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Emotional Maturity Emerges From Opposite Truths

Updated: Apr 2




Have you ever worked with someone whom you deeply dislike and still figured out a way to collaborate with them for the sake of the deal/project/business?


If you consider the mental processes you had to engage with to make that work, you realise that you had to be aware of two opposite truths simultaneously.


Small children cannot do that. Why is this important?


There are two types of clients I usually see.


Type one is the person who recounts a horrific story of childhood traumas: sexual abuse, poverty, physical abuse, abandonment, etc.


Type two is the person who describes a wonderful childhood with loving parents and a healthy life environment.


Common to both types may be the feeling of worthlessness they experience as adults.


As a therapist, it is much easier to work with clients in the first category, as their minds can readily attribute their current pain and struggles to childhood trauma.


Despite the emerging understanding in my profession that emotional neglect is as damaging to a child as other more tangible forms of abuse or neglect, this realisation has not permeated to the masses.


Even when I explain this to a client, they often dismiss the idea and proceed to tell me how selfish they would feel if they were to focus on their mental and emotional struggles today, after all, “I had a great childhood!”


Given that a small child cannot simultaneously hold opposing truths in their mind, it is a real struggle to make sense of the world when mum and dad clearly love the child but emotionally neglect it.


The child, unlike an adult, is unable to comprehend and navigate the complexities of the adult world, and therefore cannot understand why mum and dad neglect them emotionally, even though they clearly love them.


The child is forced to make a choice, and often, for “survival” purposes, it has to choose love, as choosing neglect may deprive them of the basic nurturing required for survival.


To make sense of their decision, the child therefore needs to split off and ignore the other part, or the story would no longer make sense. They end up internalising an image of their parents that is mostly good and positive and ignore or defend any negative aspects that may have emerged from their relationship.


As adults, it is important to utilise our ability to simultaneously hold opposites in mind and open ourselves up to the realisation that we were loved but also hurt by some well- intentioned, albeit damaging, early-life experiences with our primary caregivers.


The adult within us can indeed help the child we carry within reconcile these opposing truths, and we can do this with the courage and compassion required to help a wounded child.

 

As adults, we can learn to help the child within reconcile these opposing truths, by showing the courage and compassion required to heal the emotional wounds.

 

 

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