Olga Wolstenholme's picture

Emotional Patterns We Learn From Our Parents

How much have you learned from your parents when it comes to love, relationships, and sex? Was their example positive or negative? Do you reenact the same patterns in your life? Those are just some of the questions I was asking myself over the holidays after spending a few days at home.

Each and every time my mother has an emotional outburst, especially if it’s directed at me, I close up and wait for the storm to pass. It feels akin to hunkering down under a table during a particularly harsh storm. I don’t know how else to react. If I move, I might be pulled in and then who knows how long I could keep my cool. The last thing I want to do in those moments is cry or let myself be filled with anger. Instead I enter a trance like state where I shut off, close my eyes, and focus on my breath while letting it all wash over me. That’s how I’ve learned to keep my cool under pressure. I have the uncanny ability to keep my composure in the strangest of situations, even though inside I might be a rocking mess. Eventually it will pass, it always does and then everything goes back to the way it was. There’s no need to mention it again.

Being exposed to someone else’s deep sadness, especially if directed at you, is a trying experience. How do you comfort someone when you’re the one that caused the unhappiness in the first place? That’s when I wondered whether I reenact this pattern in other relationships and to my great displeasure the answer was yes. To both roles. With most people and in most situations I shut off to protect myself emotionally and with a select few, I’ve let my pain hang out there, and I’ve asked the very person who is hurting me to comfort me in the same breath.

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