As humans, we have an innate need to connect with each other. We all long for being seen and understood by those close to us, to engage in mutually empathic and mutually empowering relationships. When someone goes through serious chronic disconnection with others, there could be long term and powerful consequences in their lives.
Consider a child who experienced confusion and hurt because he had a fight with his friend. He went to his parents for comfort and reassurance, but his exhausted mom who had worked a 12-hour day dismissed him to go play in his room, and his dad who was worried about paying rent this month told him to toughen up and stop worrying about things that do not matter. This child might feel that there was something wrong with him and his feelings. With repeated similar experiences, the child might feel that his actions, feelings, and thoughts lead to not connections but a confusing sense of isolation. Since he cannot change the relationships available to him, he might attempt to change himself. He starts to only want to have what he considers to be good, important feelings such as wanting to do what his parents want, in order to have any sort of connections with his parents and other people.
This relationship context that include serious or repeated disconnections will lead people to have a distorted image of relationships. These images could lead people to choose to stay out of authentic relationships by disengaging emotionally, pretending and replaying old interactions and family dynamics.
In therapy, we want to focus on building a growth-fostering connection between the counselor and the client. When the counselor can truly “be with” a client’s experience, something happens in the counselor. When the client can feel this sense of “being felt and understood”, they know that they have an impact on the counselor by expressing their authentic feelings and thoughts. If you think that your feelings are not valid and no one will ever be able to understand your inner emotional life, we as counselors want to tell you that we take all of your experiences and emotions seriously. We hope that as client come to believe that mutually empowering relationships are possible, they can begin to build new images of relationships that allow their relationships in life to become mutually emphatic and mutually powering.