All of us grew up thinking about how we were treated by our parents and the world. All of us at some point made some decisions about the best way to survive our upbringing. Some of us grew tough so no one could hurt us. Some of us grew self-critical, as if we were the cause if things didn’t turn out well.
All of us bring something of our youth with us as we age. Usually we develop strategies to help us overcome what was happening to us. In my case my mother was raising three little ones: 5, 3 and 1 all by herself and working full time as a teacher.
What Worked for Us As Kids Can Work Against Us as Adults
I couldn’t understand any of this when I was the 3-year-old. I just knew that my mother was often tired and unavailable and when she got overwhelmed, she yelled at us.
All of us needed her in our own way. And because of circumstances there wasn’t enough of her to take intimate care of us. We had to figure out a lot of things on our own. Especially when mom was upset and yelling.
I figured out that if I got mad and stamped my feet and met her yelling, I could achieve something. My little brain told me this was a good strategy and I used this strategy for years: get mad when things don’t go right.
Self-Examine to Outgrow Old Habits
I grew up believing this was just who I was. I would act well when things went well, and when they fell apart, I got mad. This is the system I brought into my relationship with my husband to be.
What I didn’t know until I began my inner journey was that my anger was hiding my true feelings. The truth about me and maybe you if you are tough on the outside, is that we are using our protection strategy so we don’t get hurt.
We protect ourselves with our toughness so we don’t ever show our inside. This is something we practiced for a long time, probably because we were run over as little children by someone big.
Don’t Let Safeties Keep You Apart from Your Loved One
I get it. You could get lost staying open and having someone crush you. You needed your protective qualities. But when you find someone who wants to love you, that is when you might want to start the investigation into yourself to figure out why you have to push back so hard.
I know when I started to look, I found all kinds of soft feelings inside. It didn’t make me a wimp, I am still forceful and assertive, but I am also a lot wiser. I can see what my push back and my anger caused. I can also see that I don’t want to harm others because I have old habits.
This understanding of self is crucial to our change. And it is right there waiting for us. If you relate to what is in this article, take a quiet moment to think about a couple of things. First, thank all your protective strategies for their amazing help. They got you here. Tell them all you are fine now and can take it from here because inside every human is a vast amount of goodness, kindness and compassion that is able to carry us through this life journey.
Connect with Your Loved One
Read a Book About Relationships
Learn how to be more open and honest through effective communication by reading Linda’s book Safe. Happy. Loved. Simple Skills for Your Relationship. It might just help both of you feel safe enough to open up and feel closer than ever before. Give it a read.
Get Couples Counseling
Come in for couples counseling. Couples counseling can help you and your loved one get the most out of your relationship. It'll equip you with coping strategies and tools for communication that can help you argue less and love more.