During the fifth session, we began an exercise called "Mirror Mirror". In the fairytale Snow White, the Witch asks "mirror mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?" Often when we look in the mirror, we do not see ourselves, rather we see a failure, someone who has failed to measure up to unrealistic family, social and personal expectations.
Clients often extend generosity of spirit, trust and support to others in their lives, but never give themselves these same gifts. We are overly kind and understanding of others, yet super-critical of ourselves - is this fair?
We looked at our childhoods, and asked the same question under four topic headings - Atmosphere, Mistakes, Hurt/Pain, and Expectations. I asked everyone to evaluate these areas of family life:
What was the Atmosphere like in your childhood family? Was it loving and supportive, or cold, critical or even cruel? Estimate how much of the time the atmosphere was positive and how much of the time was negative, making both numbers add up to 100%.
Family Attitude to Mistakes
Were you allowed to make mistakes in your home? If you made a mistake was it forgiven, were you given an opportunity to resolve it in a supported way, or were you criticised, told you were stupid, careless or worse? Using the 100% guide, divide up your childhood into the percentage you were allowed to make mistakes and the percentage you were punished for making mistakes.
Family Attitude to Hurt/Pain
Hurt/Pain: Were you allowed to be hurt, or be in pain, and were you comforted and taken care of at these times, or were you told to grow up, take it on the chin, laughed at or dismissed? Divide the supportive times and the unsupported times to add up to 100%.
Expectations: What expectations were placed on you as a child? Were you expected to succeed, be the best, or expected to take on an inappropriate role - the mother, the spouse, the supportive one, the 'good child', the success. Were all children in the family treated equally or were their higher expectations of one over the other? What percentage of time do you feel the expectations of you were appropriate, and how often were they inappropriate? Score out of 100%.
Take some time to reflect more on these questions and headings in the context of your childhood family life, and see what memories and recollections come to you. As always, take care of yourself and make sure you have support or a comforting strategy available to you whenever you do your reflection.
Take Care, Emma