If we observe the people who walk into our lives—whether they are there to stay, or are only briefly touching our existence with their presence—we will see that they often resemble one another in character. It is not uncommon to hear people say: “I’ve married my mother” or “I’ve married my father.”
This fact struck me several years ago when I met a girl who was involved into a very abusive relationship. She told me she was planning on leaving her spouse and starting a new life. I talked about it with my own husband and we agreed that it would be okay for her to stay with us for a while, at least until she got on her feet. During the few months she lived with us, she opened up a little and told us that this was the fourth abusive relationship she had been into.
I was dumbstruck. The odds of running into one abusive relationship are probably fifty-fifty, but running into four of them by the age of thirty-one could not be coincidental. It was almost as if this girl had a label pasted on her forehead, advertising that she was looking for yet another violent man.
Then, one night she told me that her father was abusive to her mother and to her. He had beaten both of them, physically and verbally, until the mother decided to get out of the marriage and jump into yet another abusive relationship.
That, suddenly, explained it all. As children, we absorb whatever is being fed to us, whether it is praise or judgment, respect or abuse. After taking it all in, the child has no clue what to do with it. The baggage of emotional charge connected to the events long pushed away is not discharged but safely tucked into a secret chest in the attic of the mind. Once put away and dulled by the passing of time, the child pretends it is not there, and attempts to create a life different than the one he or she dreamt of escaping.
Although the new life appears full of promise, the unreleased pain is still screaming to be taken out of its hideout and be sorted out; since the owner of the chest is not willing to take the heavy old thing out of the attic, afraid of reliving the emotional charge connected to the events tucked away, the pain trickles out of the aging, rotten wood, and sneaks out uninvited, haunting the chambers of the subconscious mind and triggering behaviors which promote unhealthy lifestyles. The wounded child is still alive and well, and needs to understand whether he or she is to blame for what happened so long ago.
Youth therapists draw painful occurrences from the well of children’s subconscious minds through role play. It is amazing what will come up from those sessions; the children reenact the very same things that have caused a trauma in their young life, over and over.
As adults we do the same; we recreate in our new life the same situations we tried to escape as children, simply to understand the role we played in the unfolding of those past events. We are attracted to and attract people who will support our role play, and the patter will continue until we have identified the matrix, and dealt with the emotional charge we put away so long ago.
Observing our life patterns will not solve all our problems, but will provide us with a valuable hint to get started in our search. All we need to do is look around ourselves and, for once, not be afraid of the monsters in the attic.