How You Became You

Doing a Youover

From birth to death we are always stepping into the unknown. Every time we step into the unknown we look back (= rapprochement) at parents, teachers, coaches, bosses, etc. When we do something great we look to them to validate and amplify our experience that what we just did was great. When we fall and hurt ourselves and feel fear, we look back to be reassured that we’re okay, we’re not injured and we can keep on moving forward.

Depending on how the world, especially our parents when we were young children, respond to us, we will internalize their input. If they’re secure within themselves and encouraging, we’ll become more confident in moving forward. If they’re insecure and fearful and worrisome, we’ll become more anxious about moving forward.

When we look back – especially when we are afraid – our parents, early teachers, coaches and others can respond is four different way and usually a combination of more than one.

If we are responded to with coddling (bailing kids out of any upset), negativity (criticism) and/or absent (neglect), we don’t feel solid at our core. That means that when we run into an obstacle, rejection, set back, etc. and our immediate way forward is blocked, and we turn inward we don’t come up with anything to sure us up.

When that happens and we begin to feel fearful and anxious, we are then vulnerable to reaching out to something that takes that anxiety away, or as they say in psychology at least “binds it” (which means neutralizing it before it becomes panic).

That is what can lead to addiction to drugs, alcohol, eating disorders, shopping, gambling, pornography, etc.

In fact, when you speak to long time addicts about their addictions, many will say, they don’t do it to get high, they do it to get by. And what they’re getting by is a way to keep their fear and anxiety from escalating into panic.

Here’s the good news.

When our childhood triumphs and failures are responded to with coddling, criticism or neglect it can truly impair and impede our lives as long as we’re still centered around our home. However if and when we go out into the world and discover people who respond to us as mentioned in the bottom row as a Loving, Teacher, Mentor, Coach, that can provide what has been referred to as a “corrective (and, I would add, correcting) emotional experience,” it can turn everything around, if your desire is more to feel whole and solid, than it is to feel immediate relief.

Here is something you can use in the present to help this process along. It’s amazing how inspiring and motivating a process of change can be, when everyone, and I mean everyone, commits to it.

BTW in our new book, Why Cope When You Can Heal? my co-author, Diana Hendel, and I introduce an approach known as Surgical Empathy as a way to help people begin to heal from trauma. This approach is essentially going back to the beginning point when a person was traumatized (in the case of the book, it’s about healthcare workers being traumatized by Covid-19) and helping them as they now are (safely beyond the danger) become a Loving Teacher, Mentor, Coach to their traumatized self so they can safely think their unthought thoughts and feel their unfelt feelings – which they couldn’t think or feel completely when they were just trying to survive – through and get them up and out and by doing so, begin to heal from their inside out.

Addendum: For 30+ years (I’m retired now), I worked as a clinical psychiatrist with a focus on suicide prevention (and none of my patients died by suicide) and my approach was mainly acting as a Loving Teacher, Mentor, Coach.

Source: Talking to Crazy: How to Deal with the Irrational and Impossible People in Your Life by Mark Goulston, M.D.

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One thought on “How You Became You”

  1. Pierre Dussault says:

    Great article Mark!

    I particularly find The chart « What your life becomes » very useful!