The unspoken deal is this : If you will bury the parts I don’t like, then I will love you.
The unspoken choice is this: Lose yourself or lose me
After reading this in a book called ‘Necessary Losses’, I know I was given this deal growing up. I had to lose myself to feel safe, to feel even an illusionary sense of acceptance, but all of it was based on someone else’s view of what was acceptable, never who I really was.
Sometimes it can be easy to determine when you are in a toxic upbringing; perhaps you are abused physically in some way, but it can feel harder to perceive how toxic our childhood truly was when we are in the middle of a more psychologically damaging childhood. A toxic parenting style from either one or both parents.
I often sided with my father, for I saw him criticised for simply wanting a break. If he was not pandering to my mother’s needs 24/7, he was literally in the doghouse. Much like I was growing up. I was ignored, and often she would face the wall if I was finding something wrong or unacceptable. I was made to feel invisible, and my presence and my voice didn’t matter. She did the same to Father too; if he wouldn’t buy her something or book a holiday or some expense he could not afford or was getting into debt over, she would shout and then go silent and face the wall or go to her room and ignore him until he came around to meeting her needs. It usually came with my dad going to the shop to buy some alcohol, offering to take her out, or getting a takeaway. She would suddenly come around.
Now it might look like my mother is all to blame here, but my father played his part too. Both played victim/martyr/persecutor over and over again in different ways. My father was often in the ‘poor me’ role, but he always had this choice to change the dynamic, but he settled for just giving her what she wanted for an easier life because he was absolutely exhausted most days from his job. He gave up his dreams for her when he wanted to move to Australia. She got her way to stay in the UK. We gave up my one and only dog because my mother didn’t like how this rescue dog was behaving (it needed time and loving care, and my dad had had dogs since childhood; I have no doubt he would be able to train the pup we got), so it was taken away. We moved houses many times; sometimes we moved from one house to another, back to the same house, and then moved again to the previous house we moved to. It was a life revolving around my mother’s own hidden trauma, never being looked at or dealt with.
IDENTIFYING TOXIC UPBRINGING
We all have trauma, and if we don’t take a look into that trauma, we go on to a life where we simply recreate the same dramas over and over again. This often happens when we marry aspects of our own childhood we never made peace with. Maybe we needed a male protector; I know I did, so we married or got into a relationship with someone who became that figure in our lives. We often find that the other person needs a quality we have. For my best friend Michael, who passed away this year, he needed someone who would really love him and care for him like he never got from his own mother. He also needed someone to care for, and I needed to be cared for after my father died. We all play these deeply intricate roles to process our own childhood trauma.
I know that in my time with Michael, I lived the life I was taught growing up by my mother and father. I was demanding Mike’s attention a lot, especially in the early days of living together. I was angry that my needs were not met. I guilt-tripped him. I manipulated him. All things I saw my mother do to my dad, and Michael would then go hide in his room, also playing the role my mother played with my father. And he would feel ‘poor me’ because of my behaviour. It wasn’t until later on that we both started to see the dynamics we played out with each other, Michael more so than I initially. He did me a great service to help me see how many traits I had taken on from my mother and father’s relationship, and so I really worked on changing them as swiftly as I was able.
SELF-REFLECTION AND TRANSFORMATION
We often can’t do anything about our past or what happened, but we can focus on our present so we can make a healthier future for ourselves and those we partner with. We can stop, embrace all of who we are with love and care, and allow others to see the real us. We then attract more wholesome relationships.
I know if you are reading this, you don’t want to continue to attract relationships where you need to give up part of who you are to make your partner or friend happy; you want to be with someone who accepts all of you, not just the version of you they want to see.
To do this, it is important to own our behaviours, question what we do, reflect on our past honestly, and understand where we come from. Good luck on your journey.
A ROUND-UP OF THE POST
- The experience of losing oneself to gain a sense of safety and acceptance.
- The challenge of conforming to someone else’s view of acceptability rather than being true to oneself.
Identifying Toxic Upbringing:
- The difficulty in identifying psychological damage in a toxic childhood.
- The role of toxic parenting styles from one or both parents.
- Acknowledging both parents’ roles in playing victim/martyr/persecutor.
Impact of unaddressed trauma:
- The impact of unaddressed trauma on life choices and relationships.
- Unexamined trauma leads to the recreation of similar dramas.
Recreating Childhood Dynamics:
- Individuals often recreate aspects of their childhood in relationships.
Self-Reflection and Transformation:
- Self-reflect on past traumas.
- Recognise and change inherited relationship dynamics.
- Focus on the present to build a healthier future.
Attracting Wholesome Relationships:
- Embrace one’s true self with love and care.
- Self-acceptance attracts healthier relationships.
Desire for Authentic Connections:
- Desire genuine connections where you don’t have to sacrifice part of yourself for others’ happiness.
- Aspiration to be accepted for the entirety of who they are in relationships.