To some people, therapy is a “blame your parents” exercise. Once you have thoroughly dragged your parents through the dirt, you pay your money, and politely leave the office. By blaming your parents in this way, you effectively abdicate responsibility for your own life and feel better.
In reality, effective therapy is just the opposite. It is important to look at your decisions as well as the impact of things that occurred beyond your control. In doing so, you have a better understanding of your past, which is very helpful in your efforts to get where you want to be in your life. A better understanding of your past includes knowing more about how your environment influenced you.
I believe that we internalize our external environments. The amount that this happens depends on different factors, two are age and disposition. Children are often seeing and experiencing things for the first time, and their developing minds are much more malleable compared to adults. Disposition refers to how naturally sensitive we are to environmental influence. To some degree, we are all influenced continuously by our environments throughout our lives, even when we are no longer in those environments.
If the environment you grew up in was turbulent and you did not feel protected, there is a good chance that without some helpful intervention (caregiver, friend, mentor, therapy etc.), your internal world will mirror this, and be chaotic as well. When a person’s internal world is chaotic much, or most of the time, there is a desperate need and striving/drive for internal regulation– to find the calm among the chaos.
People utilize what they know and what is present in their environments to internally regulate. So, if this is a parent, or mentor: you go to this person; if it is drugs and alcohol: you use that; if you have friends who do yoga: you do that, etc. Each of these interventions either contribute to more long lasting internal regulation, or more long lasting internal dysregulation.
One of the most important things we internalize from our environments as kids, is our experiences with our caregivers. If the vast majority of the time we are tended to with care and love, reassurance, explanation etc., a large part of our internal experience tends to reflect that. If not, a large part of our internal experience tends to reflect how we were otherwise tended to by our caregivers.
However, our internal experience is not only influenced by our caregivers. It is the whole of our experiences then and now, how we understood these experiences and how we responded. Understanding more about these dynamics contribute to having a better understanding of yourself, your relationships today, how your needs are met, underlying beliefs about life, and how to begin bringing about changes you would like to make.
Your parents are only a piece of your story, and only an aspect of your therapy. A big part of making positive changes in your life is increasing internal regulation.
Here are some factors that, when practiced consistently, tend to increase one’s internal regulation:
- healthy and supportive relationships
- quality eating and sleeping habits, moderate exercise
- work/life balance, as needed medication
- access to resources (medical and otherwise)
- owning your full story
- telling your full story with a trusted person(s)
- allowing others to share feedback about your narrative of yourself
- having a sense of purpose
- healing from trauma as needed.
Article by Elijah Bedrosian, LPC, SEP