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You plant beans…you get beans


This is an expression that has been used in my home for as long as I can remember.  When a child exhibits a behaviour pattern that is just like that of a relative, my parents would exclaim, “you plant beans….you get beans”.   The implication, of course, being that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.  Now, what I am about to talk about actually isn’t genetics…it is learned behaviours picked up through associating and learning from other people.  It is the argument that scientists call “Nature vs Nurture”.  Do you behave the way that you do because of genetic imprinting, or because of learning it from your environment?

In my childhood home, feelings were not often discussed.  It was almost as if it were a crime to have them.  My mother, despite claiming to be the most understanding, caring, warm and compassionate person in the world, coils away from feelings especially when they are possibly the result of something she may have done.  Her defensiveness was a roadblock to her taking the time to attend to the feelings of others.  Now I should mention that I think she CAN be caring, warm, compassionate, and understanding….to friends and acquaintances – when her ego isn’t at stake.  My father is allergic to emotion.  The emotions he conveys are happiness and anger.  He is pretty good at those two. But, he is very poor at identifying the emotions of others, and certainly doesn’t want to talk about them.

I learned at an early age that it was futile to approach my parents with any emotionally laden information.  Hard to do when you are a highly emotive person.  I also learned that if anyone was going to solve my problems, or attend to my emotional needs, it was going to be me.  I became a highly effective person, capable of solving my own issues, resourceful, efficient, capable.   What this has created, in me, is a person who isn’t used to asking for help, who isn’t comfortable admitting that I can’t fix it myself, and who relies solely on themselves.  I feel like a failure if I need to ask for help.  It feels like a defeat.  Now, I should mention that I don’t apply those same rules to others, and welcome them to come to me when they need help…I am efficient and effective, remember?

In a marriage, when two people come together to mutually support one another, a certain reliance on the other is to be expected.  An attachment forms between you and your spouse, and you come to rely on their for emotional support.  I had never learned to do that very well, I guess, and neither had my husband.  He was raised in a very chaotic environment as an only child.  His father was more consumed with himself – a narcissist.  His mother was unable to attend to emotions, and is one of those “Sweep it under the rug” folks who downplays everything with a smile, and “It will be OK” attitude.  Not very helpful when you have a real problem and require real guidance.  So, we both learned to rely on ourselves.  It was a very functional way to be during childhood and adolescence, but not terribly functional within a marriage.  We would soon realize that.   Our ability to communicate our problems was very limited, and there is no question that if my husband felt as though he could come to me for help, he would have turned towards me, and not away from me.   This was one of those things that shouldn’t have been tackled alone.  He wasn’t prepared, he didn’t see the forest for the trees, and became entangled in something he didn’t even see coming.   It was, in essence, a recipe for disaster.

With parents who didn’t meet my basic emotional needs, and seemed disinterested in general, I grew up feeling unloved.  The attachment I had to my parents was unstable, and I could never be certain that they would come through for me.  As a child, I remember being sent to an overnight camp for a month at the age of 8.  I was homesick, and didn’t want to go.  But, my older brother was going, seemed to love it, and they thought it was a good opportunity.  I was shipped away. I was there for three years before I hit my breaking point, and asked to come home mid-session.  My parents were disappointed, and I suspected that my grandmother, the financier, was upset at the loss she incurred as a result.  A few years later, it was determined that I should attend a private school for higher education.  My grandmother was big on that.  At the age of 13, I started writing entrance exams for the school she had selected for me. and I was accepted.  Once again, I was being sent away.  I never did attend, after putting my foot down and refusing.  I can be pretty stubborn…it’s a self protective thing.

Through therapy, I’ve come to realize that my childhood experiences have created in me a deep fear of abandonment.  I don’t want to be sent away to camp.  I don’t want to be sent away to private school.  I don’t want to be sent away.  I desperately craved an attachment to something permanent and reliable, and I felt unwanted.  That fear has followed me into adulthood, and creeps up from time to time, when I feel vulnerable, when my husband is angry at me, when I think he is going to “send me away” – or leave me.  Obviously, you can see the deep nerve the learning of his affair caused.  He’d abandoned me.  He’d walked away from me.  He’d separated from me.  Our attachment was unstable.  It was like my childhood fears all coming to the surface again.  The one person I’d managed to make a solid attachment to, felt completely loved by, completely secure with – had abandoned me too.  It hurt deeper than I could ever have imagined.  I wanted to recoil into a little ball, and I think I probably did.  Until my self-reliance, effective, reliant self kicked in – and I started researching infidelity online, desperately searching for information on how to cope, what it meant, and if I’d ever be ‘normal’ again.

Your past plays a huge role in your present, and your future.  Who you are today is directly the result of experiences that helped shape and mold you.  Hopefully, those experiences have resulted in positive adaptations and coping strategies, and hopefully you feel loved and supported.  For all of those positive experiences, unfortunately, we all have something that has damaged us inside and that we’ve had to adapt to, work around, grow in spite of.  Some of us have more of those than others.  It’s a matter of taking what you have, learning the most about yourself from the inside out, so that you can work with it, and create the best life for yourself.

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