Tag Archives: abuse

masks-5I think when any of us look back at the experiences we’ve had with another person we can’t help but wonder if our connection to and feeling about them somehow tempers the way we relate to them. This is the most prominent in people that we’d like to make a good impression on or those whom we want to continue our connection to them feeling that our interchange with them either encourages us to feel differently about ourselves and/or that we feel that they match some ideal or preference that we have about the people and circumstances we’d prefer to be associated and connected to. There are a number of different dimensions that we must consider when we wish to assess our part and presentation to the world and those whom we wish to be with. The first thing we need to look at is the difference between who we are and how we behave when in or out of their presence.

Who we are, essentially, never changes. How we behave does. It’s our behavior that other people see that’s used to decide and define who they believe we are. We, in turn, accept this as our identity. Remembering that we believe that who we are is our perception of how the world sees us, we know that that can only be defined by the things we do, the possessions we have and Programmer-1activities that we participate in that the world can observe. So we can say that we are a computer programmer because our daily work consists of working, getting paid and being response-able with others concerning computers. If we behave by the employer’s rules, others will perceive us as a programmer. We know that if we want to keep our job there is a specific rapport that is required for us to maintain that type of connection with our preferred company. If we do it as a hobby, we might be more inclined to say that we dabble in computers only because there are some unspoken rules about what we can call a job or career and what we can call a hobby. So our identity, as transient as it may be, is what the world sees of our behavior NOT who we actually are. Who we are remains the same. We are a perceiving, feeling, thinking person. The moment the world becomes involved in that identification, outside circumstances come into play making our behavior the determining factor as to our identity. This may seem like I’m splitting hairs but when we perceive, that is one dimension of relationship; our core or who we are. When we conceive of and perceive ourselves with another person or the outside world, that behavior or identity changes because it includes the reflections and responses of others. The point I’m making is that the behavior and rapport that we offer or support is dependent on whether we’re by ourselves or whether we’re with others and the type of connection that we wish to maintain in our career with them. The same is true with personal relationships. We all know that we can feel and behave very differently just being friends with someone or being intimate with them and even that intimacy can have a differing rapport being radically different between person to person and our imagined or hoped for rapport with them. So, to recap, when we’re by ourselves, we can, and usually do, behave one way and when we’re with others we can, and usually do, behave differently. On other words, when we’re by ourselves, there’s no impression to create or maintain. When we’re with others, there is. Are you with me thus far? Now, let’s look at why we would behave differently with different people.

Irresponsible parent1Our childhood upbringing creates experiences that push us toward choosing how we feel about ourselves. If we’ve been encouraged to make our own decisions, trust our own instincts and intuitions, we begin to feel confidence in ourselves as a “valid” person and come to believe that we have nothing to hide. If we have been discouraged from making our own decisions, over protected or dominated into NOT trusting our own instinct and intuitions, we begin to feel inadequate and come to believe that we must hide our perceived inadequacy, aka, we have something to hide. This is true for everyone whether acknowledged or not. Every one of us has some degree of this emotional current running below the surface of our awareness. Some of us may be aware of it, but most of us are either not or choose to ignore it. This difference in feeling is the one of the major deciding factors in why we feel compelled to behave differently with different people in different circumstances. Dependent on the level of perceived inadequacies it can lead to some unbelievable compensation made in our behavior in order to avoid the exposure of them for fear of feeling anticipated interpersonal or public shame. The other major contributor factor occurs when we do feel adequate but don’t feel compelled to cover believed short comings because we feel comfortable in whom we are or we have worked through many of the challenges of our childhood that might have created these inadequacies within us. In this second case we simply might just want to limit our exposure to masks-4or interactions with people that we have decided are, in our opinion, arrogant, imbalanced or combative. For those of us who feel comfortable in our own skin and who, essentially, don’t feel fearful of exposure leading us toward compensating, this is not an issue. We have our Self-Trust and a stable self-confidence well ingrained. Our major concern here is to determine what occurs when we do feel compelled to compensate or “adjust” our behavior in order to create an image or prevent exposure.

