BY DR. ATHENA STAIK
Your health and well being depend upon the personal choices you make in every aspect of your life. Your moment by moment choices shape your life, and that means your relationships.
In the words of Aristotle, “[You] are what [you] repeatedly do. Excellence … is not an act, but a habit.” The health of your relationships rests on the consistent personal choices you make regarding how you live and treat yourself, and simulatenously, how you treat the other in the context of your relationships.
And, guess what? How you inwardly “treat” others reflects how you “treat” yourself. And vice versa. Your subconscious mind does not know the difference between how you treat the other, and how you treat yourself!
In turn, your choices are shaped by what you most value, the core beliefs you hold about what is most important to you in life, beliefs that were largely formed in your early, formative years as a child. While pursuing my doctorate degree, for my dissertation, I conducted a study of the effects of childhood experiences on how partners “do conflict” in their current couple relationships. I hypothesized that partners repeat, with some level of exactitude, how they resolved conflict in childhood in how they engage in conflict. Not surprisingly, the results were significant.
Findings showed, for example, that partners who experienced the use of verbal or physical aggression by their parents as children (toward them or one another, or both) were more likely to re-enact very similar patterns in their couple relationship in adulthood. More than 90% of parents in the U.S. use physical punishment, and consistently exercise fear-intensifying patterns. Not surprisingly, women who witnessed mothers being victimized were more likely to take the role of victim, whereas as men were more likely to be the violent partner.
Thus, when partners in couple relationships get triggered, they use very similar approaches with one another to get assurance or cooperation—and then, feel totally shocked when their efforts produce the opposite result!
Yet, our brains still hold onto these protective programs as if our survival still depends on them. Many clients share that even in cases where they want to behave in ways that are “the exact opposite” from their parents, on some level, they still find themselves repeating the same patterns.
Defensive reactivity erodes and harms your key relationships.
- Creates distance between you and those we most love.
- Blocks your ability to empathically connect with yourself or others.
- Prevents you from developing mutual understanding and shared meanings.
- Stops you from working cooperatively together on shared goals.
What emotion, love or fear, do you choose to activate in yourself and others when you respond to something that upsets you? How do you think this affects the results of your interactions, and your relationship in the long term?
These questions are too big to leave to chance. Your subconscious mind, left on its own, can put a damper on the level of emotional fulfillment you realize in your couple relationship. It's patiently waiting for you to take the reins, as master of your thoughts and emotions.
The moment by moment choices you make are pure, life shaping power. Choose wisely. Choose to consciously heal subconscious learned coping patterns. Your life will thank you.