I have these powerful feelings that get kicked up whenever I have a close relationship and it seems threatened. Some stress is normal, but these feelings were completely out of proportion to the real situation. What I eventually realized is that they were being caused by something that happened in my childhood, and the reaction was my childhood self trying to protect himself. That explained the crazy, adrenal, life-threatening level of panic I felt. One possible cause was a time when I was a baby when my Mom was ill and bed-ridden for several months. Bolby and others have shown that being separated from a primary caregiver at this point in life has life-long effects on the child. Despite being aware of this, I was unable to prevent this child-self from consistently distorting my worldview and expectations to such a degree that my conscious mind couldn’t “fix” it. And, since having those expectations violated triggered another round of trauma, it became a vicious cycle. Add in whatever issues a partner is dealing with, and it’s a consistent death-knell for any hope of long-term relationship sustainability. Even though most of my relationships are in pretty good shape right now, if they were threatened for some reason, there’s absolutely no reason to think the same thing won’t happen again.
So the questions is, what do I *do*?
The good news is that I have a solid idea of *why* the problem is happening. Part of me is experiencing threats to my current, adult relationships from the standpoint of a child who’s entire existence is being threatened by the loss of primary caregiver. No wonder I feel crazy!
A friend was dealing with similar problems recently referred me to Will I Ever Be Good Enough. The book is for the daughters of narcissistic mothers, but the final section is about techniques for healing unmet childhood needs, and is equally applicable to any other trauma that would leave one with unmet needs early in life. Despite not being the target audience, I found myself exclaiming out loud “yes, that’s exactly how I feel!”
The larger explanation of what’s happening is that my inner child is still desperately trying to get his needs met from whoever he latches onto as a mother figure. He has a child’s feeling of entitlement to get those needs met by a parent figure, and hasn’t accepted that, at this point, that’s impossible. He’s willing to point the Big Guns of Desperation, Guilt, and Manipulation at whoever he sees as failing him. And he will continue to do this until he’s satisfied, which is impossible. I’ve spent the past year trying to take the high road and represent my Higher Self in the face of this screaming, but I failed. And in failing, I put one of the most important relationships of my life at huge risk. So what to do?
As a child, we were entitled to unconditional love and devotion from our parents. As an adult, we’re not entitled to get it from someone else, but we *can* provide it for *ourselves*. This book claims to teach how to do that. At least one friend has had Life Changing Success with this method, and has discovered a profound freedom she’s never felt before. The main idea is admitting the childhood need will never be met by the original parent, and grieving through the often very hard feelings that acceptance brings, instead of avoiding them. Once the grief has been processed as an adult, we learn how to meet own needs directly rather than continuing to screw up our lives by inappropriately and hopelessly seeking them from someone else. I’ve experimented with similar re-parenting kind of techniques for other problems in the past, and had good success. Along with my friend’s obvious benefit, I’m willing to give it a try.
I’ll report back and let you know how it’s going.