Not all forms of psychotherapy are concerned with the past, but most are. Your therapist wants to understand not just who you are but how you came to be who you are. That means going all the way back - to childhood and even beyond.

Talking about your past inevitably raises the question of blame. “Is it my parents’ fault that I have the problems I have?” Some patients are predisposed to answer in the affirmative. Others tend in the opposite direction: “My parents weren’t perfect, but they did the best they could.”

The question of blame, no matter how it’s answered, obscures more than it reveals. The therapy room is not a courtroom. No one is going to be punished or exonerated. Our goal is to understand. Who were your parents? What were their capacities and deficits? How were you affected? What choices did you make as you developed?

The urge to cast blame or avoid casting blame gets in the way of looking deeply at the actual conditions of your upbringing. What was good is to be celebrated; what was bad is to be mourned. Above all, there’s the question of how you played the hand you were dealt. You’re not the straightforward product of an imperfect machine: you played a part in your own creation, and you bear responsibility, too. Not all. Some.

Maybe you love your parents overmuch. You may have to learn to hate them so you can work your way around to loving them in a more realistic way. Or maybe you need to discover the love masked by your hate, again to work your way to a new, healthier place. The path is never a straight one.