How often have you heard yourself say, “I’m a giver, not a taker”? Have you experienced discomfort when receiving something from another, whether it’s a compliment, a kind gesture or gift? Do you know what it feels like to be in a reciprocal relationship? If these questions are triggering familiar sensations, then read on…
As children we had 4 basic emotional and psychological needs:
- Affection and
A child who receives these 4 things adequately grows up to be an emotionally healthy adult capable of meeting his/her own needs in a healthy manner at work, in relationships and in personal life and experiences peace and contentment.
None of us grew up being perfectly parented–in fact it’s virtually impossible to anticipate that this could even happen. When you’re a self-proclaimed “giver,” it’s very likely you’ve been raised in a home where important emotional needs were not acknowledged or adequately responded to, and you’ve compensated for this deficit, by becoming a “giver”. Even if you thought your parents were overburdened in some way, you might have tried to become an ‘invisible’ child, so as not to place more demand on them, or risk incurring painful repercussion.
Perhaps you had a parent who always put the needs of a spouse, neighbor or friend ahead of their own (and yours), and as this was the example set for you, it’s what you’ve emulated. It’s just what ‘good people’ do~ or so you’ve been taught.
As a small child, you may have discovered that taking care of another’s needs provided satisfaction, and a sense of safety, empowerment or self-worth and has also eased abandonment concerns. It means you had to start adopting these tendencies in childhood, and were made to feel that receiving supplies of attention, affection and emotional support came at a substantial cost to your parent(s). As a natural outcome of this, you began putting the needs of others far ahead of your own, because doing otherwise meant punishment, guilt and/or shame. This is the actual basis for your ongoing ‘fixing’ behaviors and poor relationship choices.
The extent of abandonment issues may be mild, moderate, or severe… depending upon the extent of the original pain.
There may be few overt signs of family dysfunction or abuse – For instance, it may be that one or both parents are able to give reasonable amounts time, attention and direction but they seem unable to express affection – The words “I love you” may rarely be heard, if at all, in this family.
A lack of hugs, kisses, pats on the back, and other expressions of affection leaves a child to wonder how they measure up in the eyes of their parents – remember, to a child affection equals approval.
Another common abandonment scenario occurs when one of the parents is physically absent much of the time. The parent may be a “work-a-holic” who cannot seem to stop working long enough to find time for his family. (They may be using work to distract from their own abandonment issues)
Severe cases of emotional wounding come from emotional, physical, and or psychological abuse and neglect. In these cases the household becomes a dangerous place.
Kids who grow up in abusive situations have to focus on survival – there’s not much time or opportunity to be a normal kid. One rule of thumb about growing up in a dysfunctional family is that it is NOT okay to ask directly for what you need…nor to expect to get it… When you try, you are likely to get the opposite. This becomes a survival skill.
In order to feel safe – even in an unsafe environment – very young children use a subconscious defense called idealization. In other words, little kids put their parents up on a pedestal and see them as perfect, all-knowing, and all-powerful god-like creatures.
This make them feel safe – “nothing can get to me since if I am protected by a god-like creature. Since god-like creatures are perfect, they are beyond reproach in the innocent mind of a child.
A child cannot say to themselves – “Well, dad has a drinking problem… That’s about him not me… I don’t have to let it cause abandonment issues when he breaks his promises and yells at me all the time.”
No, in the mind of a child it goes more like this – “If I were a better kid dad wouldn’t drink”… or, “If I was a better kid mom wouldn’t yell at me so much”… or, “Daddy please don’t leave, I’ll be good!”
Because of idealization young children can make sense of abandonment issues no other way – it has to be about them. Parents have all of the power and the child has none. They are totally submitted and committed to the parent. As a result, the child begins to develop a sense of defectiveness that grows along with the emotional wound.
Wounds to one’s sense of Self during infancy and early childhood, are often referred to as core damage/trauma. In simple terms, having core issues means that the ‘hub’ of your wheel has been broken or damaged in some manner. When the very center of your being is compromised, all the spokes which emanate from that point will be weak, and susceptible to breaking under any amount of pressure. Core trauma impacts every aspect of our existence, as it shapes self-worth, and influences how we think about and take care of ourselves, in personal and professional relationships.
Since core trauma results from poor or inadequate parenting from as early as infancy, this wounding inevitably causes attachment struggles in adulthood.
A child who’s grown up believing they have to behave perfectly in order to receive attention, affirmation or praise, has acquired a distored definition of love. For this child, Love means painful longing and yearning for that which cannot be gratified. Thus, this same type of emotional experience is intoxicating in his/her adult attachments, for their present anguish is literally identical to feelings that he/she experienced throughout childhood, which are now interpreted as ‘the real deal,’ or true love.
This means, lovers who are capable of reciprocating their care and affection, are rejected out of hand. It’s boring and doesn’t feel like a fit, because this dynamic doesn’t trigger the inner pain that was consistently associated with loving, as a kid.
Such children grow into needful adults, but they could fear that if they let themselves love somebody as intensely as they want to, that person will shriek, run off into the night, and abandon them. Their sense of need feels gigantic, and often painful. It presumes that someone on the receiving end won’t be able to handle it–which triggers shame for being “so needy.” This shame makes one want to shut-down their needs (or control them), which is a defense that has one giving to others, what he/she desperately requires. It also has them choosing emotionally unavailable partners who reactivate chaotic, painful sensations that reinforce their childhood abandonment trauma.
Every core injured adult child lives with the tormenting, inescapable question: “Am I good enough to be loved by you?
A child needs to feel valued by his/her parent. He needs to see welcome on the parent’s face when he enters a room, and feel like he really matters, and is adored. Very few of us ever experienced this–in fact, what we consistently saw instead, were expressions of indifference or annoyance–and this shaped how we grew up feeling about ourselves!
When we repeatedly feel confusion, disappointment or distress in childhood, we have to normalize those experiences in order to survive them. Often, we suppress these difficult feelings or make them not matter, so we’re able to coexist with a variety of upsets–and the people responsible for them (our parents). The problem is, these survival strategies remain intact throughout our adulthood, and prompt serious issues like anxiety disorders, addictions, compulsive behaviors, attachment fears, impaired partner selection, etc.
It requires us to heal our inner child, basically re-parent ourself and give our self the emotional nurturing and growth that we as a child could not receive. Our brains created a blueprint for relationships in the childhood based on the kind of relationships we experienced with our parents. If we want to create healthier relationships, then we need to create a new blueprint in our mind along with healing the wounds of emotional abandonment and subsequent shaming beliefs of “I am not good enough” or “lovable enough”. Once this happens, we can attract and find happiness in healthy, nurturing and loving relationships.