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Childhood wounds, why we repeat old habits

I have worked with many adults who appear to repeat patterns of behaviour that are almost inexplicable. It is almost as if they are on a record that skips and they go back to a pattern of behaviour that simply does not work.

Ms. J was raised in a family where she had to assume many responsibilities very early on. She grew up on a farm and as the oldest daughter, once her mother fell ill assumed responsibility for her younger siblings. Unfortunately Ms. J was never parented herself and took on the task of 'protecting' her younger sisters at all costs. She never allowed them to be blamed and instead tried to deflect all blame from them.

This pattern of behaviour worked for a long time and she managed despite being very young to ensure they were fed, went to school and were able to support her father in his dairy farm.

Her wound was that to be loved, in this case by her father, she had to assume responsibilites that were far above her capacity as a 10 year old. She reacted in the only way she knew which was to be a super protector. Hence the image on this blog.

As Ms J grew and married herself, once she had children this pattern of learned behaviour repeated itself. Despite it clearly not working, she maintained protection at all costs of her now adult children, by paying their debts and making excuses for all their behaviours.

Ms. J felt that in order for the family to function, she had to take on the same role as she did before and thus 'win' their approval,

Mr. B had a very broken childhood where he was abandoned by his father at a young age. His mother developed a hatred for men as a result and Mr. B grew up with the understanding that men could not be trusted. He knew that in order to please his mother he would have to prove that he was trustworthy in every sense. When he dated, Mr. B would share all his activities with his girlfriends. He allowed them access to his phone, his passwords and would always respond immediately to text messages. Unfortunately this led to Mr. B being abused by some of his girlfriends who took advantage of him and abused him both sexually and financially. After his second marriage failed and his wife left him after taking the children and the house, Mr. B came for therapy.

In the case of Ms. J and Mr. B it is clear that as children they developed hard rules in order to be loved. Ms. J believed that she had to take on the role of super mom despite all circumstances, Mr. B acted as a doormat for his girlfriends and suffered as a result.

By acting out of their woundedness they unconconsciously applied the same dysfunctional understanding of love they aquired as children.

I often wonder how much of our repetitive and somewhat destructive behaviours are in fact the result of our acting out of a woundedness of not being loved and our attempts to repeat what we thought worked in the past but in fact did not.

We repeat what we know despite it not working!

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