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Recognising the ghosts of our past.

By dianharvey, Jun 12 2015 04:50PM

Abuse - Such a small word that we use to encompass such a vast spectrum of behaviour. I have found myself drowning in the expanse of this subject during my studies, gasping for breath as I try and find an edge to cling onto that is not there.

It is not always easy to recognise abusive behaviour occurring within the dynamics of interpersonal relationships, within the micro culture of the family, or indeed within the attitudes of wider society. Power and control are the elements that drive abusive behaviour, sometimes with intent and at other times subliminally. It may be even harder to recognise how the effects of abuse are internalised into the structure of our self, affecting our way of being long after the abuse has past .

As I have looked at this this topic I have been led to reflect on my life and how I have processed my own experiences to develop my way of being. I have reflected on how I perceive myself as an individual and how that unfolds in my counselling practice. I have re-examined my own values and beliefs, looking at my attitudes, highlighting cultural conditioning that may be having a subliminal effect on my acceptance and empathy of others .

Jeremy Holmes (1999) theorises that recognising ghosts of our past enables a life more fully in the present. This correlates with Roger’s (1951) theory in which accurate symbolisation of experience leads to psychological adjustment.

Recognising my ghosts of the past by looking at my trauma then, and my way of being now, has been a process of daring to tell my story to myself and to a few who have gained my trust along the way. McLeod (1997) explains, “Stories have an active role in constructing the person’s world in the here-and-now and in the future.” I have found this to be true and I also recognise that there is more to my story that calls from within me to be told .

“A person’s experience cannot be figured out by others, or even by the person experiencing it. It cannot be expressed in common labels. It has to be met, found, felt, attended to, and allowed to show itself”(Gendlin, E, 2003 p156 ).

I have seen in my own practice how difficult it is for clients to talk about their experiences, as their emotions feel overwhelming. Will I be strong enough to hold them in their distress? Many times I have been able to provide the sense of safety that has been needed, and there have been times when clients have not sensed that safety enough to be able to trust me with their story. I continue to strive to provide a safe enough space in which client’s feel able to tell their stories. Not just to be listened to, but to feel truly heard, as they weave in and out in the depth of their experience.

“If we feel confident and willing to face the pain and suffering, then we can help.”

Etherington, K, (2000, p20)


Etherington, K (2000). Narrative Approaches to Working with Adult Male Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse. London: Jessica Kingsley.

Gendlin, E. T (2003) Focusing: How to gain direct access to your body’s knowledge. London: Rider.

Holmes, J (1999) Ghosts in the consulting room. Attachment & Human Development, 1 (1) pp115-131.

McLeod, J (1997) Narrative and Psychotherapy. London: Sage.

Rogers, C. R (1951) Client-Centered Therapy: Its current practice, implications and theory. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Jun 15 2015 02:02PM by Hazel Hill

Welcome to blog writing Dian. It's a great article and a great start to blogging. Key to blogging is to keep going and not give up and ignore the constant hassle from scam comments Do pop over to my blog some time www.inyourcommunity.org.uk/blog There is a lot of support on twitter for bloggers too :-)

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Oxford Personal Therapy

Counselling and Psychotherapy