One of the important tools the therapist can use is an inquiry into your history. The therapist wants to understand relational patterns which are the biggest legacy we each carry forward from our childhood. Relational patterns determine how we feel when we are in a relationship with someone.
For example, the therapist is interested in learning what your mother was like, but more importantly what your relationship with mother was like. The therapist is seeking to understand what you, as a child, had to do with her relationally with her feelings in order to continue to maintain loyalty with parents.
I often ask my clients directly, “What happened with your sadness? If you had a bad day at school while in second grade, and came home feeling sad about it, what would you do in relation to your mother and your father? I might ask, whose eyes lit up, or sparkled, when they saw you? Did your mothers? Did your fathers?”
Then, I would begin to look for the correlation between how the client presented in session, how the client relates to people in their here and now lives, and what the client’s family of origin was like. Mostly, I am looking for the interruptions the contact that have persisted from childhood adaptations into all adult relationships.
As I begin to understand how the client has learned to inhibit the natural self in relationship, usually in order to preserve relationship with mom and dad long ago, but still playing out today with everyone, I now want to work on resolving this interference in the everyday life.
One way I might help the client get resolution is via the empty chair. Here, what I want the client to do this to be able to go back in time, and experience the feelings and the relational needs that could never be expressed. I want the client to share with couldn’t have been said aloud but needed to be. I want them to have the needed relationship that never happened instead of the repeated relationship that happen over and over again.