The woman on the couch is crying as she looks up at me and tells me about her most recent problematic relationship. “I’m tired of dating men who aren’t there for me. They seem amazing; they desire me, compliment me on how lovely I am, and then, with that icy look in their eyes, either have an affair or turn against me once we become connected. After all, I can tell they don’t care. This is unbearable to me. “Why do I keep doing this?”
As a therapist, I assist people in identifying recurring patterns. We end up feeling the same way we did as children despite our conscious desire and urgent efforts to improve our lives; nonetheless, the sensation of hopelessness and depression might intensify if we realize that we are simply repeating our abusive or abandoned childhood.
This may appear difficult to grasp, but here’s how it works: A desire to make the story come true—to find someone who will finally come through and love us the way we want—is deeply rooted in the unconscious.
However, the pattern of repetition will cause us to choose people who will do precisely what was done to us as children until it is resolved. They would abandon you if you were abandoned. If you were physically hurt, this could be what you go through again.
For example, most women involved in domestic violence relationships were beaten as children or witnessed it for many years. The exact words and feelings would be used if you had experienced verbal abuse as a child. There you are, thinking you have found the love of your life, when a terrible feeling overtakes you—”I have been here before,” a voice inside your head says, a dread running through your body. It’s not déjà vu; instead, it’s an unconscious reenactment of the past.
Fortunately, you can break out of these old habits. It will take time, awareness, determination, and hard work, but it is possible. How to help stop the cycle of abandonment and abuse in your life right now:
1. First, you must recognize that you are repeating your old patterns. Recognize a familiar sinking feeling or the feeling that you are a bad person, that you are not good enough, or that you feel terrible about yourself. Is there anything going on right now that reinforces that feeling?
2. Consider your previous interactions with your parents. It is beneficial to write down these patterns so you can be objective about them.
3. Write about your life as a child of about five years old, nine years old, and twelve years old. Who was there, and how did they connect with you?
4. Write down any similarities between then and now after compiling that objective list of historical and familial patterns, paying close attention to feelings. The action may vary, but the emotion remains consistent.
5. Before getting involved with a new person, get to know him better. Spend time observing how he treats you on bad days or reacts when you say no. How you are treated at the start of a relationship when you are not pleasing or saying yes when you set boundaries for yourself is only a foreshadowing of how you will be treated later.
6. Balance your need to be loved and accepted with who the other person is and what he or she needs. Take your time learning more before becoming too involved.
7. Keep a journal to help you become more aware of patterns, concerns, and actual events. This documentation may help to clear up any future doubts about reality. You can return to them later.