Often in a session, I will ask clients if they were closer with one of their parents than the other. Or, I ask if one parent was tougher for them to connect with than the other. Invariably, I hear them say, “Yes, my mom and I weren’t close”, or “My dad and I didn’t get along.” My heart really sinks when someone says, “Both of my parents were emotionally unavailable to me.”
Of course, there are other family set-ups with either two moms or dads, single parents, or a step-mom or dad, foster parents or grand parents, etc. The question is: What was your relationship like with your primary caregiver(s)?
Time and again I will have someone sit beside me at the table with our focus on the notepads in front of us, pens in hand, goal on the page, and the goal is what to do about some relationship where they just don’t feel “met.” Often, for whatever reason, this ‘desired other’ simply can’t appreciate the beauty, intelligence and wonder of my client.
We know this, but let’s say it: Our self-value and personal boundaries were established by the way we felt embraced and accepted – or not – and generally how we were treated, by our primary caregivers.
As kids, we need our primary caretakers to see us, to believe in us, to respect us, to listen to us and to set reasonable boundaries with us. These patterns of treatment get established early, and then depending on how we have processed them, we may end up spending the rest of our lives attracting all kinds of relationships with people who have similar energy patterns to that of the primary caregiver(s) who challenged us. It may also cause us to crave love and acceptance from someone who just doesn’t have it for us.
Until we change these patterns, similar patterns like these can show up in ANY relationship: an authority figure at work, co-workers, teachers, ministers, friends, neighbors, our children, you name it.
Another way to look at it might be this: If you are in a relationship with someone who has a pattern of behavior you don’t like, chances are good that you have the matching puzzle piece to their pattern. In disagreement, a client will often say something like, “but this other person has a pattern of ‘lying’ – I don’t lie.” Or, they’ll say, the other person “has an anger pattern, and I am not quick to anger, so that’s not my pattern.”
To that I say, I understand what you mean, however, you likely have the matching puzzle piece where being in a relationship with someone with his or her issues feels familiar. On some level, their treatment feels normal even though it, perhaps, has never felt safe or comfortable. The puzzle piece that matches theirs may simply be that you unknowingly allow their behavior or inadvertently help to feed it in some way; and not because there is something wrong with you, but simply because it is a familiar pattern that has gone unchallenged up until now.
Familiar doesn’t necessarily equal healthy. When something feels familiar, we can easily mistake it as any manner of “right” or “meant to be” or “I’m in love”, when really it’s just a familiar puzzle piece matching up…a puzzle piece that needs to be understood, healed and upgraded. Or, as I like to say to these, often, extremely bright, talented clients: Let’s take a step back, look at specific patterns of treatment you may be accustomed to receiving, and please consider raising your standards.
Easier said than done when subconscious patterns are running the show. However, it is possible to change ANY pattern. It starts with understanding where the pattern is rooted in us, and sorting out what is healthy behavior from what is simply familiar behavior – behavior that somehow now seems normal.
We are not blaming our parents, others, or ourselves by doing this, by the way. We know there is more to someone than his or her behaviors, and we know there is more to us than our behaviors. We are all doing the best we can with what we have. And then there are some of us who want to do even better than that and establish unmistakable, clear boundaries, surround ourselves with healthy behaviors, and create a truly magical life. That’s you.
When we want to change some current pattern of experience, we need to go to the root of it. What treatment from others have you been putting up with that hasn’t ever felt comfortable to you? Let’s dive in. Let’s change your puzzle piece, change whom you attract to you, and upgrade what you allow. At this point, as an adult, it starts with you. And, thank goodness, because that’s a powerful thing to know.