There are two directions that this compensation or “adjusted” behavior may present itself through us. Depending on how badly our spirit was damaged in our upbringing will determine which way we go. We can, either, project outward and “paint” a better image of ourselves in our interchanges with others or we can retreat into the shadows in order not to be discovered. When we project ourselves or strike out “painting” what we feel might be a better picture of who we think or believe we are, we then more actively lean toward compensating. When we retreat into the shadows we lean more toward hiding. With those of us who choose the active Wild_and_crazy_guysShyness-1path, and depending on the degree of compensation that we feel we need to apply in order to evoke what we consider a more favorable response from those we interact with, we may ramp up our output. With a mild need and a mild ramping, others might not feel anything odd in our approach to them. But for some of us who have a very low self-image, our push to create an image may sometimes become overwhelming to the point where it becomes overly obvious to others and they start to feel our overcompensation as something being “off” with us. These are people we often label as “obnoxious.” Those of us who retreat into the shadows we label “shy.”

As you may have guessed, there as a very poignant reason why some of us will push the point and others of us will just back down. Its cause comes from two sources. First, the soul or spirit we are before we enter this life and body may have preponderance toward either projecting outward or retreating inward. Then, once we enter these bodies, we are now subject to the additional exposure to and training by those whose care we are entrusted to and the environment we find ourselves in. These two different sources are what scientist call nature vs. nurture. The first influence we can clearly see is innate or a given resulting in our accompanying disposition. But the second is “adjustable.” This “adjustable” dimension can make or break our choice between projecting out and retreating. Projecting outward we label being extroverted and retreating inward we label being introverted. To understand the difference we can look the process of training.

I don’t want to speak “science-eze” but in order to make a point I need to say that in the training of any sentient being (we are one…hopefully) there is always a combination of rewards and punishments used as a compellent or force for change. Scientists call this training conditioning. Some parents train with rewards and/or bribes. Some train with punishment and/or withholding. Each method has its own advantages and disadvantages. But to avoid any human emotional prejudice on our part, let’s look instead at horse training or “breaking” as ranchers would label it rather than people.

horse breaking-2Each horse has a spirit and resiliency which usually returns them to a comfortable and active state after any trauma or difficulty has passed. This resiliency differs from horse to horse. Some horses may be able to take more punishment (trauma) or abuse than others. It takes a skilled trainer to “know” or feel where that limit is. When a trainer successfully trains or conditions a horse to respond to specific commands, their spirit, their life and liveliness is retained. They still have an expressive personality. They still have spunk and energy. But when the trainer estimates that limit badly and pushes beyond what the horse is able to recover from, the horse’s spirit dies. The spunk disappears. The life goes out of their eyes. They become void of personality and expressiveness. This same process takes place in the training of children. If a parent is authoritarian or abusive and misjudges the resiliency of the child, they may, literally, kill the spirit of the child through using excessive discipline or punishments to induce specific behaviors. The child will then retreat and feel hesitant or even immobilized toward expressing or performing for fear of more punishment or abuse. In parenting, the overall effect of over-protection and abuse is the same. With excess directives, protections, punishments or abuse the child becomes reluctant and/or unable to act at all because they have either not been given the opportunity to learn how to be independent or for fear of behaving in a way that will draw more punishment and disapproval. Allowing for lesser punishments or abuses we find that this type of exposure produces only mild inhibition and shyness. So, we can safely say that depending on how far the “trainer” has gone beyond the child’s ability to recover and to be Abuse-1resilient will determine how shy or buried the child’s spirit and personality will be. Those of us who lean more toward being shy or introverted are usually reacting to over conditioning by virtue of an authoritarian or overprotective parent. Before I move on I think that it’s also worthy to note that children who grow to become abusers themselves regain their spirit through reclaiming their power by becoming the abuser but at someone else’s expense.

So where does this leave us? Those of us whose spirit has been “broken” will retreat inward and behave as an introvert. Those of us whose spirit remains intact will project, compensate and behave as an extrovert. Remember, both may not actually be inadequate or incompetent but feeling and believing that we are will lead us toward modifying our behavior when we’re with others.

