Many of my clients struggle with anxiety and depression, and they struggle with managing and overcoming these emotions. It seems as though the emotions have turned into a chronic depressed mood state or a chronic anxiety mood state that lasts for months or years. When I work with these clients I ask them, “When was a time where you felt calm and content?” or “When were you happy?” Often they cannot remember a time when they were not anxiety ridden or not extremely sad. I believe unresolved trauma tends to be at the core of a person’s depression or panic. I also know there are ways to help clients lead happier, more content lives than they are currently living.
Helping people become happier and less anxious usually takes time and creativity. My first goal is to spend time getting a very good history of their life. There are people that seem to have inherited some anxiety or depression, but often times there has been a life event or a trauma that has impacted them and they have not moved past or healed from the deep hurt or the traumatic event. Something that I learned from one of my most influential mentors is “You are doing something right for a client if you do a complete history.”** If the client and I are willing to spend time talking about their life, we will almost always find the sources of their suffering.
I feel knowledge is power. When people are able to see and name the trauma, it shifts in the person some, and this shift helps to start to acknowledge and validate the source of the pain. Even if they do not know that this is a key in moving forward they “know” it on deeper level. Most people think that a trauma is a huge and overwhelming event, but many traumas are rather small and can seem insignificant when they happen. It’s only over time that they gain power or different but similar incidents add up over time and become these sources of deep hurt.
For example, I worked with a teen that was stuck in her depression and anxiety and we dealt with her mood in the moment while we worked with her history. Eventually the client and I were able to pinpoint a major issue in her past that was greatly affecting her in her present life. The event(s) were so simple yet were profoundly affecting her today. Together we discovered that she had moved several times in her early childhood, and the series of new schools made her very anxious, and the series of good byes to friends were immensely sad. Through exploring the past she also was able to recall that her father made fun of her and would tease her when she would cry and be sad about the impending moves. We came to realize that she did not get the support and validation she needed when she was five, 7, and 9 years old. Naming this past hurt became empowering for her. “This is it!” Just finding the source seemed to help this teen feel she had a way to address her mood issues and panic.
There was suddenly light at the tunnel for this teen. From that day forward, we were able to help her get unstuck. Her depression started to lift almost immediately, and we took our time working through her anxiety.
Stay tuned for the next blog by Meg’n as it continues on with “Name the Trauma” and “What Comes Next”. Look for the title The Six Boxes next week.
**Mentor is Dr. Hildegard Messenbaugh – Founder of Third Way Center