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Life Experiences

How have your life experiences shaped the person you are today? What impact does your childhood have on your career choice and your relationships, especially on your marriage? While some people can directly tie their early life experiences to the decisions they make related to their careers, marriage partner, and parenting style, for others the connection may be more subtle. Sometimes when people have experienced trauma they choose to work in a field to help those who have been victimized. If we lost a loved one to a medical condition, we may choose to work in healthcare. Or maybe, like me, we had a loved one who struggled with mental illness and chose to become a mental health provider. Everyone has their own personal story that shaped them and maybe even determined their career path and/or faith journey. Sometimes our own adversity can lead to positive consequences and impact on others. So how were you shaped by your life experiences?

In my work I often witness the impact of my patients' past on their present relationships. For example, someone who grew up with intense conflict and turmoil or grew up in extreme poverty may bring those insecurities into their adult relationships. Sometimes people grew up learning that emotions are a sign of weakness and were taught to compartmentalize their feelings. Each of these experiences can directly impact the way a person approaches relationships and life in general. In some cases we learn as children adaptive coping mechanisms to deal with life, but those same strategies don't work in our adult life. For example, keeping quiet, avoiding conflict, and detaching from negative interactions may have been the only option to a child in a tumultuous household, but adults have more resources and choices. Adults can learn to navigate conflicts in a healthy way rather than simply avoid them. We may also have a difficult time distinguishing our valid feelings as an adult from those mingled with resentment and anger from years past. While we often recognize that speaking up is the healthiest approach, doing it respectfully and kindly is sometimes a difficult skill to learn. However, I believe the time spent learning these skills are worth the effort! Recognizing the connection between our past and present behaviors is helpful and beneficial to our relationships today. Sometimes confronting and healing hurts from our past life experiences are necessary to fully engage in healthy relationships.

Our history does not have to be our destiny. Often it takes courage, perseverance, and determination, but confronting our pain will release us from inner turmoil and bring us closer to peace. The journey can have lots of twists and turns, but our efforts enable us to heal, grow, and thrive. Part of the process requires acknowledgement, understanding, and forgiveness which often leads to acceptance. We have to make a choice: either stay stuck in the past or create a new future. The past is history, the future a mystery, and the present a gift. Live for today!

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