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The Root Cause

So many of my clients are feeling lost, scared, hopeless, and discouraged. One client who was feeling suicidal said, "I'm not going to act on it. It just feels so helpless. Why even try? There are so many things to worry about: wars, problems with the environment, the economy is all messed up. Why should I try so hard to fix myself when the world I'm trying to get into is so hard and horrible?"

As a therapist, discouragement like this is very difficult to hear. As a human being, I know exactly how she feels. It's very difficult to look toward the future with hope when everything around you is chaotic and out of control.

Men and women alike have informed me of a prior diagnosis given them by licensed professionals and doctors. They have been medicated, poked, and probed, and prescribed psychotropic (mood altering) medications and holistic over-the-counter remedies and vitamins to fill their medicine cabinets. Many individuals who have experienced trauma reported to their doctor extreme emotions of anger, depression, anxiety and subsequently were diagnosed with Bipolar, Major Depressive Disorder, or Cyclothymic Disorder and are prescribed SSRI's to alleviate the mood swings. In nearly every case the client has not seen much improvement for their symptoms. Some continue the recommended regiment knowing it isn't working, while others have stopped taking everything because the side effects are worse than the original complaint.

Recently I learned the average time anyone can expect with their medical doctor is seven (7) minutes. They don't have the time to listen to your story and to medicate the symptoms away seems like a viable solution. They don't find out what the root cause is because they are trained to treat symptoms especially if they are emotional and not medical in nature. I wish they would hold off on the medications and would instead prescribe therapy as the first intervention.

When I meet clients for the first time, I take the time to listen to their life story, not just the symptoms that are their current complaint. One common theme evolves in nearly every case which leads me to suspect abuse as the root cause. For many, the connection between childhood trauma and their current problems and symptoms are not obvious. Like the pealing of an onion, we expose each layer of abuse. The more abuse, the more we have to uncover. When we are worried (anxious), stressed (fatigue, burnout), frustrated, hurt, or lonely (depression) we develop certain ways of coping with these feelings. We develop our unhealthy responses early in childhood so we can cope with our feelings. If we were an infant or very young when we experienced domestic violence in the home we might freeze, cower in the corner, or hide behind a couch. To avoid sexual abuse we might not shower, or isolate, or cut, or use alcohol or drugs. In response to abandonment (another type of abuse), we might strike out in anger. In nearly every case my clients report high scores on the Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) questionnaire they have elevated (anxious) or depressed emotions.

The solution is not to medicate the emotions but to uncover those emotions and bring them into the light. I give my clients permission to feel, permission to be angry, permission to see that they were victims of the actions of others, and show them the truth is they don't have to hold onto the pain anymore. It's amazing how the truth gives them freedom to live life as they choose. They stop talking about suicide and start talking about change, hope, and a future. They begin to live intentional.

If you'd like to learn how to live intentional, check out my book of the same name: Live Intention. Live the life you always wanted, but never believed you could. Available at Barns and Noble, Amazon, and iTunes

"So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples,32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

John 8:31-32


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