A landmark is defined as “a feature of a landscape that is easily seen and recognized from a distance, especially one that enables someone to establish their location” (Oxford Dictionary definition from a simple Google search). I can translate this into psychological/emotional language as “an emotional landmark is a place inside of us, our psyche, that can be brought back to memory in the right circumstance, that comes also with all the feelings that moment once came with, reminding us of who we were, where we were, how we were at that moment in time” (by me).

Emotional landmarks will “reverberate” when the circumstance is right. If you have had a challenging family life, it’s very likely that no matter how much therapy you will have done in your life, finding yourself within the family context will “feel like something”. Therapy can do so very much in helping us understand ourselves, where we came from, how we were taught to respond. It can help us see ourselves from another perspective, it can help us understand our parents, siblings, partners - ourselves so much better. It can help us forgive and accept. All great stuff.

What therapy can NOT do is erase these landmarks. I will never have different parents. I will never have a different family story. But what I can do is recognize that when the circumstance “looks” like what my history looked like - in my case chaos, alcoholism, violence - I’m going to have a very understandable reaction. What therapy has helped me do is notice this - so that I can make a different choice for myself should the need arise. One that serves me, a choice that is not reactive, a choice that recognizes my person and respects and honours that. A choice that recognizes my strengths - so that I don’t shut down in fear like I did as a child. Among other things, that is what therapy helped me do. 

So clients come to therapy and say when will this be gone - and we all need to learn that we are all like a tapestry, with ALL of our stories weaved in to create a fabric that is us. We can’t remove the threads of this fabric or we lose our integrity, we lose our strength and risk unravelling. We can lean on the fact that we are made up of so many different parts, stories, threads - strong ones, reliable ones, so that the challenging ones can be carried along and no longer be the central force behind how we feel, react, see ourselves in the world. But they will always be there. We all have the strength to change our “relationship” to those parts, to those memories, we really do … But they will always be there. 

Therapy, in my humble opinion, is better thought of as a tool to learn how to live in the world with who we are. The image of walking around a “landmark” and knowing what it once was, and seeing beyond ourselves and recognizing how far we are from it - can help a lot in managing our feelings. Of course change happens. It really does. And also, we come with our stories and we need to honour and respect those stories, not erase them - because that’s not possible. 

Peace to you.

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