So much has happened in your life which had the effect of formulating your beliefs about who you are in the world. What and who you believe you are is so important that it does and will determine how you experience the world and what you will achieve in it. Wouldn’t it be great if you could not only understand how you got to where you are today, but also create a vision for the future that is built on a strong foundation of self love, competence, personal safety and happiness?
This posting is the second in a series of posts which explore how to retain a strong sense of self in your relationships. So let’s talk a little bit about you first.
An important influence on the formulation I spoke about above, are the attitudes, views, feelings and availability of our closest caretakers-people we grew up with and we thought were going to protect us, take good care of us and meet all of our needs when as infants we couldn’t possibly have done that for ourselves.
One of the primary jobs of our parents was one of communicating to us in a believable way that we were safe, respected, lovable and worthy of their time and attention all by ourselves, without having to do a thing. The reality is that, like everyone else on the planet, our parents are human beings and have flaws just like we do. Those flaws, which can take many forms, get in the way, and we end up believing things about ourselves that are just not true-but they seemed very true at the time.
In many cases, instead of spending time in our appropriate “child mode” doing all the things that developmentally would ensure we grew up with a healthy sense of self- exploring the world, learning about our strengths, weaknesses and frustrations and others, we got sidetracked. Some of us had to deal with a lot more responsibility than a child should have because parents were absent or unavailable, or if we were going to survive in our family system, we had to give our caretakers who demanded it more attention, which left very little for ourselves. Our success at that time was bound up in the fact that we actually SURVIVED that environment-we did what we set out to do. But the price that we paid for our mere survival was very large(also very unconscious).
We also learned that in order to deal with life, often we could not depend on others to either teach or guide us, and we would have to approach things on our own. What a burden to hand to a small child!
Another burden is the shame that was transferred to us as we began to exercise our sense of being deserving of love and attention. We realized we had emotions, we had needs- we were thinking feeling, spiritual beings in small bodies who needed a structure to live by, boundaries, rules, so that we could feel safe and know we were being appropriate. Pia Mellody in her book Facing Codependence and John Bradshaw in his book Healing the Shame That Binds You are excellent resources for further reading on this subject. Acting out of their own shamelessness and neediness, they sent us overt and covert messages that we were wrong, bad, defective, not as good as them,