We come to know who we are from our early childhood relationships, just as we learn what we need to let go of later in our adult relationships.
As infants, toddlers and children, our sense of self was shaped in interactions and relationships with others. Our parents, carers and teachers all gave us a sense of who we were or who we were supposed to be; for them. The problem is, these self images that formed our identity were pieces of another person’s consciousness. Our parents expected us to be a certain way so who we think we are is influenced by who we were told we should be. We learn how to be version of ourself that was acceptable to others, through this ongoing conditioning our ego develops.
The ego is a vehicle to get us through life, well have one and it is necessary for us to navigate our life in accord with social rules.
Over the course of growing up we had to suppress who we truly were and what we really wanted and needed in order to get our needs met, we had to behave a certain way and may have been punished in some way if not. Everyone ends up with unmet needs, unfulfilled wants and big or small traumas. Everyone.
These needs and wants, hurts and traumas, remain with us and get triggered in moments that remind us of the original frustration of painful experiences. Because most of our hurt is caused by other people, often those closest to us, it is no surprise that these issues resurface in adult relationships.
Relationships can hurt or heal.
Adult relationships are the stage on which we can choose work through our ego and deal with the issues layered on us by others (e.g. parents). Or, we can repeat a similar pattern by acting out similar dramas we experienced as children. This happens when we get 'triggered' into a similar feeling we had in our early childhood relationships.
You can grow in relationship with conscious awareness
If you are in a relationship drama, look for the thread that links this experience back to disturbing or painful issues in your past. Are you having unmet needs from the past arise? Is it really your partners fault that your parents made you feel inadequate or never felt proud of you? If you know you have issues from the past, be curious how they might be bleeding into the current situation with your partner. This is the essence of self responsibility.
When we know we are triggered when we are over reacting
Relationships can turn into a repetition of past pain and frustration of unmet needs OR they can be approached will full consciousness and curiosity as to what we can learn about ourselves and others.
Ego is our source of feeling separate. Our ego is hungry to meet its own needs for safety, care, love and adoration, acceptance and image. Ego is the ideas, beliefs, values and images built from our conditioning (the way our identity was shaped over the course of our lives). Our ego is simply a tool to navigate in the world - like driving a car to get around, it also acts as a protective shell. You can imagine our conditioning as the windscreen of the car, and our perception is obscured by whatever is on that windscreen.
To know what is real and true we need to:
Put simply, until we decide to look at how distorted our perception actually is, we are being driven, and other drivers (people in our lives) are going to seem 'at fault' for the dings to our ego-vehicle.
Relationships - the intimate kind that grow closer and more entrenched over time - start with two people cruising along happily, full of images of hope and happiness until roadblocks occur. One wants to go this way, the other wants to go that, and before long your co-driver is the source of opposition, struggle and pain. GREAT - you have been activated and are in a position to learn and grow, if you so choose. OR you can file complaint after complaint.
Clearing your perception of what is real in the now
You don't have to stay on a collision course with your unmet needs as they arise in relationships - at any moment you can accept the 'at fault' policy and take control of your ego. By stepping into full responsibility for your part in the conflict, you take your power back. By seeking to understand what dynamic from your past is being triggered, you regain energy. By stepping into integrity and truth you can release the other from blame. After all, up until the point where you meet in the rawness of reality, you are playing out a drama.
This is tricky territory. If it sounds simple, it's not. The ego will do anything to maintain its position. As Eckhart Tolle says, the pain body wants to feed. We hate losing, and we fear being authentic will have us ripped to pieces. Truth is not well supported in this world, we are surrounded by people who lie and still get praise and admiration, and there are plenty of options for distraction and avoidance of pain.
What most don't know is that our resistance to pain hurts us far more in the long run. If we have something to learn about ourselves then that lesson will be repeated. Different scene, different act, but it’s coming from our field, so how can't it?
The Buddhists recommend we loosen attachment to pain by acceptance. When we get triggered emotionally this is a signal telling us we have something to deal with. The stronger our reaction, the more disproportionate to the actual situation it is, the more this points to the present time situation also triggering a past issue. This is not to say there is nothing to be upset about in the present, but over-reactions are a sign of a deeper issue.
If you have the integrity to realise that you are a little reactive, in that you feel so deeply affected by something that others might not, even if you feel justified, it's worth tuning in to see what could be being triggered in you. By working to remain present we can heal the things we couldn't address in the past and pave the way to a more authentic life and relationship.
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