As discussed in a previous article, there is a strong connection between your early childhood development and your current relationships. No matter who you are interacting with or on what level, many of your expectations, emotions, and thoughts can be linked back to your childhood experiences. To correct maladaptive behaviors and thoughts, the article stressed that looking back into your past and creating new relationship patterns which can replace the less beneficial ones was the best way to take control of your life and become who you want to be.
A common problem exists between men and women alike when it comes to maintaining personal relationships; and change is seldom easy and can require support from someone you respect, love, or trust to help guide thoughts, feelings, or emotions. When you are in an intimate relationship, you may find it difficult to maintain the level of intimacy you would like. That may be due to the natural ebb and flow with the emotions of the other person, but it may also be due to childhood inflections shading how you look at the ups and downs within those moments.
The following example can help you better understand the problems that psychotherapy processes can help alter when there are difficulties that creep up from the past and modify the closeness within a relationship.
Heather and Eric meet and are delighted to find they are attracted to one another. As they begin to send more time together and becoming closer, Heather finds herself pulling away and becoming tense. Instead of enjoying her time with Eric, she sees his imperfections when they are together and looks for groundless reasons to become irritated with him. As they spend more time together, Heather continues to distance herself because she believes she the enchantment is waning. Eric reacts to Heather’s pulling away with feelings of rejection and stress, and he begins to distance himself from Heather as well.
This is an all too familiar pattern of past relationships they are both repeating because each is reliving the hurt they have experienced with others, and this is how each of them coped with their pain and loss. As they begin fearing the end of their togetherness, they each begin struggling for control, and because neither sees the other’s pain, they constantly fight the irrational irritation neither understands. As the relationship begins to crumble, they seek counseling and are asked by a couple’s therapist to look back on past experiences, and they are surprised to find similarities between the present and the past.
Eric identifies early childhood experiences and decisions that affect the way he responds to and deals with pain. Heather discovers her interactions with her alcoholic parents and their now distant relationship are the foundation of her fear and reactions. Both uncover childhood experiences that form maladaptive decisions that shape how they react during stress and why they created reasons for emotional distancing. While the childhood reactions may have once been beneficial, Eric and Heather realize that as adults, the way their minds reacted as children has little bearing on situations for the present. Thus, both begin to understand that their adult selves can take control of their lives if they alter the way their childhood self thinks.
With their therapist’s help, Eric and Heather were able to realize troublesome patterns of past childhood interactions that were still controlling their lives as adults. This change in thought patterns permitted them to live in a relationship that adapted to their new way of thinking and allowed them to become closer.