If you’ve watched enough news commentary on any media channel, you’ve most likely heard the some variation of the adage, “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”
This sentiment is especially true about relationships. There may or may not be a genetic component to dysfunction, but it certainly is hereditary.
If your goal is to have a emotionally healthy relationship with anybody, you have to do a lot of work on yourself. I say this because I firmly believe that it’s impossible to have a healthy dynamic with anybody until you have a healthy relationship with yourself. It all comes down to self esteem.
If you don’t have the ability to love yourself, you cannot truly love someone else. We first get our ability to love ourselves from our family of origin. We develop our sense of Self from our initial care givers. We learn what type of World it is “out there” by the people who first create the environment we explored as babies and toddlers.
It’s a deep concept, but if you are still operating as an adult based upon your first three years, then you are letting your inner child still cry for validation, and that is NOT a good way to deal with anybody.
Child development experts say that 80% of our psyche is created in the first three years of our lives and we spend the REST of our lives developing the remaining 20%. Sometimes, we have to go back to our past to retrain that 80% to instill in us the confidence, security and sense that we are valued as a person. We have to heal that inner child so we are no longer operating from a repressed toddler temper tantrum.
How to do that? There’s tons of books out there to help you, but what worked for me is to list all the stuff that I didn’t like about my present life and work it backward. How did I get there? How is what’s going on today ultimately linked to my past? And how is that linked to my parents? I also learned about THEIR pasts and understood what motivated THER behaviors as well. Think of it as a Freudian Family Tree… only the descendants are maladjustments to one’s surroundings.
I’ll give you just one small example of the insights I got from doing my work: decisions. I’m very bad at making them. Mainly because my father was hyper critical when I was growing up and I learned that whatever I DID do was probably wrong. Therefore, any choices I was faced with as an adult was met with a lot of anxiety on my part because I did not want to repeat that feeling I had as a child of doing something wrong, thereby confirming that my father (and later on, peers) were actually right: that I was a deeply flawed human being. Therefore, any time I was faced with making any type of choice, I’d have a meltdown. I remember crying in the mall because I needed shoes but couldn’t decide between the black or brown ones. I left in tears with nothing.
Or I’d get myself so worked up when someone would ask me, “What do you want to do for dinner tonight” and I’d just say, “Nothing,” just to avoid making a decision- I couldn’t possibly articulate my needs because I didn’t even know what they were. So then the well-adjusted person would actually believe me… and do nothing! I’d then feel invalidated and spin things around on THEM and make them out to be the enemy… only because they put me in the position that reminded me of being a kid, and I had cast them in the role of my father. I’d be triggered as an abuse survivor and I’d be lashing out at a friend and they were like, “What the heck? I was just trying to be nice to her!”
Pretty messed up, huh? Now imagine if I had pulled that illogical nonsense with my child… But people do that all the time. And so the cycle continues.
So it’s ESSENTIAL to really examine your behavior, identify patterns and figure out the causes so you do not operate from a position of dysfunction and inability to regulate your emotions; otherwise you will take all your baggage and pack it even tighter for your loved ones and they will be stuck carrying that heavy load and somehow believe that they asked for it and deserved it.
Imagine a happy childhood, how yours was not, and make the changes you need to make so you can give to your child what you did not get from your own caregivers when you were a kid.
Sometimes, your 153Promise can be in the form of loving your own inner child so you can do the same with the next generation.