Re-examining Your Foundational Beliefs
Unfortunately, with today’s post we reach the end of our mini-series on childhood intimacy needs and how they affect us into adulthood. We hope you have found Owen’s insights helpful and thought-provoking. Whether you found the process of using your imagination to help heal from any past hurts easy or not, today’s post provides a blueprint for how you can further address these issues in your life.
These #ThursdayThoughts blog posts are based on excerpts from Owen Connolly’s book for fathers called “Standing on the Shoulders of Giants” and you can find additional information and help in the appendices of the book. As always, a helping hand is only a phonecall away – the Centre has a number of highly gifted therapists who can help you put all of the tools mentioned here into practice.
Removing the Lies
During the first ten years of our lives, our interpretation of what’s happening all around us is governed by emotional reasoning – that is, “If I feel it, it must be true” – which leads to internal beliefs about ourselves and others which are often founded on feelings rather than facts. For example, “I feel that my teacher doesn’t like me.” That might not seem so bad, but when you feel that you’re not what others want you to be, it can cause you to conform to what everybody else wants in order to be accepted. Thinking that you’re a bad boy or worthless or stupid are the kinds of thoughts that are often put into our foundational beliefs about ourselves, never to be questioned again. And, later on in life, we find ourselves unable to receive compliments or encouragement because the words being said to us don’t match the words we have already imbedded in our thought processes. The need to revisit and re-examine those foundational beliefs is an important part of our maturity. It leads to our ability to love ourselves and one another better.
Now that you have a greater understanding of your childhood and the main intimacy needs, you are in a much better position to assess how the denial or fulfilment of those needs in childhood still affects your relationships today.
It is important to understand that often in childhood, when the emotional needs are unmet, just like the “sour grape syndrome”, we may decide to reject that particular need, which can be for us a blind spot in our relationships with others. For example, as our need for support went unmet, we are often inclined not to seek support and therefore be critical of others needing support. On the other hand, there may be another need that you are always trying to fulfil in all of your relationships. If you have an “I-have-to” mentality with regard to that need, you will be inclined towards acting out roles in order to have that need met. For example, a person with an “I-have-to” mentality might complain about all the things they have to do just so that people give them attention. If you have an “I-choose-to” mentality, you will have the freedom to receive that need when appropriate but at the same time not feel that it has to be met at all costs.
Helen, a female client of mine, felt that the her marriage was full of “Have-to’s.” She felt that she had no choice when it came to all the tasks around the house, because, if she didn’t do them, the house would fall apart. She therefore got no satisfaction or joy from doing those tasks for her family or from being a housewife. She was close to separating from her husband, feeling he wasn’t helpful (he would just come home from work and watch the telly) and that the children were not cooperative either (they wouldn’t put things away when asked, etc.). All this became too much for her and she decided she wanted out. That’s when she came to me. When we began to discuss her childhood, she explained that, as a young girl, she didn’t have choice when it came to household tasks. She was loaded with responsibility, because she was the second girl in a large family and saw herself as “Mammy’s little helper.” She felt that she had no choice about playing that role in her childhood home and, when she married, she instinctively continued playing the same role. When I talked to her about things she enjoyed doing and asked her whether she had to do them or chose to do them, she recognised the difference between having-to and choosing-to. I explained that she needed to separate herself from the doing of these tasks. When she did that, she would be able to make choices about what she wanted to do. She would be able to see that things needed to be done and that she was making the choice to do them or not do them. The feeling of what she had to do became less of a burden. The mind is opposed to the instruction of having-to because we associate it with all the unpleasant things we were forced to do growing up. But when we consider these tasks as things we’ve chosen to do, we find our minds put up much less resistance.
As I’ve said before, all of the intimacy needs are normal and healthy. It’s important to understand that your children and spouse will want to have these needs met, even though they might not always be aware of their need.