January 28, 2014
Have you ever wondered why your relationships don't go the way you want them to despite your best efforts?
It all starts way back when you were growing up.
As a child, we all need respect, understanding, empathic attunement & mirroring of ourselves from our parents or caregivers.
We need our parents to serve as a mirror to us, to see us clearly, to respond appropriately to our feelings, to reflect them back to us, reassuring us that they are ok, and reflect our core goodness and potential back to us.
It is only in doing this that we get to know who we really are and appreciate ourselves and feel confident about developing towards adulthood.
Unfortunately, most parents are unable to do this, as they themselves have not received this level of empathic attunement for themselves. They see their children through the dark coloured distorted glasses of their own limited perceptions of themselves, as well as their own hopes, fears, expectations and unmet needs.
They simply couldn’t give us the kind of recognition they never gave themselves, nor allow us to have feelings, needs or sensitivities they never allowed themselves to have either.
This provides an incredibly challenging situation that many children have to find a way to deal with.
To the extent that we don’t receive this empathic attunement of ourselves as a child, we grow up feeling that there is something wrong with us, or our experience; that we are in some way deficient, unworthy or unacceptable, or that we don’t exist or are completely insignificant.
This is experienced as deeply hurtful, and this core wound and sense of emptiness can haunt us for the rest of our lives.
- At a level sometimes below our consciousness, we can feel deeply hurt & in shock and so we shut down our natural openness of our being
- We can have very little awareness of our real emotions and needs, as we have had no or very little validation of them.
- We can protect our sense of safety by believing that our parents must be right, and therefore we develop a haunting sense of deficiency and poor self esteem, and a most primal core belief that “I am deficient, I am unworthy, I am unacceptable, I don’t exist”
- We can develop a False Self/ Ego/ Rigid Personality which gives us:
A sense of control and safety in the world.
A sense of superiority
An avoidance of vulnerability
But can also give us:
A lack of empathy and compassion to ourselves and others
A lack of openness and softness to ourselves and others
A sense of numbness and inner emptiness
And a life that feels flat, stale and joyless
- We can medicate ourselves by getting addicted to TV, alcohol, material success, food, social media, shopping, love, spirituality and many other things, to numb the feeling of emptiness
- We relate in all our relationships from a rigid personality and an Insecure Attachment style
- We have no idea of who we really are
So, our relationship with our parents helps shape our brain in a way that was highly adaptive to the circumstances we found ourselves in. We survived, we adapted and we did the best we could.
However, this closing down emotionally and feeling poorly about ourselves shapes our neural processes, self-esteem and emotional regulation capacities throughout our later life, as well as how securely we feel attached in our relationships.
Additionally all of these aspects play out over and over again in all our subsequent relationships, becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy as we behave toward new people in ways that reproduce old negative relationships.
In this way almost all of us have ongoing life experiences that repeatedly reinforce earlier learned patterns of being in the world with others.
I will talk more about Attachment in the next few blogs. How secure our attachments are and what our attachment styles are, are very important components in understanding why our relationships don’t work the way we would like them.
Stay tuned for more information on understanding your attachment styles in the next couple of weeks.
More on how secure you feel in your relationship in our next blog.