If you ever ask yourself what’s wrong with you, the answer is probably ‘a lot’. Though that’s not necessarily the best way to look at it. We shouldn’t think in terms of something being ‘wrong’ with us. Of course, the feeling that something is just not ‘right’ tempts us to think of the opposite as ‘wrong’.
The truth is, we’re all complex and complicated. We’re all damaged in some way. And much of that damage has been done to us by our parents. Even if we had happy childhoods with loving parents, they inevitably screwed us up in a way we’re probably not even aware of.
I had a good childhood. I was free, had friends, could play outside without worrying about predators. I had all I needed. But I also had an often-absent father, who barely had a hand in raising us, and a relatively strict mother, who had an introverted child at her hands and didn’t know how to connect to me emotionally.
Don’t get me wrong, I always had a good relationship with my parents, and still do. I love them dearly and they love me without question.
But that doesn’t mean that I got everything I needed when I was a child. Especially emotionally.
This isn’t anybody’s fault. My parents had their own burdens to carry and are probably not even aware in which ways they’ve been damaged by their parents. Every generation damages the next one, usually without intent or without really knowing any better.
We now know better. We know that parents influence their children in a fundamental way as they grow up, especially in their early years. Our adult attachments patterns are a repetition of our attachment to our parents, the way they loved us and connected with us.
We may grow older, turn into adults, but the child in us never truly disappears. It would be a tragedy if we lost our inner children, the part of us that never truly grows up.
But sometimes it is just as much of a tragedy how this child influences our behaviours and needs as adults. How we keep repeating patterns that are not good for us because this child is still desperately trying to find something that may not be there.
It helps to recognise this. It helps to be aware that this is happening. We can’t blame our parents for raising us one way or another, unless they are narcissists or abusers (or both), they usually tried their best. And we can’t blame ourselves for turning out the way we did, for forming certain attachment styles and having unmet needs.
But where do we go from here? Especially since everybody else is just as screwed up as we are.
It’s a lot of work.
My past relationships and many of my friendships have taught me what I need and want. That’s a good thing, though sometimes I paid a pretty steep price for a lesson.
This work we must do, the growth we must undertake, it’s painful. It can be heart-breaking.
I know my patterns. I know my unfulfilled needs. I know what I look for in people and I know that I somehow always land on those who can’t give me what I need. I also know that I keep hoping to be wrong about someone. That we just don’t know each other well enough yet and that things may not be as they seem.
But that hope is unsustainable because when people show you who they are, you really should believe them.
When I’m at a low point, this is very hard to accept. I prefer to give people the benefit of the doubt, but I am usually the one who ends up being hurt in the end.
Walking away from your own patterns—breaking out—is difficult. We grasp onto straws, which will inevitably break. Our inner children are pretty stubborn, especially when they potentially discover a kindred spirit.
The thing is, you can hold onto people all you like, if they don’t hold onto you as well, letting go really is the only option.
That sucks. And it hurts. And it never gets any easier either.
But it does teach you that the people who do hold onto you as well are the right ones for you. And they are the ones who will help you break your patterns.
You will likely only have a few such people in your life, but they matter more than all the ones who keep letting you go.