Example from Working Life

I work with CEOs and senior executives. People who have risen high in the workplace, but all too often suffer from low self-esteem. This can manifest itself in anxiety, an inability to take credit for what they have done and a pervasive feeling of not having done well enough. These feelings make it impossible for them to enjoy life to the full.

People from all walks of life come to me for therapy

Even in happy families there may have been negative messages which have impacted upon the way a child feels about themselves. These very successful individuals have often had such messages. Love can feel conditional on performance. Parents might well have loved their children very much, but children aren’t mind readers and the spoken or unspoken message that may come across is ‘No matter how well you have done, you could always do better’, or ‘Don’t be angry or sad, I don’t like it’. The feelings the child has in response may be that they have been pushed aside, ignored, they are not taken seriously – and later there can be emotional difficulties.

This is very much the pattern in successful individuals. They may be CEOs, have very senior positions, but find they are not happy and do not truly enjoy their lives. They cannot have deep and satisfying emotional relationships as this was not something they had with their parents, at the time when the capacity for this (and the majority of us do have this capacity) is developed.

A senior executive I worked with had great anxiety when having to work with those in authority. This was disabling and severely limited his effectiveness to the degree that it was threatening his capability to do the job. He knew that it was a problem for him but didn’t understand it. I learned that he had had an overbearing father, who put him down throughout his childhood, treating him as though he was useless. His mother was indifferent and didn’t protect him from his bully of a father. He was an intelligent, ambitious child and working hard at school and university he got a job and rose rapidly in the company, becoming a senior executive at a relatively young age and this was when his anxiety became a real problem for him.

During his time in therapy he recognised how much his father had hurt him by his cruelty, got in touch with his powerful mixed feelings towards him and later, towards his mother for not protecting him. Anxiety is always a signal that there are feelings that have been repressed or blocked and having overcome his defences against his feelings, making them conscious, his anxiety no longer troubled him. He was emotionally free of the tyranny of the past and could truly reach his potential.

Others are simultaneously struggling with illness in their families, ageing parents, troubled children and marriages under strain. Those working in business are not interested in long term psychological treatment, they operate in short time scales and wish to address specific problems.

This work of reconnection after many years of disconnect is central to my work and is both challenging and exciting.