Can the past impact our present?

Can the past impact our present?

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In a word...yes. 

From the very moment we are born, so is our need for instant gratification of feeling loved, safe and satiated (with food and water for example); in other words, our instinct to survive which is primarily associated with our mother. The attachment created between us and our primary care giver in our early years, and the developmental stages we go through and hopefully complete, lay the groundwork for our life script which is a plan for life devised in early childhood forming the basis of how our lives will be played out in adulthood.  

Whilst a life script is constructed from script messages of external forces such as parents and environment, there are also internal controls resulting from our emotional responses to these external influences. This life script is formulated as the best strategy for surviving and getting needs met. The relationships we seek out involve ‘co-stars’ who will potentially meet those needs or provide ‘evidence’ of negative core beliefs, but who are also playing out their own life script. 

It’s clear that our personality, character, ‘self’ are incredibly complex frameworks of thoughts, feelings and beliefs that have developed over time from our experiences of early relationships and an intrinsic part of our DNA; and all of which occur unconsciously. 

For some client’s perhaps the question should be “Do I ever want to leave the past behind”? Whilst the physical symptoms of those who are highly anxious are unpleasant, some client’s may actually feel safer in their constant ‘fight or flight’ state. For them, change is terrifying as is the prospect of revisiting traumatic experiences from their childhood. With a gentle, empathetic approach geared towards the client’s pace and ‘envelope’, a competent therapist (who is in tune with and observant of their own feelings) could move their client into a position where change would be perceived as greatly life enhancing. 

It is widely accepted now that heredity and the environment do not act independently. Most researchers in this field are now interested in exploring the ways in which nature and nurture interact. For example, that both a genetic tendency and an environmental trigger are required for a mental disorder to develop. So the question now is not which but how much of both affects the development of a child. 

With research suggesting that ill treatment in early childhood affects the genetic construction with the brain, which leads to a higher risk of multiple episodes of depression; sadly some clients may not be able to leave the past behind even if they wanted to. However with the use of drugs and psychotherapy the influence of their past can be lessened to enable the client to lead a functioning life. 

If reading this post has raised issues with you, get in touch to see if psychotherapy could help you to leave the past behind.