Many people would like to believe that the past does not affect the present. It is more comfortable to forget it and “move on.” Yet if your past includes a traumatic set of events, then you are affected and sometimes even controlled by it, due to deep, psychological scars that may remain.
Adults who were abused, neglected or otherwise mishandled as children almost always grow up to face problems in the areas of self-esteem, trust and the ability to either “acknowledge” their feelings or “handle” their feelings.
The message that is communicated from parents to children when improper treatment occurs is, “You are not good or worthy,” or “I am not interested in you enough to protect you, or capable enough to protect you, and no one else will ever be,” or “The world is a scary, dangerous place.”
What follows these messages is the beginning of a defense system that puts patterns of control, isolation, people pleasing or abuse into place. It is impossible to have a successful relationship or a successful career experience with such patterns in place.
So the patterns play themselves out in the following ways:
– The child who is told, “You will never amount to anything,” grows up not striving to meet his/her potential. These children often feel such efforts are futile and that they are incapable of trying.
– The child who is ignored and not taught how to master the developmental tasks of his/her age group, grows up feeling awkward, insecure, scared and ashamed.
– The child who is beaten up either physically or emotionally grows up to believe he/she is worthless, weak, and that abuse is normal for him/her to receive and for them to deliver. The overall messages say to children, “the world, you and the future are negative.”
The long term effects on adulthood can be devastating if one received such messages in whatever form they were delivered, whether covert or overt.
The good news is that what is learned by us through the programming of others can be unlearned. Patterns of behavior and attitudes can be changed to reflect a more healthy outlook on oneself and the world.
What our caregivers may have told us was “wrong” with us, does not have to be accepted and does not have to control out destiny. We cannot change the past, but we can change the psychological imprint to reflect a more realistic image of who we “really” are.
Taking time to learn about who you are and accepting yourself is an imperative first step to healing from the past. Through this acceptance can come self love and growth.
Not allowing abusive people into your life is also a crucial part of healing. Being reinjured psychologically by people in the present can re-imprint your pain and make healing difficult if not impossible.
Learning to see things as they were in the past, all the bad and all the good can help get you in touch with both the hurt and the anger, and any thankfulness that has gotten buried in the pain.
When you can feel the pain and heal, you will be able to feel the full range of positive feelings that lie ahead for you to enjoy life. It takes work, but you deserve it.
Author: Rebecca Sperber, licensed MFT, specializes in helping individuals, couples and families improve their relationships and their lives. For more information, contact Rebecca Sperber, M.F.C.C.