lifelong experience of being detached and numb. Most people’s childhood is a combination of the above—there are times of joy and times of struggle. Knowing this story and becoming more acquainted with how things were then helps us to understand who we are now—there is no way around it. Yet this can be one of the most painful parts of therapy for people, often opening up doors to emotional memories that were long ago closed and sealed off.
It can be helpful for clients to learn more about how memory works as they begin to explore their path. The Blue Knot Foundation has published a comprehensive paper called “The Truth of Memory and the Memory of Truth: Different Types of Memory and the Significance for Trauma” which is available for download here. This guide has proven very helpful to many of my clients, particularly those with histories of trauma and who feel as though they should have more specific memories than they actually do.
Love: A Basic Need
The podcast and radio show “This American Life” is familiar to many public radio listeners. The weekly show features stories by people which are generally organized around a theme. The episode Unconditional Love tells the story of how the field of psychology finally started to believe that love was a basic need and to understand why childhood emotional neglect was traumatizing. I have found this is a very helpful episode—especially the prologue—to reference when discussing with clients why they get into destructive cycles in their adult relationships that seem to resemble childhood and parent relationships. What was love in childhood will most certainly feel like love in adulthood, particularly until someone understands this pattern and goes about changing it.
This video from the folks at Therapist Uncensored does a nice job at describing adult attachment traits and styles, and is a succinct 15 minutes.
Therapist Uncensored is a podcast which hosts a whole series of podcasts on attachment, going back to Episode #5 (you will have to search through the episode library)—How Attachment Impacts Adult Relationships: Attachment 101 Part 1”. They have some excellent interviews.
Podcast 140: Dynamics Of Dysfunctional Or Alcoholic Families (Laura Reagan, Therapy Chat) is very useful for anyone who grew up in a family where a parent was an alcoholic, or where someone had a serious mental illness.
Rachel Grant is a life coach who has a podcast called "Beyond Surviving" on childhood sexual abuse. This podcast is best listened to from the start and consecutively forward. There are many interesting topics and the content is not explicit or triggering. As the name of the series implies, the focus is on hope and survival.
“The Truth We Live” comes from the podcast “Terrible Thanks For Asking”—this heartbreaking, excellent, and intense interview features the story of a young woman who grew up with the perfect/not so perfect father. It is in many ways the quintessential survivor’s story, and if you have lived through this, you will recognize yourself in her words.