Counselling in Wokingham – Family History

Paul Cockayne – 07791 970406 –
This blog is intended to give you a flavour of how I work. You can find more information about me by clicking one of the links at the bottom right of this page

I often find that it is useful and interesting, for both individuals and couples, to explore their family histories.

Our ideas, our beliefs, our ambitions have their roots in the past and in looking into our backgrounds we can gain a better understanding of ourselves, of our partners, and of others who are important in our lives. Some of our experiences in growing up will have been positive – and as adults we may then want to do things the same way as our parents did. On the other hand, some experiences will be negative, and we will feel strongly that we want to do things differently. Whether we want to do things the same as our families, or to change things, the influence of our childhood experiences will be affecting the choices we make.

The influence of our family is not just about big events, not just about trauma. People sometimes think that if there have been no great catastrophes in their lives that their upbringing is irrelevant – they will tell me that their childhood was “normal” – that there is nothing to say about it. But for me there is no such thing as a “normal” childhood – they are all different and our behaviours are very much influenced by the past. For instance, how important are family meals? Do you own up to your mistakes or try to hide them?

Do you like to hug your partner and your children? How do you react to silence? Do you talk about your feelings or internalise them? Do you like to plan your weekends or just go with the flow? The list is endless; your expectations of other people, and their expectations of you, are rooted in past experience, whether positive, negative or neutral.

Family exploration will often be “themed” – so that, for instance, if you and your partner have very different attitudes towards money, it can be useful to look into the significance of money in your families – as a child, were you encouraged to spend or save? Other themes might be parenting styles, dealing with conflict or sex – or anything where differences between you cause problems – small things too, like punctuality or Christmas traditions.

How can this sort of work help you? Obviously, it increases your understanding of yourself – but so what? Well, in understanding ourselves we gain the ability more easily to change how we behave in certain situations. If we understand the past, we can separate it from the present, and so view things more rationally, to see what really matters today.

In couple counselling, talking about family history also increases your understanding of your partner, and with that comes greater tolerance for what might have seemed inexplicable opinions or behaviours. Put these things together – ability to make changes ourselves, more tolerance of our partners – and the door is open for negotiation and compromise about things that may currently seem impossibly stuck.

About Paul Cockayne

Counsellor, musician, iPhone developer, games-player, cheese-lover....
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