Tanya Younce, M.Ed., LPCC


It’s Not Your Fault

boyWhen we are children, we are very watchful.  We learn to think and behave in the ways that get our needs met.  Sometimes that means being seen and not heard, just to keep things calm in our family.  Other times it’s having to make a “scene” in order to get attention from anyone.  Or maybe a child learns to become a high achiever or perfectionist in order to get praise or love from others.

Whatever behaviors or thought patterns we develop, growing up, is what helps us survive.  They’ve worked for us enough times that they almost get stitched into our DNA.

Then we move into adult life.

When we leave home and venture into the academic or work world, with new people, in new environments, with new obstacles to overcome, what responses do you think we’ll use first?

We’ll use our previous patterns of thinking and behaving, because that’s the formula we know — and we know it very, very well.

Sometimes they’ll work beautifully.  If we’ve learned to be polite and respectful of authority, or if we’ve learned to hold our tongue to keep the peace — others will likely respond positively to that and we’ll be accepted.

But someday, in some different scenario, with different people, those beliefs and behaviors may not help us.  In fact, they might HURT us.

For example, if we’ve learned to act out and be loud and argumentative to get our way, that’s probably not going to bode well when we’ve found a boyfriend or girlfriend who just wants to talk or compromise on something.  If our belief about our self is that we aren’t worth much and that we need to just ‘fly under the radar,’ that can lead to never opening ourselves up to relationships, getting better jobs, or standing up for ourselves when we’ve been treated unfairly.

What I’m saying is, the schemas we learned growing up were learned for good reasons and they worked for us back then.  So we weren’t wrong in developing them.  A lot of our perceptions and reactions were not our fault, but simply how we got through our childhood.

But when we become adults, it’s our responsibility to reevaluate them — no matter how ingrained they are. As an adult, we no longer have our parents to blame for acting the way we do, or our old environments to justify why we interpret things the way we do.

Considering our new surroundings, the people who are currently meaningful in our lives, and the different needs and expectations we face, we’ll have to decide which knee-jerk responses can be kept, which need to be changed, and which need to be buried.

Think of it like going through your current wardrobe.  Now and then, we need to see which clothes still fit, which ones are out of style, and which just need to be altered a bit.

After this reassessment is done, we leave room for new beliefs, responses, experiences, and even new types of relationships to come into our lives.  And we’ll need to do this throughout our lifetime to make sure we’re adapting appropriately to our environments.

Again, we weren’t wrong in subconsciously designing ourselves the way we did, when we were children — we had to make the best out of our little worlds!  But we would be wrong not to reassess and possibly redesign ourselves, in some ways, to live our best adult life.

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