Lost your smile?

I wonder if anyone has ever said to you “cheer up” or “smile”.

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You may have been lost in your thoughts and trying to make sense of how you are feeling about any number of things that may be happening in your life. Or it may have been something that happened to you many years ago that you are still trying to make sense of.

You try to forget about the event or the relationship but something jogs your memory and takes you back to a time when you felt scared, worried or sad. And you never seem to find resolution or a sense of peace. Or you may hide your true feelings behind a smile. 

Challenging and emotional experiences or relationships from our recent and even our distant past can haunt us.  We may not realise how these have impacted us but our early relationships and experiences set up a template for the rest of our lives and are stored in our emotional brain or implicit memory.

It forms our beliefs of how we see ourselves and how others see us. How relationships function and how we see our place in the world. The ghosts are often more present when we are faced with difficult and challenging relationships and experiences in the here and now. 

Society sells us a certain version of happiness and that it important to feel happy all the time. Also that other “bad” feelings need to be avoided at all cost. 

Of course most parents want their little ones to be happy and move away from sadness, anger and fear. But life has a habit of bringing up these big feelings. Again and again and again.

Children are often told  “Big boys don't cry”. “Nice little girls don’t get angry”. “You have nothing to worry about”.

But we do our children a great disservice by not helping them to understand what their emotions are trying to say. As children we rely on our parents to keep us safe and we generally believe they have all the answers. This includes how we are taught to manage difficult feelings and emotions. As children, our emotions and feelings can so easily be shut down and hidden if parents do not model healthy ways of speaking and managing emotions themselves. Later, as adolescents and adults they are often not able to tune in to how they feel and reflect who or what has impacted them and how they can change things for themselves or seek support from others. 

From birth our emotions act as a guidance and survival system to alert us to danger and get ourselves out of situations that are harmful to us or bring it to an adults attention we don't feel safe and need comfort; both physically and emotionally.  Fear, to get us out of perceived or real danger. Anger, to stop people from taking advantage of us and consider our needs. Sadness indicating that we need to connect with another for comfort and support after a traumatic event or some form of loss. 

Counselling can support you to verbalise and find more clarity of your experiences and relationships both in the past and the present. It enables you to see how your thoughts, feelings and emotions have been impacted and how these in turn impact your behaviour and management of emotion now. Therapy can help support with the development of what Dan Goleman, a psychologist, defines as Emotional Intelligence or EQ.  This includes the ability to understand and manage our feelings, empathy and understanding of others and the development of social skills. 

Counselling enables you to reflect on how you truly feel, to express yourself in more healthy ways and to find your authentic smile again.

Deborah Spratling

As an Integrative counsellor, coach and supervisor I work with adolescents and adults. Helping them to voice and reflect on how experiences and relationships, throughout their lives, have impacted them emotionally, mentally and physically. Supporting clients to move towards positive and healthy self-expression and change.