For the most part, we end up in a ‘family’ – whether biological or adoptive. It is a place we call ‘home’, or at least, a place we associate with childhood, with some type of authority or caretaking figures.
A healthy family environment provides children with a sense of physical security (food, shelter, bed, clothes), worth, intimacy and relatedness, routines and structure, challenge and stimulation, and, joy and personal affirmation.
Unfortunately, unhealthy or adverse childhood experiences are more the norm. Even if we believe our childhood was ‘good’, we are often in denial or minimalize our not-so-good childhoods.
The key for a healthy childhood is a consistently emotionally stable caretaker. Did you receive this?
Obvious, not-so-good childhoods include physical, emotional, psychological and sexual abuse. How could a child receive the necessary mirroring and emotional support in these conditions? Boundaries would have been cleared violated in these circumstances.
What about these situations? An alcoholic or drug-using family member;a chronically depressed or anxious member; a member being abused; or, one or more parents physically absent (e.g., work, separation, death). In all these examples, children likely would not have experienced an emotionally stable and available adult, as the parent would have been overwhelmed by their own issues.
On a more subtle level, we may have been raised in a family where feelings were concealed and where everything was ‘fine.’ There may have been judging, criticizing, perfectionism and blaming. Family secrets were held. And, we may have been placed in the position of relieving our parents of their pain.
How did we ever survive?
Well, we bought into our family rules. And then, we took on a role that helped us cope. As children we had to make a deal, either consciously (e.g., “I guess I will have to be The Responsible One.”) or unconsciously (e.g., escaped from the house as often as possible).
However, as adults, our work is to release ourselves from these unhealthy historic roles, rules and deals. We need to discerningly decide what no longer is true or works for us.
We want to identify the role we became very good at as a child and stop doing it as much.
We want to revisit the family rules we may still be living by and uncover the delusions behind them.
We want to make our own list of truths – how we choose to move through life.
Really, we want to detach from thought patterns which no longer serve who we truly are.