Have you ever had someone say “You’re just like your mother?” How did that make you feel? Would you take her characteristics as a complement or a slam?
Research into family relationship dynamics have been able to better understand and explain how we can end up just like our parents. Sometimes, we pick up on the wonderful traits like a great sense of humor or love of science fiction. unfortunately, no one is perfect and we can also begin to model and mimic the darker sides of our parents in terms of how they deal with stress and confrontation.
A study conducted by Dr. Dinero found that teens attach to partners who offer similar dynamics as those of their parents. We seek what makes us comfortable, no matter if what makes us comfortable is good or bad. It’s all a matter of familiarity, and the only way to stop making the same mistakes and perpetuating negative cycles is to get to the root of the dysfunctional patterns we acquired as children and teens. The influence of family is more powerful than any other predictor of who we’ll become as adults.
Since we spend so much time with our families, it’s only natural that we will acquire many of their same thought processes, mannerisms, attributes, and negative qualities. Humans are not only creatures of habit; we are grand imitators. Even if there are things we despise about the people who raise us, we tend to carry those things within us, and we usually don’t even realize they’ve rubbed off on us as much as they have, until we are faced with a difficult situation, like a break up that requires us to become honest and introspective. It’s true that we become the things we hate if we’re not careful, or that the things we despise most in others are reflective of our own faults. Some of us were blessed to have extraordinary examples of love and grace from those who raised us, and as a result, have developed into loving and graceful people. Others endured the struggle of being raised by absentee parents, disconnected parents, abusive parents, or otherwise harmful role models, and oftentimes, those children grow into products of their environments. Of course, there are exceptions; we all know people who were raised by extraordinary parents, and we’re still trying to figure out how they became such unbearable human beings. Likewise, we know folks whose parents shouldn’t have been allowed to breed, but yet, those people became shining beacons of humanity. We must understand that all decisions are conscious decisions. We decide who we will become, it’s just that most of us relent to the natural flow of becoming what we saw growing up and don’t put forth the effort to transform into anything other. It’s much easier to say, “I’m like this, because my mom was like this. I’m like this, because this is just who I am,” even if we can recognize and admit that who we are presently is not the highest version of ourselves. It’s not who we could be.
So, here’s your next challenge:
What good characteristics did you learn from your parents and how have their perspective on life helped you in your life.
What are the negative characteristics you see in yourself you wish you could change?
Again, these exercises are not intended to place blame on anyone. You are responsible for your own life, and in the end everyone is doing the best they can. That doesn’t mean we have to become victims of circumstance, instead it means we get to take our power back and make better choices for how we deal with other.