The Child Inside
The past is where we learn about love, where we learn how to give love and how to receive love. It is in our early years that our identities concerning our lovability are formed. We soak up every piece of information around us through our senses and store this information in the retrieval system of our minds.
Our parents and caregivers are the people who teach us about love, based on what they know to be true and are formed through their own experiences of love.
We watch, listen and learn from our caregivers, their beliefs about love become our own beliefs (or, we may form totally different beliefs about love and relationships depending on the perceptions of events that we have experienced in our lives to date).
There is never any blame as to whether or not you felt unloved growing up as a child, the people who cared for you were doing the best that they could with the knowledge and experience they had at that time. They, too, had their own unique love needs that may or may not have been met by their own caregivers or with their own love and relationship experiences.
Think back to your past right now and reflect on the times where you may have felt that love was denied or withheld. Where love may have been conditional on how well you behaved. Where it appeared you had to compete for love (sibling rivalry, step family jealousy, family members being unwell and needing a lot of time and attention etc).
As children, we have our basic needs such as being fed, cared for, clothed and homed. Emotionally however, our needs are complex and extend far beyond the simple desire to be loved.
A baby requires attention, sensory stimulation, communication, affection (physical touch), a sense of safety and a secure emotional attachment and bonding with our parents or caregivers. These things are needed for a child’s development and to build up a healthy mental foundation to be able to form strong, positive and secure relationships. This foundation influences how we behave as adults and shapes and forms our future and dictates how we respond to others and the world around us.
There are many childhood studies in this area. The Unicef Office of research documents – The United Nations Convention requires that ‘’children, including the very youngest children be respected as persons in their own right. Young children should be recognised as active members of their families, communities, societies, with their own concerns, interests and points of view’’ Distr.General CRC/C/GC/7 Rev.1. 20 September 2006
How we are influenced as children
Our caregivers will be influenced by their culture, family of influence, religion, spirituality, media, their environment and perhaps many other aspects such as personal experiences, gender and not forgetting each parents’ personal identity, self concept and overall level of self worth. It’s natural for our parents to pass onto us their own influences, behaviours, values and beliefs, as this is what they hold true for themselves.
As children, we are often far more fragile than is realised and our sense of self can be shattered often by the words, actions and behaviours shown to us by our circle of influence (the circle of people around us) as we are growing up.
A child doesn’t intuitively know that it’s often their behaviour or actions that are unacceptable, unwelcome or challenging for the parent and when scolded or disapproved of, the child may think it’s fundamentally ‘them’ that’s bad, unloved, and unacceptable and disapproved of (and not their behaviour).
If love is conditional, given only as a reward for good behaviour, the child may often be in fear of being their unique selves and it may feel unsafe for them to reveal the full range of emotions that all children have.
How we form our identity and sense of self worth
It’s in our earliest years from birth to the age of two, that we develop our basic emotions such as happiness, interest, surprise, fear, anger and sadness. We are like sponges soaking up the emotions of others and learning from them about how to respond and behave.
From age two we form a sense of ‘self’. Self worth and self identity are influenced by many factors. We are learning about our value and self worth as a person and our self concept which is developed by how others regard or treat us.
We develop the emotions of guilt, envy, pride, shame and embarrassment at this stage of development and we are aware of when we are scolded or being shown approval, affection and acceptance. It’s at this time that we develop self-efficacy (the way we think about and motivate ourselves) and self-reliance, learning about persisting with tasks independently.
Our self-talk develops at this time, which impacts us negatively or positively, depending on our internal dialogue and this in turn affects self esteem and self worth. We can often feel invalidated, disregarded and unloved without another’s external approval, acceptance and love as we seek this constantly when growing up.
That ‘Little Me’ is developed, along with the inner misconceptions about the sense of self. The little me operates from this place throughout life, often only taking action when things seem certain and safe.
The ‘little me’ reacts all through adulthood and when it is re-triggered. It reacts not in this current moment, but from the place and time when our earliest emotional or physical needs were not being met by our care givers for whatever reason when we were children.
Our emotional need for safety
Any emotions and feelings not acknowledged in childhood, may impact how we show up in the world as adults and we run a constant cycle of responding emotionally from the hurt place of our younger selves.
Every time we experience something that seems similar to that which we have already experienced, we feel an intensity of emotion that comes from the past and not wholly relevant to what is going on in the present moment. We have often reacted automatically to new experiences through old emotional filters. It’s only with hindsight that it’s possible to see that this is an old dynamic and an old pattern of responding.
Our emotions are so powerful. We use them to guard our basic needs and to keep ourselves safe. If we feel threatened in any way, our emotions signal to us and alert us to a perceived or real threat, the bottom line for us is survival in its barest form. We function from the fight flight or freeze response which is often disproportionate and unnecessary in terms of what we are reacting to.
If our unmet needs were never grieved for, if the beliefs that we formed were never questioned in relation to an actual experience and our emotions were not transformed, we would carry on with this cycle of behaving and reacting to the past with fears for our survival, instead of experiencing things in the present moment.
