At this time of year, there seem to be commercials everywhere saying something along the lines of “New Year, new you”. It’s emotive language in a bid to get you to join that gym, get that new car, start the diet…
It is also sometimes used around recovery from mental health problems. But there are plenty of mental health experts who can see there is something missing from what being a “new you” implies.
That is because recovery is about healing. We heal inner wounds so that we can recover ourselves – to become who we are truly meant to be, who we always were until something happened that sent us off course.
Heal to make whole
When we know the word “heal” derives from a word meaning “whole”, then it tells us: recovery is about making people become whole once more.
That is the complete version of themselves, as they were when they were born. Until things happened, most often during the formative years of childhood, that cracked, broke or completely shattered them into fragments of their real self.
Naturally, at the start of recovery people are seeking help for mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, OCD, alcoholism, or another addiction because they just want the pain in their life to stop. They are sick and tired of feeling sick and tired.
But many mental health experts as well as people in recovery for some time will tell you, this is only the very first part of what is possible. A full recovery will mean, as the very word recovery says, recovering yourself fully and completely.
So seen this way, it is not about “new you”, but more so as restoring the old you. The true self.
Looking at the trauma
While learning to cope better is certainly an initial and ongoing aim, recovery can and really ought always to go beyond this. More often than not it will mean looking back at certain things that have happened in life that pushed us to where we were in life when we asked for help because everything had got too much.
Although trauma can happen at any time in life and have negative impacts on people, frequently people who are struggling will need to look back at their childhood, when they were being shaped. Perhaps there is trauma, deriving from a word meaning “wound”, and people often try to depress these intense painful memories and feelings.
Everybody needs to feel loved and know that they are loveable, especially as children when we are new to this big wide world. Love is a basic human need for everyone.
If this need is unmet, people often spend the rest of their lives trying to cope with not feeling whole, not feeling comfortable with who they really are, and not feeling loveable. People look to alcohol, other drugs, behavioral addictions such as work, relationships, food, shopping, and sex.
Discovering the inner child
Medical doctor and psychotherapist Charles L. Whitfield’s bestselling recovery book Healing The Child Within was written to help people heal from the intense pain of childhood trauma. It explains the “inner child”.
This is a term that initially started to develop in psychologist Carl Jung’s theories. It refers to a person’s childlike side, particularly about aspects learned in childhood – and unresolved adverse childhood experiences.
Whitfield’s book describes how the inner child gets lost to trauma. It explains how by recovering our inner child, we can heal the confusion, unhappiness, and fear that pervades many people in their adult life.
“Many children growing up in troubled or dysfunctional families learn how to be either aggressive or manipulative or to sit back or withdraw,” Whitfield wrote. “They don’t get what they want or need.
“They almost never see assertiveness being modeled, are rarely taught to be assertive and thus grow up to be adults who operate by being either aggressive, and/or manipulative or passive, ‘people pleasers’, or a combination of these.”
Shining a light
As the word suggests, depression can take hold if a person keeps trying to depress something – such as an adverse childhood experience – without resolving it. Or it could be they get trapped in addiction in an attempt to mask or numb their inner pain.
Frequently, people hide their true selves away. Perhaps they did this instinctively as a child to protect themselves and survive.
Many people will say their childhood was fine. Yet when a light is shone in dark corners there is often something to be found, if you know what to look for and where to look. This is why it needs to be done with a therapist.
It enables us to resolve what might have been blocking us or causing certain unhealthy responses in life. Then we can recover our true selves.
Our experienced team of professionals at Tikvah Lake has treated people with all types of mental health problems and emotional disorders. Get in touch with us today to discuss how we can help you or someone you know.