As an adult, having one’s needs met without voicing them feels profoundly reassuring because it reflects our deepest yearnings from infancy.
The ultimate goal of psychotherapy is to help us to better understand the patterns that keep us repeating situations that harm us and those we love so that we can break those patterns that no longer serve us. To enter into psychotherapeutic work is never a last resort. It is always a first step towards taking responsibility for the well-being of ourselves and our relationships to those we care and are responsible for.
At the initial session with a couple, almost invariably, one of the partners says that the reason they are coming in for treatment is that there is a problem with their communication. Yet couples are communicating all of the time and often what they are communicating is being transmitted in what is not said. The communication starts unconsciously and at the very beginning.
The capacity for self-sufficiency reduces the pains of dependency for sure, especially when any form of dependency becomes equated with pain or feeling small and unseen. It also helps if you feel resented for having needs that are felt to be burdensome by someone else.
So, is self-sufficiency really a problem?
The pain, emptiness, and confusion of the lost self can be debilitating and intolerable. It is not, however, a hopeless loss. The adult child of the narcissistic family can be found, or perhaps rediscovered, through the trajectory of a life of healing experiences. Through therapy, caring relationships, spiritual reflection, or any form of reparative growth, with deep effort, care, and self-compassion, one can flourish.
In our intimate relationships, as humans, –we have a strong yearning for a “wrong” to be recognized in it’s entirety, including the effects the offense has brought to others. When the apartheid regime fell in South Africa, to help it transition to a democracy, a commission was established called “Truth and Reconciliation.” The idea was to provide the opportunity for victims to voice their experiences in public forums and be heard, as an important or necessary step to reconciliation in a vastly divided society.
Finding one’s voice is critical in the process of healing. Individual therapy is a place where confronting these confusing and painful experiences can lead to releasing the shame and carving a path towards freedom and growth. Continuing to carry the effects of abuse by keeping the silence preserves shame.