Healing A Broken Heart
In the last post we talked about what Daddy Issues/ Mommy Issues/ Parent Issues are: a breakdown in your self-esteem caused by a lacking in your relationship with a parent.
We also looked at some tendencies or patterns that show up based on this ‘self-esteem breakdown’ (I’ve added a few since the last post):
- Striving for perfection ~ you have high expectations for yourself and that will translate to always feeling like you ‘should/ could be doing more’ or you get stuck doing nothing because you’re afraid of trying and failing – failing being anything less than prefect.
- Seeking approval ~ you often think: “I hope they like me.”
- Seeking validation ~ you often think: “I hope they think I did a good job.”
- Insecurity ~ you often doubt yourself and whether you’ll be successful at something or whether others will like you.
- High level of self-criticism ~ you often hear from others: “You’re too hard on yourself.”
- High need for control ~ you’ve received feedback that you can be overly controlling and you know it can have negative impact on you, your relationships, and your life.
- Disregarding or diminishing your own feelings ~ you often ignore your own feelings for the sake of keeping the peace or making others happy… meaning making others like you. Then you get mad at yourself for putting yourself on hold for the sake of someone else.
- Hypersensitivity to criticism from others ~ you immediately react with high level of defensiveness when you interpret something as criticism from others. You often misunderstand a comment as criticism and over-react with defensiveness, anger, or hurt.
- Commitment issues ~ you tend to avoid making any long-term commitments that you would have trouble getting out of; this can include basic plans as well as committing to relationships.
- Trust issues ~ you have difficulty trusting other people and therefore don’t allow yourself to rely on others or let others ‘in’ very easily.
- Tolerating shitty behaviour from others ~ this includes and is not limited to: lying, cheating, stealing, lack of engagement or interest, etc. When these things happen, you either ignore them or react and draw a hard boundary (i.e. “I’m breaking up with you”) but then go back on it.
Let me reiterate that these tendencies are not ALWAYS or ONLY generated from messed up parent-child relationships; there are a number of causes for these behaviours. There are also varying degrees of these tendencies and that needs to be taken into consideration here as well as you’re looking at how this topic relates to you.
At the end of the last post, you were sent off to do some homework; you were looking at the relationships in your life and how some of these tendencies:
- Show up for you
- Occur between you and your children
- How they come at you from other people
As a natural part of this process, I’m sure you also started to look at your relationships with your parents to see how your current belief system might have been influenced.
In this post we’re going to look at an example and then look at what you can do about it for yourself. Since this topic can be a lot to wrap your head around all at once…
Let’s paint a picture:
- For the purposes if this example I’m going to illustrate a version of Daddy Issues.
- I invite you to try the example on loosely for yourself and just switch up the genders and situations as needed.
- This is a fictitious example made up to illustrate a typical example of how ‘Parent Issues’ get created.
Meet Melissa ~ As a little girl, Melissa loved figure skating. Anytime it was on TV she would watch it mesmerized by the skaters; their spins and tricks and sparkly outfits. She had dreams of being on TV in a sparkly outfit herself one day, and she would play pretend in front of the TV right along with the skaters on the screen for hours. When she was 5 her parents enrolled her in skating lessons and she took to it like a duck takes to water.
After awhile, Melissa started to notice that her dad was always ‘too busy’ to come to her practices. Despite the other dads being there to watch their daughters, her dad was never at practices and rarely went to her competitions. From her little kid perspective, he didn’t care about skating or her love for it. To top it off, she’d even heard him complaining to her mom about the high cost of her lessons one night after dinner.
Of course the reality of it may have been that he was ‘too busy’ working to keep a roof over the family’s head and actually wishing he could be with her and be involved with her skating; that may have been the truth. But as kids it’s the actions we pay attention to, not so much the words. It’s the actions that match the words that shape our sense of ourselves – our self-esteem, personal value, how we should expect to be treated in life.
For Melissa the reality she saw and believed was that her dad was ‘too busy’ for her.
So here’s this little girl with a dad that’s ‘too busy’ and never comes to practices. What messages do you think Melissa would be receiving as a kid? Probably something like:
- “I’m not important.”
- “I don’t deserve to have someone make time for me.”
- “I’m not worth making time for.”
- “My feelings and what I care about don’t matter.”
- “What’s important to me is insignificant to others.”
How will beliefs like that play out as she grows up and starts having relationships?
Well…. In some way shape or form, she will attempt to heal that belief about herself. She’ll essentially do this by having an internal struggle between two sides of herself:
- One side: the part of her that knows she’s worthy and should be treated with love and respect. That’s the authentic self – the core of us that gets covered up over the years with BS, false beliefs about ourselves, and coping or survival mechanisms.
- The other side: the louder part of her psyche, the little girl who learned she’s not important and that her feelings don’t matter.
The way this internal battle will likely play out is:
- That little-person part of her goes around trying to heal the scars by proving to herself that her beliefs of ‘not important’ aren’t true.
