Over the years I have partnered with clients navigating relationship challenges in their intimate partnerships, with their friendships and at work. Sometimes the challenges present as "anger management issues" or "self harm", social anxiety or even depression. The common denominator much of the time across all these completely different presenting situations is sometimes around not truly feeling heard, or at least being seen. Having a voice and being able to use it regarding ones own needs is an essential part of creating a positive sense of self.
I had a client earlier today who shared a childhood of living in fear regarding his dad's unpredictable violent outbursts and daily "put downs". He responded by hiding in his room and destroying his coloring books, and as he grew older it evolved into hitting walls and even breaking his hand, then it eventually moved into cutting himself. These are in essence coping behaviors, that ironically could even be seen as survival skills; ways to cope with an insane situation.
This client did not have the space to practice using his "voice" and in turn was not heard; in fact he had no relational platform to be seen. His childhood environment created and perpetuated an invisible identity; linked to this is a lack of acknowledgment, a lack of belonging and a lack of self worth. The childhood system in essence fed a sense of learned helplessness.
When we unpacked this core belief "I am worthless" he became aware of the past patterns of behavior linked to this "invisible" identity; those coping and regulating "auto-pilot" ways of living such as to withdraw, to freeze, to dissociate, to become violent and at times to self harm.
The great news is that this level of awareness has opened the space for him to go against his familiar responses and ultimately to practice new ways of being. The 21st century highlights the dynamic and evolving nature of the self to create and recreate new identities; to create new neural pathways and thus evolve into visibility and voice!