Mike: This is Mike Hennessy. And on behalf of the team at LoveEvolveandThrive.com, I am pleased to welcome you to today’s interview with Karla Downing. Karla Downing is a licensed marriage and family therapist and the founder of ChangeMyRelationship.com. Go to www.ChangeMyRelationship.com for more information.
Karla Downing, thank you so much for joining us today.
Karla: You are welcome. It’s great to be here.
Mike: Karla, experts tell us that most of the problems that we face in our adult relationships can be traced back to our childhood experiences and emotional wounds we suffered. This can range from choosing the same type of men over and over again to engaging in self sabotaging behaviors to recreate our troubled childhood relationship.
Can you offer some practical strategies on how we can heal our childhood wounds?
Karla: Childhood wounds need to be recognized, understood, and then healed:
Recognized because you can’t heal that which you don’t acknowledge. Understood for how they are affecting you today. Healed so they won’t negatively impact your life any longer.
Here are some exercises you can do that will help you recognize your childhood wounds:
· What did you need from your father but did not get? The things you did not get from your father present in your adult life as core needs. You will look for these needs to be met but have a tendency to pick relationships in which they are not met. You will also be extra sensitive and reactive to these needs not being met.
· What did you need from your mother but did not get? We don’t only look to fill the unmet needs of our fathers but also our mothers.
· What role did you play in your family? Here are some examples of roles: responsible one, scapegoat, clown, black sheep, voice, protector, truth teller, and peacemaker. Roles are related to the family’s dysfunction. Families need to function and children intuitively pick a role to fulfill that keeps the family working. The child fulfills the role and will only abandon it if the family begins to work in a healthy way.
· What labels did you get called by family, friends, or significant others? Even if labels have no truth in them, we tend to accept them and define ourselves by them. If the label had some truth to it, it is even more devastating because it fits.
· What messages did you receive from the significant people in your life? An example of a positive message is “You can do whatever you decide to do because you are capable.” An example of a negative message is “You are an inconvenience to me because you were not planned” or “You are just like your mother and I don’t like your mother so I don’t like you.”
· What do you remember as the most traumatic experience you had in grade school, junior high, and high school?
· What did you vow you would never do as an adult? The emotional promises we make to ourselves as children are born out of pain. We resolve to not do what we have experienced that hurt us. If your parent was addicted, you may resolve to never marry an addict. If your parent abandoned you, you may resolve to always be there for your children. If you experienced abuse, you may resolve to never abuse.
Here are some exercises you can do that will help you understand how your childhood wounds are affecting you today:
· What roles are you playing in your adult relationships? How are these similar to the roles you played as a child? How are these roles keeping you stuck in unhealthy patterns?
· What patterns have you repeated as an adult that have caused you problems? What core needs are not being met in your relationships? We tend to re-create similar dynamics in our adult lives that were present in our childhoods even if they have a different package.
· What did you vow you would never do as an adult but are doing?
· Listen to your self-talk. What do you tell yourself that parallels the messages that were given to you as a child? How are those messages limiting you in your adult life?
· Think about the labels you were given as a child. What did you believe about those labels then and how do those labels and beliefs affect your life now? For instance, if you were called “Fatty,” you may believe that you have to be skinny to be loved. If you were told you were a “know-it-all” because you were smart, you may believe you have to keep your abilities hidden to be liked.
· What traits do you have as an adult that are similar to the ones your father and mother had that you disliked? Are those traits related to your inborn personality or things that you learned from watching them?
· How much energy do you expend with your family of origin problems today? Do you see the truth about your family or do you still have trouble admitting the problems?
· Your childhood wounds affect the way you react in your adult relationships without you even knowing it. You know your reaction is related to “old stuff” when you over-react in the present. It is related to the past when something happens and you respond intensely repeatedly and yet you know it isn’t that big of a deal; the other person is telling you that you are super sensitive to it; and you recognize it is related to unreasonable expectations for the current situation. What do you over-react to?
Childhood wounds are healed by doing the following things:
· They are healed by talking about them with your family of origin, a counselor, a friend, a mentor, an accountability partner, or a support group such as a Twelve Step group.
They are healed by working through the grief process:
· Coming out of denial and facing the truth.
· Feeling the anger toward the people who hurt you.
· Assigning appropriate blame to whom it is due and knowing that it wasn’t your fault.
· Feeling the sadness and losses even though it hurts to do so.
· Choosing to accept that your childhood was what it was.
· Choosing to forgive those people by recognizing that they had problems and then letting go of the desire to get even. (You can still choose how much involvement is healthy.)
· Then taking the responsibility as an adult to heal yourself and to do whatever it takes to not let your childhood wounds sabotage your life today.
Mike: Karla Downing, thank you so much for the information today.
Karla: You are welcome.
And this is Mike Hennessy. And on behalf of the team at LoveEvolveandThrive.com, I’d like to thank you for listening to our interview and wish you the very best in your relationships.
Our guest today was Karla Downing, a licensed marriage and family therapist and founder of Change My Relationship at www.ChangeMyRelationship.com.
For free tips and insights on relationship advice for women from hundreds of experts and authors, please visit our website at www.LoveEvolveandThrive.com.