Why We Behave in Ways We Don’t Like but Can’t Seem to Change
Did you know that the effects of emotionally abusive parenting are never just limited to someone’s childhood, it can hamper their adult lives too?
Intellectually, the dysfunction of behaviors such as overspending, overeating, or getting involved with an emotionally unavailable partner or friend is obvious.
Despite a person’s concerted efforts to break these habits, something draws them back. This may not be due to a lack of self-discipline. The catalyst may be an unconscious need to remaster negative childhood experiences.
For example, say a person finds himself or herself continually involved with someone who takes advantage, manipulates, and treats them if they are disposable. After becoming ensnared in a series of relationships like this, the person may start to believe it is fate. Yet reenactments, or the ease of slipping into an adult relationship that is similar to a childhood relationship with an emotionally abusive parent, maybe the problem.
A person is often unconsciously drawn to the familiar. Jumping into a relationship with someone who is egocentric is easy to do if the person had a parent who operated similarly. The selfish partner or friend often launches a relationship by idealizing a person who is craving acceptance. The self-centered partner compliments and treats the new person as if they are sincerely loved. Yet as soon as the partner believes the person is invested, they switch to criticizing and dismissing the person.
This fall from grace stuns the person and causes anxiety. He or she may clamor for approval, unconsciously caught in a repetition of a painful childhood dynamic.
The need to stay in the relationship and fight for a different ending, an ending in which he or she feels valued and loved, is human. However, this may be unrealistic, because a partner with a serious narcissistic streak may lack empathy and feel big when he or she can make another person feel small.
Oscillating from idealizing to devaluing gives the self-serving partner a feeling of control. Thus, instead of achieving the result the person desperately desires, which is stable love, the emotionally unavailable partner reinforces the person’s insecure attachment with an emotionally abusive parent.
A similar scenario occurs with overeating. Often, children who grow up with a self-centered parent are shamed for having a feeling that differs from the parent. Because the child is dismissed and rebuffed for feeling the way they do, the child feels as if they are bad.