Your Childhood: The Point of Origin
The "Todays" that come from "Yesterday"
Posted May 8, 2020
Why are you so anxious so much of the time? Why are you depressed? Why does it seem so hard to get your life launched? Why do you keep getting attracted to abusive or addicted people? Is the answer only that you are “just one messed-up individual,” or you are "just damaged goods," or could there be some hidden reason for these things?
Is it possible that the reason you are so anxious all the time is that you grew up in a home where there was constant chaos, and your mother and/or father blew up at you for inconsequential or even nonsensical reasons? Could it be that you carry around a knee-jerk reaction to life that says that you are somehow responsible for all of that chaos, that you should have fixed it? Perhaps now you are anxious because you feel that there is always something you should be doing to make things OK—even at points of rest, there is that nagging sense that you should be up doing something to make it all better. Perhaps you feel that you are somehow a bad person because you couldn’t make it all better, so you are always waiting for that other shoe to fall in punishment.
Is it possible that the reason you are so depressed is that you experienced no real attachment to your mother and/or father growing up, and you feel hopeless to ever attain such an attachment? Perhaps you were never mirrored by your mother, neither in the womb nor in the earliest days of your life, so you put on a mask and costume to please her, but you never really felt that anyone could pierce that mask and costume to come to know and to love the real you. Perhaps there were a series of traumas in your home, and now you carry this sense of impending doom that makes you feel hopeless about life. Perhaps your parents were depressed, demonstrating for you that life is hopeless and desperate, and you absorbed their despair through some kind of psychic osmosis.
Is it possible that the reason you keep getting attracted to the wrong man or woman is that you have unresolved issues about your parents that exactly match those of your lovers or spouses? People say, “Oh, she married her dad,” or “He married his mother.” We tend to think that we just carry that attraction over into adult life. But really it isn’t just the gender or the personality that we fall in love with.
You see, falling in love is an unconscious act—that’s why we call it falling in love—it falls down on our consciousness from the unconscious. And whatever else is in the unconscious is coming out with it—so we fall in love with people who remind us of the old unresolved issues that have been floating around in the unconscious. We do that because we are subliminally trying to resolve those issues. But we don’t know that—we just know we’ve fallen in love again with Mr. or Ms. Wrong.
We don’t like to consider the origination point of our issues. We are afraid that this origination point means that we are permanently damaged. We fear that if it started in our childhoods, we are just stuck with it. But what if that’s not true? What if it is simply true that the particular issues our families of origin challenged us with are the hurdles we must jump to find and begin to live from the authentic self?
We can begin by hearing the messages in the anxiety, the depression, the life obstacles, and the relationship challenges. What we will often find in these messages is a direct or indirect connection to those same messages we received growing up in our families of origin. Does your depression say, “No one cares about me?” Perhaps that is the same message you got from your exhausted or depressed mother when she angrily said, “I don’t care what you want, you just have to…!” Does your anxiety say that you are bad when you are inactive? Perhaps that is the same message you got from your father, who always accused you of being lazy.
Do your relationship partners emotionally abuse you? Perhaps, your parents were also emotionally abusive. Perhaps, by living it out again in adulthood, you are trying to resolve your sense of injustice and the responsibility you took for their emotional abuse. As an adult, you can come to terms with it much better than you could have as a child.
These are just a few examples of the answers to our heart’s quests that we can come to terms with when we just sit with what is going on right now today and hear its message—a message that reflects material we absorbed but have not yet resolved from our childhoods. When we can hear those messages and clearly cite the source, we realize that it’s not even really our stuff—it’s somebody else’s stuff that we absorbed, and we can give it back to them. Giving it back to them simply means giving them responsibility for their stuff instead of carrying it as if it's our stuff.
At some point in this process, grief will take hold and do its work. That work includes the full recognition that I did not get parented in the way that I needed to be parented, and I’m sad about that. But once that grief has done its work, the person who grieved is transformed; s/he has gathered more of the self than has ever before been known and that authentic self is what we have been longing for all along—for we gave it up at infancy in order to survive our parenting.
It is definitely possible to get past bad parenting. It is definitely possible to live your life as an authentic being, fully plugged into life for all it has to give you. Unless we refuse to do the work of these childhood issues, there is no such thing as permanent damage.