Throughout the course of my career, I have come across many patients who in the first session establish that they do not have family or childhood issues. The common ways that this is expressed are “My childhood was difficult, but I am ok with that” or “My parents made mistakes, but I have forgiven them”. These comments are usually followed by an adamant “We do not need to get into those issues”.
That is usually my first signal of alert to the fact that they have not actually worked through their issues with their childhood and parents.
One thing is acceptance, which usually implies a long process of talking about, grieving and a certain degree of peace with the past, that allows the person to work on themselves and how they relate to other people.
A different concept is denial, which implies avoiding a process to go directly to “It was ok”, in order to avoid having to look at painful aspects of a life story or having to feel negative emotions towards family members.
People that have resolved their issues in a healthy manner, through different processes, tend to be open to discussing most aspects and will describe their emotions openly, as well as the painful events.
People whose defense mechanism is denial, will tend to be defensive towards any felt criticism, comment or questioning of past events and the nature of the family interactions.
When painful events of the past are being worked on or are resolved, people can establish a healthy balance in their life, especially relationships. When denial is the mechanism, relationship issues and difficulties will come up repeatedly, until they are resolved.