Even the strongest among us can benefit from counselling
I’d like you to imagine Paul. A long time ago, when Paul was a boy, his arm was injured in a car accident, his father was drunk and veered into oncoming traffic. The car accident left a big scar. He gained back most of the function of his arm, but it is terribly easy to dislocate his shoulder and if you touch it the wrong way it hurts a lot.
He still has memories of the accident come back to him. It took him a long time before he could drive, has he experienced a lot of anxiety around his arm. He is ashamed of it, and how it doesn’t work right. He wears long sleeved shirts in order to cover up the scar.
Growing up Paul was terribly hard on himself when he couldn’t compete in sports. The scar made him feel ugly, and his inability to play sports at the same level as other kids made him feel inadequate.
Paul developed a strong aversion to alcohol and refused to participate in anything where his arm might get bumped in to. So much so, he would get uncomfortable and angry around people who would drink and would absolutely rage if someone were to drink and drive.
His arm hurt a lot, and while he refused to drink alcohol, he spent a lot of time using cannabis and the opioids his doctor prescribed him for the chronic pain. The meds he took helped him not feel the pain, but it numbed his experience of everything. So, it got to the point that his experience of life was either the relief the drugs gave him, or the pain of his shoulder when they wore off.
The drug use, only contributed to his sense of shame, and he was hard on himself about that as well.
Paul was encouraged by his doctor to get surgery done to fix his shoulder. Paul was nervous, and ashamed. He didn’t want to admit all the things he did to cope this his pain. He was worried that the surgery might fail, and he would be left in worse shape, and he knew that there might be some difficult physio work after.
No one would say to Paul, hey you need to be a pain and bear all this pain. Likely everyone around him who cares including those he’s hurt by his angry outbursts, and those who have empathy for his pain would want him to get the surgery.
No one would say, you need to be a man and just deal with the pain. Get the surgery done and get your life back.
Now, what if Paul wasn’t injured in a car accident, but he was both physically and emotionally abused by the same drunk father. Why would that make any difference?
How would I counsel Paul?
I see Paul in different parts. The are different parts that play different roles in his psyche.
The part that holds the memory of the wounding incident, it is traumatized. Trauma means a part of you stuck in the moment of the incident, continually living the fear that encompassed that experience.
There are parts that hold shame because of the scar and the lack of healthy functioning.
There is another part that doesn’t want him to get wounded again so it gets angry to keep Paul safe.
There is part that causes anxiety in anticipation of threats.
The part was hard on Paul for not doing enough, is an inner critic.
The parts that use cannabis and pills are doing that to cope.
The part that numbed everything just to keep going, that looks like depression.
The ultimate solution to all of these things is just like the solution to the physical problem. Heal the wound that fuels all of this. Some parts will need to be brought into the present, to see that some of their fears don’t make as much sense now as they did in the present. Some parts might hold extreme beliefs, and we gentle help them let them go. We help release the trauma and its corresponding shame.
As we resolve the fears and heal the wounds Paul’s true nature will emerge. With that will come his innate compassion, courage, creativity, joy, patience, self-control and gentleness. Paul will discover how truly good he is, that the shame that had stained him does not define him.
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