It is generally agreed that we develop in response to many influences, including our early family lives, and the manner in which our parents and early caregivers attended to or nurtured our needs for care, attention or comforting, or helped us navigate certain developmental or interpersonal milestones and challenges.
In addition to influencing our most basic understanding of the world and others, the experience we had of this care or its absence, can affect our capacities for self-care, the ways we experience and relate to others, and myriad other intricately related processes which impact our mood, general sense of well-being and development and unfolding as a person. It can also lead to adaptations that may have long-lasting influences on our lives.
If compounded by adversities, such as separation, loss, exposure to violence or even mild chronic neglect, the lack of nurturing may have many lingering effects.
Many of the difficulties persons experience with anxiety or depression, or emotional regulation, stem from experiences of neglect or the intrusion of overwhelming stress or trauma that overwhelmed their psyches when they were younger.
Without the reassuring presence of a nurturing caregiver, exposure to these stresses can be even more adverse — derailing aspects of a child’s development, encouraging reliance upon at times problematic psychological adaptations or defenses, or precipitating the relegation of part of themselves or their experiences into the realm of the unconscious. Fortunately, through the process of psychotherapy, a person can begin to understand how these overwhelming experiences may have affected their lives and their responses to themselves and others. They may also begin to reintegrate disassociated aspects of their memory into their conscious awareness, and begin to live their lives with a more cohesive and expansive sense of self through this process.
Sharing the experience of learning with a therapist who cares about their well-being can be profoundly reparative to persons whose basic needs for nurturing were not met. Often this experience of understanding and attunement can help a person begin to reconfigure those aspects of their psyche that were formed in reaction to isolation and develop more awareness of their interpersonal needs.
We are all born with our own nature … with a constitution and temperament and innate capacities, characteristics and needs uniquely our own. Understanding and accepting this “nature” and how to best care for ourselves can assist us to live more optimally and draw upon our inherent strengths.
Unfortunately, many persons reach adulthood devaluing themselves, and develop a provisional or “false” self to interface with the world. While initially, this may help them to feel more secure over time it may contribute to an increasing sense of inadequacy and shame, and result in both a loss of spontaneity and confusion regarding their own feelings and needs. Without the guidance of their authentic emotional and psychological life as a “compass,” they may not understand or know what they need to create a fulfilling life uniquely their own.
Sometimes, we are besieged by experiences that profoundly erode our sense of safety and well-being, and which continue to haunt us, long after they have ended or passed. Neglect, abuse, addiction, poverty, violence, war, socio or geopolitical conflict, or exposure to any experience that is traumatic can impact our lives significantly …especially if we have not had the social and therapeutic support needed to ameliorate their adverse and long-lasting effects.
Understanding the influence of these events or experiences can help persons immensely, especially to help them with the crucial process of emotional integration.