When I started seeing a psychotherapist at the age of 37, I felt as if I had no happy memories. Without going into my family history, suffice it to say that my heart had been so scared, and occasionally angry, that there was no room for softer feelings.

I was like an emotional quadriplegic, cut off from love, sadness, happiness, relaxation.

It took a lot of patience on my therapist's part to offer me the unconditional love and support that produces a sense of safety and trust and leads to deep healing.

Good psychotherapy is a balance between support and challenge. It helps us become more self-aware, and in the process, we emotionally "detoxify," releasing the painful, negative beliefs that have been undermining us.

As we release those painful, negative beliefs, born out of painful negative experiences, we make room for the happy memories we may well have blocked out.

When we are depressed, we have no trouble remembering memories that are sad and gray--the problem is, that is all we remember. This is not to say we should be preoccupied with the past, but sweet memories provide a springboard for creating positive experiences in the present.

These positive experiences can even shift the way we perceive our past -- empowering us to relive certain events with a sense of how we would do it differently, given the more confident person we are today. We find ourselves remembering memories that bring a gentle smile to our faces, or even make us laugh out loud. And we begin to view ourselves with more kindness and compassion in the process.

I had a feeling I was naturally cheerful person, and I didn't understand where my happiness was. I smiled easily, but I didn't really feel pleasure or love. I felt relieved being around people, yet underneath there was an aching loneliness that never went away. I felt self-critical, very impatient with both my own fears and, what seemed to me, my slow progress.

But my therapist seemed sincerely interested in me, and wanted to understand me. He met me right where I was, acknowledging what I was feeling.

This was the very thing I needed--acknowledgment. As a child, I had the feeling that no one believed that I needed attention, and that, furthermore, I was spoiled to feel that I did. This led to my feeling unworthy of attention, and to minimizing my own feelings and needs.

As my therapist took my feelings seriously, inviting me to identify my needs and to begin to ask them to be met, I was able to grieve having been so emotionally alone. This led to more room to be playful. And the natural by-product was a feeling of happiness and remembering memories I didn't think I had--happy ones!

© 2010 Amy Torres
All rights reserved worldwide

Author's Bio: 

Amy Torres is a Gestalt psychotherapist, interfaith minister, and yoga instructor. She teaches A Course in Miracles, which is the foundation of all her work. She has developed the Language of Love, Harmony & Beauty©, a form of emotionally responsible communication, conflict negotiation, and a way of "undoing" our identification with the ego. To see Amy's videos, sign up for her free newsletter, and receive a free gift, visit www.amytorresacim.com