An Excerpt from Ross Rosenberg’s book: The Human Magnet Syndrome: Why We Love People Who Hurt Us
We Inherit A Relationship “GPS”
As much as we would like to, we cannot avoid certain indisputable facts of life: we will have to pay taxes, we will get older, we will most likely gain a few pounds, and we will always be connected to our childhood. Sigmund Freud was right, we are, indeed, creatures of our past; affected more by our formative years (first five to six years of life) than by recent events and circumstances. Although genes play a significant role in determining our adult selves, the manner in which we were cared for as a child is integrally connected to our adult mental health. Whether we embrace our unique childhood history, or if we try to mute, forget or even deny it, there is no way from refuting its impact on our lives.
The experiential landscape of our childhoods directly impacts our future adult relationships. Specifically, the manner in which we were parented during the first five or six years of our lives, our formative years, is directly connected to the quality of our adult relationships. If you were fortunate, you may have had a childhood that was absent of major trauma, abuse, deprivation or neglect. As one of the fortunate ones, you would have had parents who made mistakes, but who also unconditionally loved and cared for you. Just by being yourself, despite your imperfections, you would have proved to your parents that all babies are perfect and the gift of life is sacred. You’re healthy but not perfect parents would have been intrinsically motivated to foster your personal and emotional growth, not because they had to, but because they believed you deserved it! The only requirement to receive your parents’ love and nurturing was to just be your genuine self – just to be. Consequently, you would have become a part of a multigenerational pattern of emotionally healthy children; you would have become a balanced and emotionally healthy adult. If you would decide to have children, you would perpetuate the positive parenting “karma” by raising your own emotionally healthy child.
The child of psychologically unhealthy parents would also participate in a similar multigenerational pattern; just one that is perpetually dysfunctional. If one of your parents was an emotional manipulator, you would have been born to this world with expectations that if achieved, would motivate your narcissistic parent to love and nurture you. Provided you were able to maintain your parents’ fantasy about what you should be like, you would likely receive their conditional love and conditional attention. By maintaining your parent’s fantasies for parenthood, you would be their proud accomplishment – a trophy of sorts. As a direct result of your ability to accommodate your parents narcissistic needs, as an adult you would develop codependency traits or would become a codependent. As an adult you would instinctively be attracted to a lover who would unconsciously remind you of your parent – an Emotional Manipulator.
However, if you were unable to be your parents’ “trophy child,” you would consequently trigger their own feelings of shame, anger and insecurity, which they would project onto you. A child, who is unable to make their narcissistic parent feel good about themselves, would likely to be subjected to deprivation, neglect and/or abuse. For this child, relaxing and enjoying the wonders of childhood would never come to fruition. Your lonely, deprived, and/or abusive childhood would lay the foundation for your future poor mental health and the consequent development of one of the Emotional Manipulator Disorders. As an adult, just like you own parents, you would automatically and instinctively be attracted to romantic partners would accept or tolerate your narcissism.
All parents, whether they are psychologically healthy or unhealthy, provide their children with experiences and memories that will ultimately result in an automatic relationship guide for their adult relationships. Children simply soak up their parent’s treatment of them. If they are blessed, they might be the lucky recipients of a relationship GPS of sorts that will consistently guide them to the right place, right time and right person – all the time. The not- so- fortunate child may inherit a broken relationship manual, which will likely lead them astray in their pursuit of loving, safe and happy relationships. Although the broken guide may seem permanent, the human spirit has remarkable therapeutic potential. Because humans are capable of healing and transforming, as well as rising above the seemingly indisputable forces of our childhood, we do not have to be the torch-bearers of our parents’ life sentence. We are all imbued with the capability to grow and learn from our mistakes. Many of us, with hard work, can get a chance to “overturn” what once seemed like a “life sentence” of future dysfunctional relationships.