Personal Development: Anna Boroshok looks at two case studies that will give you hope that you can turn things around and rewrite your story.
Why do I always attract emotionally unavailable partners? Why do I push away people who are dear to me? Why do I shut down when people criticize me? If any of these questions ever tortured you, good news! You are limited by your harmful past and you can rewrite it. Before we go into ‘how’, let me explain to you how it works.
When we are children and experience traumas, we develop protective mechanisms and turn them into habits which then limit us all throughout our adult life. We also learn the model of relationships from our parents because this is the only reality we live in for many years. Even though the relationships were dysfunctional, we will unconsciously attract partners who recreate those dysfunctional relationships or we will spoil the relationships by ourselves (unwillingly, of course) rebuilding the model of relationships we witnessed during our childhood.
Let me tell you two stories to give you a better understanding on how it works.
Story Number 1: Meet Ella. She is a 35-year-old web designer and has trouble making her opinion heard both at work and in her personal life. In fact, every time she thinks she needs to speak up, she cannot because she thinks that her opinion is not valuable or might be wrong. This prevents Ella from growing her career and building balanced loving relationships where she can freely express herself and be heard by a partner.
Let us have a look at why this happens to Ella. When she was a kid, her father criticised her for her opinions; shouted at her when she could not complete home work as per his expectations; and he did not allow her to express her opinion in front of adults. As a child, Ella developed a protective mechanism of shutting down and being silent. She learned to keep her opinion to herself which now affects her adult life.
At work she is not able to express her ideas and agrees with opinions with others even though she does not like them. This makes her feel bad about herself and makes her a mediocre employee with no opinion and no possibility to grow. In her personal relationships she is also not speaking out about accumulating negative feelings and emotions which eventually bring the relationships to an end.
Is there anything Ella can do about her harmful patterns and protective behaviours she has developed as a child? She definitely can. First of all, she needs to look into her past to identify those moments when she had developed her protective mechanisms. She will also need to forgive her father for behaving in such a harmful way as he was acting out of his own traumas and limitations. Finally, she will need to become aware of her protective mechanisms in her daily life and start breaking them. For example, she could start speaking out at work and express her ideas; she could start working on her confidence by reading relevant books and taking relevant personal development courses.
In her personal life, she could talk openly to her partner and explain what she experienced as a child and how it prevents her from speaking out about what troubles her in the adult life. Then, she could express her concerns about what makes her feel bad and good in relationships and think together with a partner how they can both work on making these relationships a better place for both of them.
Story Number 2: Meet Anna. She is 30 years old and has just divorced her husband she spent seven years with. Anna has filed for divorce because she felt her husband was not emotionally available to her so she cheated on him because she was missing his attention and love.
After the divorce Anna has continued meeting guys who did not want or were not ready to build loving and meaningful relationships with her. However, when there was a nice loving guy appearing on her horizon, she would push him away. Let us have a look at her past to understand why. When Anna was a child, she was craving her father’s love because she felt he was not there for her. He was always coming home late, did not spend time with her, and did not show her any affection. When she was 11 years old, she saw him cheating on her mother with another woman. Then, he left her and her mother for another family.
What has Anna learned from this experience as a child? She has concluded that she is not worthy of love; that to be loved, she always needs to prove herself to someone by being very nice and doing the best for a partner – in other words, buying her partner’s love instead of just being who she is and receiving love without any trading.
Even though consciously Anna did not want to attract a partner like her father, that is exactly what she was doing unconsciously. On top of that, desperately trying to win the partner’s heart, she would overdo things for him, pushing him even further away. Remembering that her father was a cheater, she was also trying to control where her partners go and who they talk to. This was putting a lot of pressure on relationships and eventually destroy them.
Additionally, Anna has developed a pattern of a ‘strong’ woman. Because she was abandoned by her father, she decided for herself that she will do everything to be independent and cold-hearted so she would always be ready for the unexpected: to be abandoned. This was not allowing her to relax in relationships, to show her vulnerabilities and connect with a partner on a deeper level.
Seems like Anna has developed a robust and complex set of harmful patterns and behaviours. But even this story can be re- written. Let us have a look how.
To break through her harmful story, Anna will need to become an adult, because until now she was living according to the protective mechanisms she has developed as a child and she was still behaving as that scared, abandoned child from her past. Once she becomes aware of how the childhood traumas affect her present, she steps into her adult life where she is able to recognize her harmful patterns, break them and create a new story. Here is how it could work for Anna:
When she meets a new guy, she can become more aware of her patterns from the past. For example, if there is a guy who is genuinely interested in her, she could consciously choose not run away from such a guy and allow herself to be loved and cared for.
When in relationships, Anna could let go of her ‘independence’ and learn to be more vulnerable and trustful towards her partner. Coming back to the memories of her father cheating, she could share them with her partner and explain why she becomes jealous when she sees other women around him.
As you can see, we can rewrite our stories. It requires time, it requires a lot of work with yourself and others but it is very rewarding. Do it for yourself.
Anna Boroshok is the Founder of Fearless Female Founders: we-fearless.com / email@example.com