What is the story you tell yourself about your kids?
The reason I ask this question is because it holds part of a crucial key to better understanding why we at times react negatively or inappropriately to our children the way we sometimes do. It also helps explain one reason why they can push our buttons the way they do.
In my years of practice I have come to learn that we humans tell ourselves, often subconsciously, a ‘story’ about our kids.
These stories, when we uncover them, can, at times, be quite shocking to us. But it is nonetheless important that we uncover and harvest them in order to defuse them of the enormous power they have over us and over how we react to our kids.
For example, you might, for some inexplicable reason, see little Tommy as a future petty thief, or criminal who will have no chance at a normal, productive life in society.
Maybe you see little Sally as a weak little thing who will grow into an abused, unhappy, and self-hating victim who ultimately takes her own life. Or perhaps the story goes that she will never make it in the harsh, cruel world; she just doesn’t have the guts for it and she will fail.
Maybe little Jimmy will never be a “real man” when he grows up. Maybe your story says that he’ll always be somewhat “limp wristed”, effeminate, or “casper-milk-toast” and that he’ll never have a relationship or be able to work and help support a family.
It could be that your subconscious story about little Wendy involves her ultimately abandoning you or betraying you somehow; that all your love and work will go unthanked and taken for granted.
Whatever your story, it’s important that you know it and that you know it WELL.
Because the stories we tell ourselves about our children influence that way we deal with them. And what fuels these stories is often initially unknown to us; though possibilities such as them reminding us of ourselves, or of our parents, or of our ‘crazy Uncle Willy’ are just a few among many.
If my subconscious story about my child is that they will never make it in the world or that they have some sort of major disadvantage in life or character flaw, I will project those subconscious fears and beliefs onto them and it WILL affect them and their future.
Rest assured that these fears most definitely did not BEGIN in the child, but that I can and do project them ONTO the child.
And, as you know from reading my posts, if it’s in the subconscious, we ACT on it (thus the term “acting out.”) But if we bring it into the conscious realm, where we can KNOW it, TALK about it, or WRITE about it, we have a chance of NOT acting it out.
I have been witness to many instances in which a parent cannot explain their behaviors towards and reactions to their child until they begin to learn more about their subconscious, often shocking and unacceptable to them, story about the child.
You see, the whole point of the subconscious is to protect us from thoughts or feelings that our conscious minds deem unacceptable to us. Things like murderous feelings, sexual fantasies, rage, and jealousy, are often too hurtful for us to know and to admit to, so our bodies repress them into the subconscious realm where we might catch glimpses of them in our distorted nightmares or “Freudian” slips.
Isn’t it frightening to think that, as much as we love our kids and would do anything for them, we also harbor subconscious stories about them which can ultimately harm them through our behaviors towards them and our reactions to them; behaviors and reactions which may very well help make these stories come true?
In fact, these stories can influence the entire tenor of our relationship with our kids.
So, if my story about little Tommy is that he’s a manipulative little sociopath, guess how I’ll treat him?
Or if I treat little Sally as a hopeless casualty of her own life, guess what I’ll be helping prepare her for?
My suggestion would be to find a way, whether by writing about it or talking about it, to uncover your stories about your kids.
See how much of it is appropriate and fitting to who the child REALLY is as a person, rather than with regards to your projected image of that child.
And, as you do this, please hold on to your seats; what you may discover, as beneficial as it will ultimately be to know, may surprise you!
Bottom line: Strive to learn more about who your child REALLY is! Use LVAC (see prior posts) and ask them questions and let them talk to you and define themselves to both you and to themselves.
If they remind you too much of yourself or of someone you know, and if that’s not necessarily a good thing to you, then try to focus on parts of them that do NOT remind you of this.
Remember, they are a blank slate with a bit of our genetics attached. Help them grow into who THEY are, and you’ll be able to enjoy them more.
All my best,
Anthony Ferraioli, M.D.