Understanding Your Core Issues
Understanding Your Core Issues
by Michelle DesRoches
People come to therapy for a variety of reasons. Typically the impetus involves a current day relationship or problem that has become bigger than what the individual feels they can handle. Once they have tried everything they know, talked to friends and family and still come up with no answers, they call a therapist.
As a therapist, when new clients arrive, the first session usually involves them describing their reasons for coming. While the client may feel the problem is an isolated incident, as I listen and ask a few questions, patterns begin to emerge. Often the same feelings, dynamics and beliefs have been present in this client’s life for a long time. The players and details may be different but the feelings and outcomes are the same. In fact, most of us only have about 3 to 5 main problems in life that keep repeating themselves in many different forms. Some examples of core issues include: fear of abandonment, fear of intimacy, all or nothing thinking, unacknowledged losses or issues of trust and control just to name a few.
Let’s explore how core issues work. Let’s say that Sally never really knew her father. He left their family when she was just 2 years old. One of her core issues would likely be fear of abandonment by men. At 2, it would have been impossible for her to understand why he left or what that had to do with her if anything. Yet somehow, she has likely internalized this as a rejection. As an adult, she may be in relationships where men leave her suddenly, and without explanation. Or where his needs become more important than hers and she may self-sacrifice to keep him. She may exhaust herself, trying to please and predict his needs before he even knows what they are, all the while being afraid to voice her needs and wants in case they are too much for him. Even when things are going well, she may never fully relax into the relationship and she may even obsess to the point where she pushes him away with her neurotic fears.
She may believe that each relationship and each partner is very different from her dad and each other. She may consciously look for men who are different, yet there continues to be something about them that eventually recreates that original loss. Compounded, are the hits to her self-esteem every time a man leaves her life. Sally may be so out of touch about her feelings toward her father, that she doesn’t even connect her adult relationship dynamics to her early experiences.
In order to change this dynamic, Sally will need to spend some time acknowledging and healing the loss of her father. She will need to discover her relationship needs separate from her partner’s needs. She may need to examine the type of man she is attracted to in order to better understand her subconscious sabotage. She would do well to explore how the fear of being left has probably influenced all her relationships, even with her friends, and how much she hides herself from them. There’s a good chance that any relationship/friendship/workplace dynamic Sally is part of, will involve fear of abandonment in some way.
Like Sally, once you have identified what your core issues are, you are much better equipped to handle the day-to-day ways that they show up. You will be less likely to get overwhelmed or blinded by your immediate reactions and feelings. You will be less defensive, blaming and shaming of others and feel less victimized. In other words, you become the adult that you are rather than the child you were when the original hurt occurred. Knowing your core issues empowers you to know yourself and what you need and how today’s feelings are yours and your responsibility.
Michelle DesRoches, B.A., is a Senior Spiritual Psychotherapist, Case Supervisor, facilitator for the Total Self, Spiritual Psychotherapy, Group PsychotherapyPrograms and Intensives at Transformational Arts College of Spiritual and Holistic Training. She is the College’s Counselling Clinic Coordinator and a graduate of the Spiritual/BodyPsychotherapy and Spiritual Director Programs. She has a private practice in Toronto and runs psychotherapy groups.