If you’re like me, you’ve found yourself sometimes caught up in relationships that are emotionally frustrating. Maybe your significant other often disrespects you or maybe you have a very critical parent or family member. Whenever I was involved relationships like this, I would try to “fix” the other person by using worn out psychology techniques I had read about, explaining to them that their behavior made me feel sad or hurt my feelings. My approach never, ever worked.
It would end up with the other person turning the tables and making me feel that I was to blame for how I was feeling. I knew they were not being honest with themselves, but I could never break the cycle of feeling hurt, then asking for understanding from the other person and ultimately taking the blame myself. Over time, all that bottled up pain will erode self confidence and cause deep resentment and anger at the other person.
I recently shared my feelings with a wise friend who told me something I had known intellectually but had never really understood. My sincere but misguided effort to change the behavior of someone else was never going to work. The other person had their own personal script and was doing what produced the results they wanted. Then I would react with hurt and try to change their behavior. The real problem was that I had not addressed my own personal script. These concepts are addressed in the book Born to Win by Muriel James and Dorothy Jongeward.
My formative years were marked with criticism, rejection, alcoholism and poverty. It was a childhood filled with anger and conflict between two parents who themselves were broken emotionally. Eventually, it ended in a bitter divorce. As the only minor child, I was caught in the middle. By the time of the divorce, I was an adolescent and didn’t understand the emotional impact of what was happening to me.
Long story short, as an adult, I was forever getting involved in friendships and relationships that were disastrous. It seems that I was somehow subconsciously drawn to people who were more than happy to humiliate, criticize and belittle me. I was more than happy to oblige them by begging them to stop and then asking for forgiveness for upsetting them (trying to FIX them). My recent conversation with my wise friend, who explained this type of life script, showed me that it was not actually the other person’s actions (even though their behavior was unacceptable), it was that I was still living in that damaged little girl mindset from my fractured past.
When I finally looked square at myself, I realized that on the inside, I was still that scared little girl with low self worth and abandonment issues. It made me cry to think how long I had been trying to fix other people in my life when I had not been emotionally whole myself. When I started to accept and love that rejected little girl, and to nurture her, it was almost like rewinding time in order to go get her and bring her forward, toward adulthood. I realized that I would never be able to recognize people who were emotionally healthy, and to sustain healthy relationships, without repairing the damage done to me in my early years.
Now I am using this awareness when I interact with other people as a stepping stone to healthier relationships. It feels so good to let go of my resentment toward others and forget trying to make them treat me well. It begins with treating myself with kindness and understanding. I am currently nurturing my young self into adulthood so my future relationships can be healthy and whole.