Healing through emotional expression therapy

Healing through emotional expression therapy
September 27, 2014 11:42 pm

Fr. Shay Cullen
We have all had some disappointment, sadness, hurt or emotional pain in our lives. Some has remained with us a lifetime. It is this emotional pain that we carry through life unresolved and something we want to forget, get over and banish from our memory. We want to forget. But it is something that is always deep within.

If we can find a friend, a helper, therapist or someone we can trust it is best to revive our memories and talk it out. It is great to have a shoulder to cry on and even greater to offer a shoulder to cry on. Listening to the troubles of others and giving them understanding and comfort is a great virtue and service. We will feel a lot better and happier.

We can also find other ways to express our deepest emotions in social protests calling for justice, equality, ending abuse and exploitation. The peaceful, non-violent emotional expression of grievances can be a good and healthy thing to do.

We have seen the peaceful protesters and marchers on the streets holding placards and banners to express their dissatisfaction at some deprivation, unjust or cruel act of Government or some other establishment entity or institution. Long-held bitter grudges about social or political injustices are being vented by some of these marchers and sadly some turn violent. And I often surmise if there is more hidden within the buried memories and emotions of some of these angry people.

Some perhaps have deeper, subconscious personal grievances of past abuse and oppression in the family, school or community and these deeply buried hostilities that could never surface or be expressed elsewhere. The mass protests are an outlet or an occasion where the deprivations of their childhood or early adult life are subconsciously projected and expressed. Many feel relieved and more content after venting their emotions. But violence is never to be condoned.

How much more important it is that these buried emotions of deprivation and abuse could be directly expressed one on one in a therapeutic setting and healing environment with an understanding, supportive therapist? I set up the Preda Foundation forty years ago in Olongapo City, Philippines, and built separate homes for abused boys and girls to help them overcome the traumas of childhood abuse and exploitation in jails and brothels.

They receive shelter, protection, education and therapy in an open and free environment. What is offered to them and which they accept willingly is the emotional expression therapy sessions. In a padded therapy room they vent all their anger and frustrations at the adult abusers in their lives. It is a powerful healing process and empowers and frees them from fear, anger and hatred.

The majority are boys and girls rescued from abusive homes and detention centers. They are safe and cared for at the Preda open center. Most of them are from broken homes. Most are abandoned by their fathers but some are abandoned or left to fend for themselves by the mother and some are brought up by aging grandparents incapable of loving them as their own parents and unable to give them the love and attention and affection they crave.

A young boy growing up without the support, role model and good example of a loving father and mother from early childhood will surely develop a deep identity crises and carry feelings of deprivation and unsatisfied needs into adulthood. Emotional pain will be with them all their lives and they have to suffer in silence and cope with it as best they can.

This coping experience shapes character and personality as each continues to struggle to overcome the loss. No alternative will ever satisfy deprivation. Their marriage, friendships and social interaction may lack permanence and stability.

They can suffer personality disorders, become manipulative and demanding, temperamental persons and they need much understanding and help that is not widely available. This is the common experience of hundreds of thousands of young people. There is no substitute for a happy, loving united family.

The worst case scenario is where boys or girls have experienced verbal, psychological, physical or sexual abuse by their parents or other relatives. In such cases deep anger and hostility is carried into later life and other relationships are seriously affected.

Whatever the hurt and pain felt by the victim of childhood neglect, abandonment and abuse it will be buried within the person and carried through life. It needs to be freely expressed and released so healing can take place. The poison must be extracted for the patient to recover. At Preda, emotional release therapy over a period of months enables the youth to get it all out, to shout and challenge and cry at their alleged abusers in the therapy room with supportive therapists.

After each session the young person has a great feeling of freedom from fear and stress and anger. Hate is dissipated and the young people open up and more easily tell their life story of abuse and neglect. This can help the Preda therapist and social workers to respond and help the victims. They also identify the abusers and give an opportunity for the children to seek justice and have the strength and determination to file a criminal case. The social workers and Preda paralegal officer helps the process.

Then the recovery can truly begin with the healing powers of affirmation, inspiration, encouragement, friendship and peer group support within the Preda family. Then a better happier life is possible. That’s the goal of the Preda therapeutic community now celebrating its 40 years of service to the Filipino youth. Hundreds of young people are now living meaningful happier lives with their own families. It has been nationally and internationally recognized as a unique and successful service.


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