Shyness-3In answer to our opening question, “Do we behave differently when in a relationship as opposed to when we’re not?” We almost always do to some degree. Even the best of us who have done an outstanding job in becoming accountable and have been ruthlessly honest with ourselves will still have things that we feel we need to hide. This is only human. But that little bit of a “discrepancy” won’t lead us toward needing to compensate for anything. We’re comfortable to just let it go unnoticed. However, if our conditioning has left us feeling that we are somehow just not enough or competent enough, it is here where the need to compensate begins to grow. The more intense our perceived denigration is, the more intense will be our feelings of inadequacy. The more intense our feelings of inadequacy are, the stronger will be our urge to compensate.

who-am-i-2So, when we speak with someone, and it’s usually with someone who might be important to us, and we feel the urge to “flower up” a description of our experience or heighten the “wow” value of what we’ve done, we have to ask ourselves, “Where is this urge coming from? What makes me feel that I need to do this?” This will be the beginning of recognizing where our imagined and assumed inadequacies lie. The reality of it is usually not so and it’s only a factor of how we were taught and perceived our self-value as a child. Who led us to feel this way? Why? This is the root and the core of where we can kill any urge for us to compensate.

Attraction-bad-boy-3...is more often NOT whom you attract. Why is that? Rather than looking at our personal history and blaming our childhood for not getting or being what we want, I’m going to work backwards from examples to show you how the dynamics behind what I say are true and why. Let’s press on.

If I were to tell you that I knew of a woman who had recently just gotten out of a physically abusive relationship and I were to also tell you that she had just gotten involved in a new relationship, what would you say the odds are that she will find herself in another physically abusive relationship? Pretty likely, no? If I were to also tell you that I know of another woman who had a very alluring way with men for getting everything that she wanted and that she had just ended her latest relationship in order to start another one, wouldn’t you agree that it would be quite likely that she will have “found” another man who will give her just about anything that she wanted and when she wanted it? I’d be willing to bet a month’s salary that most of you would say yes. And what if I said the first woman was actually a man. Would he also attract an abusive woman? And if the second woman were also a man, would he also attract another woman who would give him all he wanted? Why? What inside of you would tell you that all these examples likely pose similar outcomes? Of course you’d naturally say that their track record would show that they would repeat whatever they’ve done before. Yes? Of course!

Cheating womanLet’s make our example a little more challenging by making the outcome a little subtler. Suppose you are a daughter growing up in a house where your father and brothers could never be trusted to tell the truth. We know both are possible because sons often grow up following the example of their fathers. But you grow up and finally start dating. Are you going to find that the men you attract will always tell you the truth? It’s not likely, especially, since you’ll enter into the relationships expecting a repeat of the previous experiences that you’ve had with men while presenting the same rapport and behaviors you had with your father and brothers. One last example. If you’re a young boy and you watch your mother tease men and cheat on your father incessantly, are you going to grow up trusting women, let alone, expect to find a woman who won’t run around on you? I think not. Your mother’s example has shown you what to expect in boy girl relationships and as a result, the attitude and behaviors with which you face new relationships will be with one of expecting infidelity.

Lock & KeyThe key to the above examples is that however we approach our life experiences, regardless of what we say we want, will determine who and what it is that we attract. Think about this for a moment. If our behavior toward who and what we approach is keyed to a specific type of projection or expectation, that behavior or expectation is going to attract a key that best fits the type of lock that we present to the world. If we expect someone to hurt us, odds are we will present a behavior that requires an answer that fulfills our expectation of their behavior; us being hurt. The abuser will be attracted to our expectation of it. As long as the expectation that we project is aligned with our prior experience, bingo! Instant and appropriate response. Our confusion sets in when we tell ourselves that we expect something but don’t actually feel or believe it. In psychology, this is called cognitive dissonance. This is why so many affirmations are ineffective. We don’t actually feel or believe what we say we are or want. Our prior experience has taught us that what we feel or believe is different. Are you starting to get a feel for where the disconnect happens and how it doesn’t fit with what we want?

Too busy parents who don't have time to play with their sonLet’s approach this from the other side. Suppose that you grow up in a house where you feel that no one listens to you, no one loves you and no one goes out of their way to make you feel comfortable and wanted. Be advised that what you feel is what you ingest and retain of your experience even if the other people in the household feel that they did give you want you wanted by their standards. Based on having this feeling about yourself you venture into the world believing that you are unlovable. What kind of projection will you show the world about your belief about yourself? What kind of lock are you presenting to the world and what kind of matching key will you attract? You guessed it! Someone who doesn’t listen to you, doesn’t love you and someone who makes no effort to make you feel comfortable and wanted.

