Q: I’ve been seeing a therapist for chronic depression and fear of failure issues. He believes that I was either abused as a child or had some traumatic event as a child. I have absolutely no recollection of any such event, and I’m scared to even think about the possibility. Should I even consider this as a possibility if I have only good childhood memories?
Your web site has been helpful in answering many questions, and if you think it would be helpful I’m also willing to talk with you by phone.
A: First of all, I’d be happy to talk with you by phone but you’d need to get your therapist’s approval first. He might be reasonably concerned that having too many therapists could confuse you more than help you.
Since I don’t know any more about you than these few lines, I sure don’t know whether you should or shouldn’t search your memory for possible childhood trauma. You do concern me, however, with the statement: “I have only good childhood memories.” I’ve never met anyone who could honestly say that, so I’ve got to wonder if you might have been telling yourself this over and over for so long that you’ve come to believe it!
Childhood is a difficult time, for everyone.
And therapists believe that our personality gets formed in childhood, and that most adult personality problems (like chronic depression) come from things that happened in childhood which led you to make certain decisions way too early, before you were fully wise enough to make them.
An example: Suppose you tried to play baseball once and got hit in the head by an errant ball, causing much blood to flow. If you were young enough, your terror as you saw all that blood might have led you to any number of bad decisions like: “I hate baseball” or “I’m no good at sports” or even “I always get hurt no matter what I try to do”!
Each such decision would seem completely reasonable to the terrorized child, and the intensity of the trauma (the blood, in this case) might make you believe in your bad decision very deeply, and long into adulthood. This would still be true even after you’ve totally forgotten the incident that caused the decision in the first place.
Basically, I’d say that if you like your therapist and they seem competent and a good match for you, you would be wise to continue with them and trust that they are doing their best. (Our best is like yours: It’s not guaranteed to be correct, although it usually is.)
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