When asked about what our depression, or anxiety, or troublesome behavioral pattern is connected with, most of us will answer with immediate triggers. It has to do with our work situation, or the world situation, or current relationships.
And yet, as Freud pointed out and has become a bit of a cliche, the real answer is often in childhood.
We may not feel ready to go directly there. Sometimes, it can be helpful to explore more peripheral or immediate issues. We get to learn and trust the process, and we get to see that it’s safe to meet it and that it can heal.
We get to see that we can learn to meet what comes up with presence, kindness, patience, respect, and gentle curiosity. We see that we can find healing for our relationship with it and how much relief is found here. And we may get to see that the issue itself can find healing and resolve.
And yet, it’s good to relatively quickly explore if the issue does have roots in our childhood. After getting to know how the issue is experienced here and now, one of my favorite questions in inquiry is “what’s your earliest memory of feeling that way?”. It often brings the client (which sometimes is myself) right back to early situations that tell us something about how the pattern was initially formed. We get to see that it – whether it’s anxiety, depression, a compulsion, or something else – made sense in that situation and was a way of coping with a difficult situation. It was the best we could do in that situation as a child.
We find understanding and empathy for ourselves, and perhaps even for the issue itself. We see it came from wishing to protect ourselves. And we are in a position to address the biographical roots of the issue, and that may allow for a more thorough, effective, and efficient healing.
Efficiency isn’t neccesarily a priority in a healing process, but we do have limited resources – in terms of time, money, and attention – so it is good to keep at least half an eye on efficiency.
I should also add that by addressing more peripheral and immediate issues, we do actually address parts of the the more central issues. The core issues are expressed in these peripheral and immediate issues. So by working on these peripheral issues, we do make inroads in the core ones. We prepare the ground for addressing them more head on, and it makes it easier – for many reasons – to address the core issues more head on.
We learn about the process, we learn to trust it’s safe to meet our emotional issues, we learn they can find healing, and we do – indirectly and in parts – address the core issues and find some healing for them.