Guidance can be offered to the parent or caregiver through a variety of ways on how to raise children, though this advice may not take into account what has happened to the parent or caregiver in the past. Perhaps they never experienced for themselves love, acceptance, approval or acknowledgement. If they have received these things growing up themselves they do not know how to give these things to another.
Different experiences can result in different emotions and will shape how we respond to and fix or solve problems and overcome difficulties. We gauge what our personal qualities are, our strengths and our limitations from what we hear about ourselves growing up.
How our early upbringing drives and shapes our future
Our self identity affects our self worth and impacts our perceptions of others and indeed, we form judgements and misconceptions on how we are being perceived by them. The knowledge we have of ourselves may be built from false beliefs where we have inferred from others doubts about our capabilities.
There are many books on raising babies, children and teens and I do believe that each family is unique in the sense that every family will have its own set of beliefs, values and rules passed down through ancestry.
This historical blueprint (the characteristics of our body and mind) and genetic inheritance come from our ancestors. This blueprint can shape our abilities, mannerisms and physical features. We also receive through our time line, the emotions of our ancestors carried from their lifetime. If you find yourself plagued by emotions that seem to have no root in your life time, it might be interesting to look back at your ancestors for clues.
Emotions in the womb
Something else to consider is how ‘in vitro,’ in the womb, emotions are being picked up by the child from the mother. This will include how she feels generally, her experience of pregnancy, emotions that relate to her relationship with the father, the father’s presence too if he is with the expectant mother, will all contribute to the environmental factors that may be influencing the mother and child. The way the mother cares for herself in pregnancy and her emotional wellbeing, also influences the child’s development physically and emotionally.
How we react to today, may also be as a result of how we felt as a child in the womb. If our mothers were anxious and afraid during pregnancy or if she was unhappy about being pregnant or had a difficult pregnancy and birth, we too may feel unhappy or anxious with the belief of ‘the world is not a safe place.’
I’d like to share this case study with you to highlight how our early upbringing drives and shapes our future.
Case Study – Jenny
Jenny was born into the world with alcoholic parents, her mother was in and out of psychiatric care. Life was very chaotic growing up and Jenny spent periods of time in and out of foster care. Life, love and relationships for most of Jenny’s young life were traumatic. Years would go by when she never saw her mother; her father had affairs and introduced her to ‘new aunties’, none behaving as Jenny’s desired mother figure as they were not able to show her the love, time and care that she craved. It was hard for Jenny to trust that love was possible as she had closed off the idea that she was lovable. Jenny felt incredibly lonely, confused and neglected for much of her early life and it was hard for her to realise that despite this, she was in fact worthy of being loved by another.
Working with Jenny using The Spotlight Process we explored where her fears came from. Nothing was certain growing up for her and she believed that men were unreliable, could not be trusted not to cheat on women and that love was unreliable. Jenny had a fear that love would be taken away as her own mother was taken away many times into psychiatric care, she never knew when her mum would return and was not allowed to see her mum in hospital. Her needs as a child were not met adequately enough for her to form positive beliefs about love and relationships in later life.
Jenny was reluctant to believe she would find lasting love and was scared of taking risks. She wanted very much to be in a relationship and to have her own children; so that she could give to them the love that she felt she never had growing up
We worked together using EFT to clear the unhappy and traumatic memories from the past. We worked through low self-esteem issues and also transformed the grief and loss of not having the kind of parents that she would have liked to have had. We worked on forgiveness of her parents, so that Jenny could set herself free from the heartache of her past and also acknowledge that it was not her fault that she did not receive the love and care that she needed growing up. Jenny was able to resolve and work through many layers of built up emotions using The Spotlight Process and EFT and the change in Jenny’s confidence, self worth and self esteem was amazing. Her feedback to me in an email was ‘’I wake up every day now believing in myself’’.
Jenny contacted me recently to say that she had got back in touch with a childhood sweetheart and to tell me that she has been dating him for some time and that they are living together and planning to get married. Jenny’s sense of self love had grown immensely, she said she believed that now she could do anything she set her mind to. Jenny had learnt to love herself first, to look after her own needs, rather than be dependent on another to provide what she can provide for herself. She no longer rejects herself or feels unloved, if her fiancé goes away for a weekend or is home late, she trusts fully and completely that she is a wonderful person worth loving, regardless of how others behave or act towards her. She knows and believes fully that she is lovable and worthy of love.
Jenny has come such a long way, she has blossomed into a wonderful woman. She has let go of the emotions she had been carrying with her from the past and now focuses fully on the future and all that is possible for her.
Love and emotional bonding are key influencers for our survival
We form beliefs based on survival instincts in their barest form. When we think that love is being denied, taken away from us, or based on conditional love, we think that we cannot live without love so our survival instincts and the fight and flight mode kick in.
Love is what we are born with, fear is what we learn – Marianne Williamson
- Todays blog is taken from Find YOU, Find LOVE available on amazon http://goo.gl/crnvoZ