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  • We are, all of us, beautifully crazy or, to put it in gentler terms, fascinatingly unbalanced.

  • Our childhoods, even the apparently benign ones, leave us no option but to be anything

  • else. As a result of these childhoods, we tend, over most issues, to listlike a

  • sailing yacht in high windfar too much in one direction or another. We are too timid,

  • or too assertive; too rigid or too accommodating; too focused on material success or excessively

  • lackadaisical. We are obsessively eager around sex or painfully wary and nervous in the face

  • of our own erotic impulses. We are dreamily naive or sourly down to earth; we recoil from

  • risk or embrace it recklessly; we have emerged into adult life determined never to rely on

  • anyone or as desperate for another to complete us; we are overly intellectual or unduly resistant

  • to ideas. The encyclopedia of emotional imbalances is a volume without end. What is certain is

  • that these imbalances come at a huge cost, rendering us less able to exploit our talents

  • and opportunities, less able to lead satisfying lives and a great deal less fun to be around.

  • Yet, because we are reluctant historians of our emotional pasts, we easily assume that

  • these imbalances aren't things we could ever change; they are fundamentally innate.

  • It's just how we were made. We simply are, in and of ourselves, people who micromanage

  • or can't get much pleasure out of sex, scream a lot when someone contradicts us or run away

  • from lovers who are too kind to us. It may not be easy, but nor is it alterable or up

  • for enquiry. The truth is likely to be more hopefulthough, in the short term, more

  • challenging. Our imbalances are invariably responses to something that happened in the

  • past. We are a certain way because we were knocked off a more fulfilling trajectory years

  • ago by a primal wound. In the face of a viciously competitive parent, we took refuge in underachievement.

  • Having lived around a parent disgusted by the body, sex became frightening. Surrounded

  • by material unreliability, we had to overachieve around money and social prestige. Hurt by

  • a dismissive parent, we fell into patterns of emotional avoidance. A volatile parent

  • pushed us towards our present meekness and inability to make a fuss. Early overprotectiveness

  • inspired timidity and, around any complex situation, panic attacks.

  • There is always a logic and there is always a history. We can tell that our

  • imbalances date from the past because they reflect the way of thinking and instincts

  • of the children we once were. Without anything pejorative being meant by this, our way of

  • being unbalanced tends towards a fundamental immaturity, bearing the marks of what was

  • once a young person's attempt to grapple with something utterly beyond their capacities.

  • For example, when they suffer at the hands of an adult, children almost invariably take

  • what happens to them as a reflection of something that must be very wrong with them. If someone

  • humiliates, ignores or hurts them, it mustso it seemsbe because they are, in

  • and of themselves, imbecilic, repugnant and worth neglecting. It can take many years,

  • and a lot of patient inner exploration, to reach an initially less plausible conclusion:

  • that the hurt was essentially undeserved and that there were inevitably a lot of other

  • things going on, off-stage, in the raging adult's interior life for which the child

  • was entirely blameless. Similarly, because children cannot easily leave an offending

  • situation, they are prey to powerful, limitless longings to fix, the broken person they so

  • completely depend on. It becomes, in the infantile imagination, the child's responsibility

  • to mend all the anger, addiction or sadness of the grown-up they adore. It may be the

  • work of decades to develop an adult power to feel sad about, rather than eternally responsible

  • for, those we cannot change. Communication patterns are beset by comparable childhood

  • legacies. When something is very wrong, children have no innate capacity to explain their cause.

  • They lack the confidence, poise and verbal dexterity to get their points across with

  • the calm and authority required. They tend to dramatic overreactions instead, insisting,

  • nagging, exploding, screaming. Or else excessive under-reactions: sulking, sullen silence,

  • and avoidance. We may be well into middle-age before we can shed our first impulses to explode

  • at or flee from those who misunderstand our needs and more carefully and serenely try

  • to explain them instead. It's another feature of the emotional wounds of childhood that

  • they tend to provoke what are in effect large-scale generalisations. Our wounds may have occurred

  • in highly individual contexts: with one particular adult who hit their particular partner late

  • at night in one particular terraced house in one town in the north. Or the wound may

  • have been caused by one specific parent who responded with intense contempt after a specific

  • job loss from one specific factory. But these events give rise to expectations of other

  • people and life more broadly. We grow to expect that everyone will turn violent, that every

  • partner may turn on us and every money problem will unleash disaster. The character traits

  • and mentalities that were formed in response to one or two central actors of childhood

  • become our habitual templates for interpreting pretty much anyone. For example, the always

  • jokey and slightly manic way of being that we evolved so as to keep a depressed, listless

  • mother engaged becomes our second nature. Even when she is long gone, we remain people

  • who need to shine at every meeting, who require a partner to be continually focused on us

  • and who cannot listen to negative or dispiriting information of any kind.

  • We are living the wide open present through the

  • narrow drama of the past. We suffer because we are, at huge cost, too loyal to the early

  • difficult years. We should, where we can, dare to leave home.

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We are, all of us, beautifully crazy or, to put it in gentler terms, fascinatingly unbalanced.

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B1 UK parent adult childhood emotional unbalanced avoidance

How A Messed Up Childhood Affects You In Adulthood

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    Rain posted on 2018/04/02
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