Exploring Mechanisms You Developed To Survive Your Family Mimicry

Exploring Mechanisms You Developed To Survive Your Family Mimicry



Mimicking

When you were a​ child you probably remember swearing to​ the​ universe that when you grew up you’d never, ever treat your children the​ way your parents treated you. You’d be different; you’d be better. You knew it​ from the​ core of​ your being. Right? So how is​ it​ that instead of​ making your vow come true, all these years later you’ve ended up copying their very qualities that you most despised? Welcome to​ the​ world of​ mimicking—the third mechanism (accommodation and​ rebellion being the​ other two)
we sometimes use that’s influenced by guilt toward your parents and​ siblings.
Why do we use “mimicking”? What are the​ reasons behind this behavior? Remember the​ warning “I hope your children do to​ you what you’ve done to​ me”? You were blamed for​ your parents’ suffering, and​ they wanted you to​ suffer the​ same way at​ the​ hands of​ your children. and​ so you do. Four reasons explain why.

MIMICKING: PUNISHMENT and​ RELIEF

We become like our parents to​ punish ourselves and​ relieve our guilt for​ hurting them. if​ you think you’re responsible for​ causing your parents’ unhappiness, suffering, disappointment, getting out of​ control, then you deserve to​ be punished by having the​ same faults. Huh? Think of​ it​ like this, if​ you are unhappy, suffer, are disappointed, or​ out of​ control, then you have paid yourself back for​ the​ suffering you caused them. Think of​ the​ biblical expression, “an eye for​ an​ eye.” This requires that a​ punishment fit the​ crime exactly. it​ turns out that your conscience operates the​ same way. it​ requires that you be punished exactly in​ the​ way you’ve made another person suffer; in​ this case, your parents or​ sibling.
When your overprotective parent became frantic with worry when you played sports, you felt responsible for​ causing their worry. They screamed with anxiety, “You’ll break your leg! You’ll get killed!” and​ how does your conscience operate? it​ requires your becoming frantic with worry when your kids are playing, just as​ your parents did with you. There. Now you’ve been punished for​ your long-ago offense of​ causing your parents to​ feel frantic with worry over you.
Remember the​ indigenous tribe described in​ Chapter 1? Remember how they blamed themselves for​ earthquakes, floods, volcanic eruptions, and​ so on? a​ child blames him- or​ herself when a​ parent continually acts badly. Later on in​ life, being like that parent keeps the​ grown child from feeling better off than the​ parent. This is​ how our conscience evens the​ score.
If you blame yourself for​ the​ explosive rages your domineering, overbearing father suffered when you didn’t submit to​ him, you’d assume that your independent attitude was responsible. You could do penance for​ your guilt toward him by becoming domineering with others and​ explosive with your own children. Why is​ this “penance”? Because by mimicking your father, you also suffer when your children act independently of​ you.
Does this sound self-destructive? it​ is. Surely, you’d prefer to​ not fly off the​ handle and​ rail at​ your children. and​ just as​ surely you’d rather not suffer when they don’t submit to​ you. But the​ idea is​ that if​ you caused your parents or​ siblings to​ suffer, you deserve to​ suffer in​ the​ same way. It’s precisely this idea, the​ dynamic of​ self-blame, that’s central to​ why we behave in​ ways that we hate.
That explains the​ first of​ the​ four reasons why we choose to​ suffer through mimicking our parents’ behavior. Let’s look at​ the​ second reason.

MIMICKING: DON’T FEEL BAD—WE’RE in​ THIS TOGETHER

If you’ve ever felt bad because you think it’s not fair to​ be better off than your parents, you might resort to​ mimicking to​ relieve your bad feelings. at​ a​ talk I gave, a​ woman told me about her experience with her obese mother. She remembered not only sitting with her during meals and​ snacks, but she also recalled mimicking her mother’s overeating because she thought that would comfort her mother. Her exact words were, “I felt she would feel comforted because we were in​ it​ together.” What was she really saying? “Don’t feel bad, Mom, I have the​ same [overeating] problem that you have.”
That’s the​ second reason for​ mimicking behaviors we hate, what’s the​ third?

MIMICKING: PUSHING AWAY the​ PAIN

For the​ most part, we all want to​ forget our unpleasant experiences of​ the​ past and​ have the​ bad feelings associated with them fade away. This done, we can enjoy our present-day lives. Now factor this in: By mistreating others the​ way we’ve been mistreated, we help forget that we suffered at​ the​ hands of​ our parents. How does that help, you’re probably wondering?
Imagine you’ve gone through something terrible like childhood abuse. (The victim could have been you or​ perhaps someone else in​ the​ family.) the​ result is​ that you can’t stand thinking about it, that you want to​ bury the​ memory and​ never reexperience the​ pain of​ it​ again. the​ farther removed from it​ you get, in​ physical distance and​ in​ time, the​ safer you feel and​ the​ less likely you are to​ think about it. What helps you accomplish this? Being as​ far removed as​ possible from your memories of​ the​ traumatic experience. What could be farther away from that opposite position? to​ become the​ one who mistreats, not the​ one is​ mistreated.
If as​ an​ adult you act possessively toward your children, you demand underlying loyalty and​ overt demonstrations of​ love the​ way your parents did with you, it’ll help you forget the​ pain you felt when your parent was that way with you. What pain? Maybe out of​ loyalty to​ your possessive parent, you inhibited your relationships with others. or​ maybe you cut off new relationships because you feared being trapped by the​ demands of​ loyalty you felt all relationships came with. Either way, you suffer. and​ now, as​ an​ adult, if​ you dominate your children, maybe you’ll forget that you yourself submitted to​ your own domineering parents. You don’t want to​ recall painful memories of​ having been cheated out of​ your own independence.
With three reasons for​ mimicking looked at​ and​ understood, we’re left with one more. Here’s how that one shapes our world of​ self-blame.

MIMICKING: WORKING HARD to​ IMPROVE the​ FLAW

By doing to​ others what was done to​ you, you hope to​ meet people who can show you how to​ better cope with the​ behavior that harmed you. That’s the​ basic premise, and​ it’s a​ lot to​ take in​ so let’s look at​ it​ from another angle. These new people you meet become role models for​ you in​ learning new ways of​ dealing with behavior that was painful or​ difficult for​ you in​ the​ past. if​ you think about couples you know, you’ll find that this is​ often true. and​ if​ you’ve ever wondered why many couples have extreme opposite personalities that often clash, you now have the​ answer to​ all your wondering. a​ submissive person, who gives in​ easily, is​ with a​ domineering partner who tends not to. Why? Each one is​ actually learning from the​ other how to​ improve on his or​ her own shortcoming.
These four reasons are why, in​ spite of​ your best intentions, you may have acquired those qualities of​ your parents that you hated the​ most. in​ the​ case of​ David, a​ smart businessman who undermined his career success, you’ll see that he did this because of​ his father and​ because he identified with some of​ his father’s qualities.




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