Behind youFor most of us living in this fast paced tension infused western culture we often don’t notice things unless they are what many call “in your face.” That is, we have so much going on in just trying to survive in the world that we often miss the important emotional cues in who and what we attract unless they’re starring us in the face. Is it really any wonder why this disconnect between what we say we want and actually attract goes unrealized? This is why it is so vitally important that we learn to pay more attention to what we feel about things. Additionally, and contrary to this perspective, our culture is often so preoccupied with worrying about avoiding offending someone else and with attending to how others feel and what they need that our own feelings are allowed to fall by the wayside if not get completely lost in the shuffle. In many circles it is considered an insult to others and even selfish for us to allow our feelings expression in social situations under the premise that they are an imposition for others to have to deal with. Are you starting to feel a little repressed? Good! Then it means that you’re starting to recognize the insanity contained within our emotional social dynamics. Let’s look a little more closely at what our family rearing contributes to our unrealized disconnect.

Ignored child-3If you are being raised in a family where both Mom and Dad work long hours, if not in a single parent family, how much attention are you going to learn to expect from any potential relationship if your basis for determining what you expect comes from your family example? If you receive little or no encouragement or acknowledgment for what you do or who you are as a person and, consequently, the only acknowledgment that you do receive is perceived as an over abundance of criticism or job assignments from your parents, what kind of rapport are you going to expect from someone in a new potential relationship? If every time you want something or attention from your parents and they are either always working or absorbed in their own endeavors and they tell you, “Later. I don’t have time for this (you) now,” how are you going to feel? Are you going to believe that you are lovable? Are you going to come to believe that you have self-worth? Are you going to believe that you deserve attention and love? How different is whom you say you want from whom you actually believe that you “deserve?”

Nice guys finish lastThere is a very old saying. “Nice guys (and now with unisex, girls) finish last.” There is hidden truth in this adage. It seems to me, and perhaps to many of you, that the more politely, respectably, honorably and compassionately you behave toward the opposite sex, especially if they’ve been raised in the fashion outlined above, the more it resurfaces their feelings of believing that they are unworthy, unlovable, undeserving and uninteresting. Even if they’re interested in you, by being good to them you wake up their self-consciousness about their believed shortcomings and belief about being unlovable. It seems that men and women who have been raised in an environment that supports little or no personal encouragement, love, self-value, nurturance or self-worth will grow up unconsciously seeking the same neglect in their relationships with the opposite sex simply because it’s what they’ve seen and what feels familiar to them. So now, let’s look back to abusive relationships. Why do we go back to things that hurt us? Because they’re familiar and we feel “secure” in them because that’s the only environment we know. And due to our early experiences, we’ve been trained to believe that we are undeserving of the honesty, fidelity, kindness, attentiveness and benefits that a loving, faithful, honest and enjoyable relationship could provide us with.

Too good for meSo, what are we left with? We seem to be left with a tremendous paradox. If we treat someone with love, kindness and attentiveness, those who need it most, especially if they have been raised in a difficult childhood, will shy away from us believing that they are undeserving of us and it would feel unfamiliar or even frightening to them. Left would then be those who have learned to become the abusers who will be attracted to our giving nature while feeling that we might be an easy mark for them to use and abuse.

Now, based on our rapport with our family, or lack of same, and based on the functioning theory that we attract and marry people who are very much like our parents, good and bad, who are we going to attract? Is that someone different from whom we say we want? More than likely…

Over protective parent-3It’s important to note that this type interchange occurs with us both as “givers” and “takers” as well as victims and abusers coming from similarly neglectful or abusive upbringings where we have not been allowed to become self-sufficient, trust our own judgments and have somehow become one of our parents in order to feel like we’re “on the side that winning.” Odds are, we usually become one parent and attract the “other parent” in our own relationships.

The only antidote available for us to exit this type of cycle, and we’re all guilty of participating to at least some degree, is to become whole within ourselves. Unless we have worked out our own self-worth issues, and most of us haven’t fully done so, what we say we want will almost always be different from whom we attract. Whom we feel we deserve almost always creates an Loveunconscious polarizing bringing to us someone who exemplifies what it is that we need to work on within ourselves emotionally. We cannot remedy our feelings of unworthiness or unlovability through adding someone who we believe will compensate for what we believe we lack. We must do it ourselves, first. Then, we can attract our respective equal.