We all have unresolved issues from our past, some conscious and some that we are not aware of. These issues, if not dealt with can have a huge effect on our relationship with our own children and subsequently moves the issue from one generation to the next.
I have been offering online therapy for over 10 years. During that time, I have built up a speciality in many areas of psychology (especially Codependency) and helped many clients move forward. Contact me for a free consultation. I engage fully with my clients to ensure the best possible chance of recovery. I firmly believe that awareness is important but action is the decisive element of recovery. I accompany my clients along that road not only by offering sessions focusing on their issues but as a resource between sessions too.
There are many cases of parents who in normal everyday interaction with their children are triggered back to their own past, affecting their judgement and behaviour. By leaving these issues unresolved, parents are not only missing the chance to become better parents, stopping the issues from affecting their children but also from developing themselves. When we become parents, we bring emotional baggage into the relationship with our child. This baggage comes from our early significant experiences that formed the way we see and look at the world. We often carry a blueprint given to us by the way our parents raised us. This can contain a continuum of influences ranging from positive to negative. A good example of negative would be if a mother left the house without announcement to stop a child crying (punitive punishment) and due to her leaving, a feeling of loss, insecurity and a loss of trust could occur in the child. This would be consolidated by the child’s fruitless search for the mother leading to a sense of abandonment. As an adult, this child could have abandonment issues that would prevent a healthy relationship with his or her own offspring (and also other adults).
One may rightly ask how our past affects our present in such a way, leaving us with these unresolved issues. Here the answer lies in the study of memory and how our brain’s functions and structure affect our mind and consequently shapes who we are. From early on, connection amongst neurons, the basic building blocks of the brain, are altered based on our experiences. This process is also seen as a key process in remembering experiences as these connections constitute the structure of our brain. Brain structure affects brain function and goes a long way to creating the mind. Although genetics play a role, it is thought that it is the experiences we have that more directly alters our brain structure. Memory is the way that the brain responds to experience and creates new neuron connections.
This is done in two ways: implicit memory creates connections that develop before our second birthday, responsible for feelings, non-verbal behaviour, behavioural and instinctive responses and bodily sensations. This is often associated with a process called childhood amnesia meaning that we usually have no memory of life before two due to the brain not being fully developed. Implicit memory takes the form of the formation of mental models which create generalisations. For example, if a mother comforts a baby every time it cries, it will come to generalise that security can be found around its mother. We are generally not aware of what we are absorbing at this time and even though, these feelings are often recalled in the present, we have no knowledge of their source. This often leads us to giving automatic responses to events that trigger us back to these early times. This happens especially when we become parents and we are affected by the influence of the parenting style we are subjected to.
The second form of memory, explicit, develops after two and includes our autobiographical recollections including a sense of time and self. At this time, our pre frontal cortex is being formed which regulates self-awareness, judgement, flexibility, mindfulness and the regulation of emotions. This development is hugely affected by attachment and interpersonal interaction making the early experiences we have critical in forming our mind. When issues from our early childhood are left unresolved, it can lead to what is known as parental ambivalence. This means that situations that we find ourselves in with our children become overwhelming due to our internal noises being extremely loud. We then tend to look at our children through our own autobiography and it becomes more difficult to respond effectively. Often we feel controlled by these automatic thoughts and responses but have no clue where they come from. We try to control our children’s behaviour, often dysfunctionally without realising that we are being affected by the influences of the past.. We seem to forfeit our own self direction and allow situations to drift on, not aware that our behaviour is affecting our children. If we pay attention to our own internal sensations when we are upset with our children, we can start to develop an awareness of how these are interfering with the loving relationship we wish to have with our young ones.
In effect, when we are triggered as parents, we may well be reverting to the child we were and all that this means in terms of thinking. Our protection measures developed in childhood (thinking parts) come into play. These though patterns need analysing and countering.