- Unfortunately because that belief is so ingrained, unconsciously, she will pick men to be with that show up as similar to her dad; in this case ‘too caught up in their own stuff’ to give her the love she deserves.
- She will do everything in her power (everything from being the super accommodating doormat to the manipulative and high commanding bitch) to get him to transform his self-focus into loving her the way she wants him too.
- Inevitably he won’t change or love her the way she wants/ needs and when he doesn’t, she gets to reaffirm the false belief that she’s not good enough.
- In turn she will be (unconsciously) proving to herself that her beliefs of ‘not important’ are in fact true.
- Repeat the cycle; unless something interrupts the cycle (typically conscious work about her self-esteem) she’ll repeat the pattern.
In the odd situation when the guy she picks does come around and start showing her the love and affection she deserves, she won’t see it or be able to accept it anyway. She can’t accept it or receive it – because the little girl part of herself doesn’t really believe she’s worth it – and she’ll start to come up with other covert and unconscious ways to continue the pattern; she’ll get bored in the relationship or decide he’s turned into a wimp or a pushover or he’s boring or she’s outgrown him or blah blah blah.
This is such an insidious and unconscious cycle that she’ll go around repeating a similar version of this pattern until she finally stops, recognizes that SHE IS the common denominator in all the failed relationships, and that she has the work to heal the internal lacerations, the emotional scarring.
Another person can NEVER heal this stuff for you.
Only you know what and where the scars are, and only you can determine what you need to change in your beliefs about yourself to start and finish the healing process.
I know this from a first hand experience. I had a lot of emotional scarring from a broken parent-child relationship that constantly played out in my life. I was constantly trying to prove my value as a friend, girlfriend, even an employee for Pete’s sake! It wasn’t until I slowed down and started focusing on me: what was going on, what my truth is, and who I am authentically, that I started to heal.
So what can you do? Well….
1) Look at your relationships with your parents. When you were little (under 10 years old) how did they treat you? What did they do? What did they say?
2) What messages did your little kid brain take from the way they were with you?
(Please be advised the messages you picked up as a kid likely won’t sound rational to an adult mind. Don’t judge it. You just have to be honest about the things your little kid brain started to piece together and believe.)
- A mom who tried to teach you not to interrupt by ignoring your or speaking over you. What would a 4-year old who had been the centre of the Universe until then learn?
- A dad who told you to be strong and not cry when you got hurt because that’s what he’d been told. What would a 6-year old learn about his or her feelings and how valid they were?
- A mom who always points out that you could have done better: “Where’s the other 6% on the math test? You need to try harder.” What would an 8-year old learn about themselves from that?
- A dad who just said “that’s nice honey” without really looking and just kept doing what he was doing whenever you tried to show him something you made that you were proud of. What is the message a 7-year old would pick up from that?
- An absent parent due to divorce: Little kids don’t have the ability to cognitively understand that it’s not about them. If the parent gets caught up in their own emotions and doesn’t work extra hard to emotionally nurture their children after the divorce, there will be impact.
Combine some or all of those examples together in whatever version they happened in your life, and I’m sure you can see how your little kid learned some untruths about you…
3) Look at how those beliefs are playing out in your adult life, in your relationships.
4) Do the work! That’s all that’s left to do… get in there and deal with your shit. YOU need to be the one to heal those wounds if you want to have lasting and loving relationships in your life, and more importantly, a positive sense of yourself.
NOTHING CHANGES IF NOTHING CHANGES!
I need to reiterate, this topic is not an attack on your parents so put away the guilt. This is also NOT an opportunity for you to start freaking out about how your children (if you have them) are interpreting your choices as a parent. This is simply an opportunity for you to get clear on why you may have some patterns that don’t serve you.
Remember, regardless of what happened, your parents were doing the best they could given the skills they had at the time – as are you I’m sure! They had their own stuff to deal with. As an adult I’m sure you’re clear that sometimes the ‘what happened’ isn’t what gets remembered and the story gets twisted and turned into a completely different experience by yourself and others over time. That will be at play here too.
So again, put down the judgment of yourself and just get honest about what’s going on for you. You’re not a bad person, you didn’t do anything wrong, you just have some patterns that don’t serve you… that’s all 🙂
Where are you seeing patterns that are messing with your happiness?
Where are feeling disempowered in your relationships?
Is any of that related to the stuff we’re talking about here? If so (and in all honesty if you got this far in the post, it likely is) then there’s work for you to do – and only you can do it.
All the relationships in the world won’t fix your little kid’s broken heart… that needs to come from you.
PS – to the control freaks in the crowd… Change is scary. It’s scary because you can’t control the outcome; you can’t see what’s coming and you can’t plan for how it will be. The thing is… if you don’t take the risk of letting go of control and making a change YOU WILL CONTINUE TO REPEAT THIS PATTERN over and over and over in various forms. In order to change, you must let go of the ultimate need for control. Find someone you trust that can help you out with this 🙂
Until next time ,
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