Nobody ever took care of me. (So) I’ll do itDon’t wait for someone to come and save you, only you can really save yourself. – Yaoyao Ma Van As illustration
Growing up in a dysfunctional family is never easy. The possible scenarios are infinite, each of which can leave large scars with strong repercussions experienced since adulthood. Each of us has a past behind us; the personality arises during the lived experiences, the most significant would seem to be the childhood ones.
After becoming aware of one’s own dramatic experience, there is a further step that must be taken . Taking note of having received deficient care, with negligent, careless or disorientating parents, the time has come to indulge in a second learning.
In my articles I have always highlighted the clear correlation between parenting behavior and problems experienced in adulthood . These articles have never had the function of justifying a discomfort or providing an alibi for one’s dysfunction, but the purpose is to invite the reader to a first reflection on the reasons behind his own discomfort.
Those who do so much introspection can get to the point where while managing to give meaning to their own experiences, they are unable to make that little step that would allow change . In these contexts the key question seems to be univocal: how can I take care of myself if nobody has ever taught me to do it? How can I love myself if deep down I learned a negative evaluation of myself?
This question is not merely conceptual but has biochemical and neurobiological implications. The brain of each of us develops in early childhood and does so on the basis of its own development environment. This means that the neural networks of each of us are shaped during childhood on the basis of their emotional, cognitive, educational learning … We have circuits and “neural maps” that, day after day, have been shaped and trained. When we talk about habits, behaviors, affective models, relationship patterns (…), we refer to a psychological context that has an intrinsic psychobiological matrix.
Repeating the paradigm of Mary Ainsworth’s Strange Situation and having the possibility of making detections on cortisol levels, it has been shown that children with a secure attachment are more tolerant of stress. The so-called ” neuroticism ” (one of the traits of the big Five ) would not be something hereditary but something learned. In practice, we learn to expose ourselves to the symptoms of anxiety, to brood or to depress ourselves .
There is something wonderfully fascinating about all this : our neural maps can change! Synaptic and neuronal plasticity can be an excellent ally and make any type of change possible. In conclusion…. everything can be done, even recovering from emotional abuse as long as childhood . Of course, this is not an easy task (changes do not happen overnight) but it is worth trying , it affects the quality of our life as well as our mental health.
When we experience negative experiences that have lasted for a very long time, feelings of despair can take over accompanied by the feeling that there is no possibility of change , regardless of personal circumstances or conditions.
“Life is made of suffering …”
“What sense does it make to worry when I always find myself at the starting point”
“I always make the same mistakes”
“I will never learn”
The sentences are many, the juice is always the same: the lack of hope. If many of us are skeptical and intolerant of the concept of hope, they are less skeptical of the concept of trust . Self-confidence, in particular: starting to conceive of oneself as effective, having confidence in one’s own personal value.
Unfortunately, many of us need to learn ABC.
The main difficulties to face
The list below is not exhaustive. The scenarios are as varied as the discomforts experienced, here are the most common in “existential” terms.
Confusion on the borders
The boundaries can be defined as those limits that we set every time we relate to other people. Those limits that indicate to us what we consider acceptable and unacceptable in their behavior expressed by others towards us.
In a healthy parent-child relationship, the adult takes care of the child and the child learns to find stability and security in the relationship. The adult takes into account the needs of the child who is immediately treated as a person.
On the contrary, if the relationship is dysfunctional, the child will grow up without ever knowing that “comforting sense of security” but also with completely blurred and distorted boundaries between himself and the other. In dysfunctional families, the child is often the “object” by which adults try to satisfy their needs and expectations , without considering the authentic needs of the child.
The child learns to develop his self-esteem and his self on the ability to put the feelings and needs of others well above his own. A hierarchy is created where the child will remain permanently subordinate and the parent will feel entitled to intrude into the life of the child at his discretion.
Based on what has just been described, some of us find it difficult to delineate very specific boundaries for fear of being rejected and abandoned, for guilt, for difficulty saying no … Here is something to remember: our needs are as important as those of anyone else .
Lack of sense of self
Children who grow up with the aim of meeting the emotional needs of the parent, as adults, will have many difficulties in recognizing their authentic needs and feelings.
Even if “simply” a parent tends chronically to diminish the feeling of the child, he will grow up with the idea that his feelings and emotions have no value. If the parent warns any emotional experience (Don’t cry! Are you stupid ?! “Do good, don’t make mom angry …”, “calm down otherwise make mom worry …”), the child will grow up by suppressing every emotion with a high risk of alexithymia.
In these contexts it is not only self-esteem that is lacking, but also an emotional compass that can motivate the individual towards the resolution of his authentic needs.
In highly invalidating contexts, the sense of self is also under threat. People with little sense of personal worth have a history of continual invalidation and emotional abuse. Sometimes you are so used to being defined “by your author” (parent / partner …) that you don’t know how to define yourself …
Here’s something to remember: you can start learning about yourself now and realize a fully self-effective sense of self.
Be careful, however, not to fall into the ” make to be ” trap . You don’t have to be “productive” and “efficient” to be able to create a lovable self. Love is already yours, it is something that touches you by right but that has always been denied you … The time has finally come to give yourself what is already yours, you can start giving it to yourself in full autonomy, in fact love comes from inside, you don’t have to look for it outside.
Not feeling “enough”
Not feeling enough or even harboring a sense of worthlessness (“I am useless”, “my life is useless …”, “I am not important to anyone” …. “I am of no use …”, “I should be better”, “I want to be perfect …”) has its roots in continuous invalidations and lack of boundaries.
The ability to recognize our boundaries, as defined by several authors, generally derives from a healthy sense of self-esteem or self-evaluation, so that this evaluation does not depend on other people or on the feelings they feel towards you .
The sense of self, in fact, is something that is born and remains more or less stable in life, it does not allow itself to be disturbed by a few extra kilograms or by a separation. A good self-assessment goes hand in hand with the concept of resilience and trust in one’s resources!
How to fix it? Start treating yourself as something extremely precious and pampering. Certainly, in your life, there are many things that you did not do for insecurity or for fear of not being worth… start from these; perform an act of courage, indeed, an act of trust towards yourself, you will undoubtedly be rewarded!
Remember that a (effective) psychotherapeutic path can promote a change that permanently alleviates any form of emotional suffering.
NB: the female gender also applies to the male.