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How great examples (can) create big problems

By 3 maart 2020 No Comments

A happy loving family

You must believe that most problems in our lives are caused by ‘bad’ examples or life experiences in our lives and past. In fact, I think most people would agree with that assertion. Past examples influence our way of thinking drastically because our past experience form the template of our conceptual reality.

Our ideas about, for example, love (what love is, how you know you’re loved, how to give love, how to open for love, when to close off from love, etcetera) are formed throughout our life and more specifically our examples of ‘love’ in childhood. When one grows up in a situation where parents argued most of the time your concept of love will involve the notion of argument. Depending of what meaning you have given that, the idea of love could be totally appalling to you, you might not even belief in the whole idea, or you might want to love someone from the same sex as love with opposites can only create an ugly form of love. Alternatively, you might end up with similar people who fight with you a large proportion of the time exhausting you, and as you desperately are trying to correct what’s going wrong you might only seem to fail at your effort at ever having love.

We might all argue that this is a logical thing, as our beliefs and ideas are formed by our experiences it must mean that bad experiences create bad current outcomes. And although this is not the case for everybody, the logic that ‘bad’ life experiences can produce ‘bad’ current day experiences is widely recognized.

When bad comes from good

But what about when you have had great life experiences, wonderful ones even, do these only create wonderful outcomes? Does a stable family situation in the past create stability in your current family? Does a wonderful example of love create a wonderful family, loving husband or wife, nice kids? Not always. Our minds can create the worst from the best, completely unintentionally and out of conscious awareness of course, still …the worst.

I worked with a woman the other day who has a loving husband and two kids, one 8 and one 12 years old. Our conversation started with a big sigh: ‘Our 12 year old is so rude and impertinent it is really getting to me.’ ’She is saying very mean things to me, and I explode, I just don’t know anymore, whenever we want to sit down for a nice dinner it begins.’

‘When you say you don’t know anymore, and it starts when you want to sit down for a nice dinner, I replied, what are you expecting?’ That question startled her a bit, because she became aware that she was expecting something but was not aware of what that actually was.

‘I am expecting a loving family life, that’s the basis of everything’, she replied. ‘Lately I am afraid that I will become one of those mothers who will not see her daughter, when she grows up much.’ ’I mean I had a wonderful childhood myself, but I am having these thoughts.’ ‘I respond mean to my daughter in return, I say things like you are spoiled, you never do what we ask, you are selfish, and I get angry. Sometimes I get really angry and my husband needs to take over, but now we have taken away her phone and that hurt her, so we are hoping she will listen now.’

‘Tell me a bit more about that thought that you will end up like a mother that sees her daughter only once in a while.’ ‘Well it means that I have failed as a mother, and honestly I do not consider myself as the best of mothers. It’s like my daughter does not care about a loving family life, don’t I mean anything to her?’

As the conversation continued, I asked how she was feeling in all of this and she replied, ‘I need to cry out load so badly, it feels like I am suffocating, like some huge pain I am pushing away.’ Suddenly her memories took over and she remembered her mother who passed away years ago. ‘I can’t disappoint her’, she cried. ‘I owe it to her memory; I need to pass on her legacy. My mother, you know, was loving, warm and good and I am failing to pass that on to my own family. My children will turn away from me and I will have none of that love and warmth.’

‘It feels as if I am not valuable as mother, because I am not like my mother, I fail, make mistakes and it can only end up in disaster.’

As our conversation unfolded, I asked her why she does not have these feelings with her younger daughter? She told me that the youngest one and her get along well, they do things together, and have fun, the older takes more of a distance to people in general. ‘Do you feel valuable as a mother when you are with your youngest?’, I asked. ‘Yes’, she replied. ‘How do know that this is true?’ ‘Well of course I know, I feel it’s true, it’s just a knowing.’ ‘And you do not have that feeling, that knowing with your oldest one?’ ‘No’ she said. ‘Have you ever asked your youngest that you are valuable as mother to her?’, I asked. ‘No, I haven’t’, she said. ‘So how do you know?’, I kept going. Well I feel it, she insisted. And with the oldest, you don’t feel it?’, I asked again. ‘So, you are saying that your ‘knowing’ Is based on a feeling you never checked, am I correct?’ She nodded. ‘When I think about ‘being valuable as a mother’ the people who can judge that the best are the ones on the receiving end, am I right, but you never checked, you ‘just’ have a feeling?’

‘So, when you think about all of this, what is it you would like to achieve?’

‘I want to feel valuable in my unique own way’, she responded. Suddenly her father she takes care of came to her mind. ‘I know I am adding beauty to his life’ she said, ‘with him I feel valuable in my own way’. She laughed and said, ‘you know what, I need to give my daughter more space and let her be who she is.’ And as she let that sink in, she finally said ‘now I can have love and warmth in my own way.’

Prediction, prediction

‘Great’ examples and life experiences can be just as limiting as ‘bad’ life experiences. A great example of ‘love’ can trigger a constant dissatisfaction because you are lacking this ideal or are unable to create this yourself. When this happens with our partners or lovers it is easier to blame them for the dissatisfaction as if they are the cause of our unhinged emotions. At the heart of our predictions of how our love life should be are the concepts you have in the back of your mind. Good or bad, seems to matter less than how these play out in your predictions, because in the end, we are not responding to reality, but to our predictions of reality.