We All Have These Experiences In Common…

We All Have These Experiences In Common…

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I’ve been thinking a lot this week about Attachment theory – not just in children (as I usually think about) but in us as adults. We were all brought up and have experiences in our childhood that have had a lasting impact, for good or not so good. Of course, not just our childhoods – I think about all the little and big interactions we have with people that affect us in some way. How do we process those interactions, and how do they change us?


In my work with family support there have been many times when talking with parents I have mentioned Attachment theory and it’s still so little understood. If people have heard of it, they shy away and see it as a judgement on their parenting or saying they have abused their children. If they’ve not heard of it (which is often more the case) then it sheds some light on why their children might behave as they do. Domestic abuse is something that, again, the lasting impact of those early environments can be huge and can change someone in so many ways.


I remember someone talking to me once about some of the challenges in my teenage years. Due to some early experiences, I had fallen into a pattern of control in relationships, but I was unaware of. I just went through those times hurting people and not realising that the hurt I had felt years before was in fact causing me to hurt others. They say don’t they that, hurt people hurt people. That was true for me. One of the things the person who spoke to me said at that time stuck with me. She said that those patterns I had developed, those ways of protecting myself, were understandable and I didn’t realise I was doing them. Now though I did know and had a responsibility to break those habits and patterns after that. 


I consider the ways that my children have been hurt by their birth parents and the early environment they were in. It wasn’t right and nothing can say it was. However, there were reasons and experiences their parents may have had that shaped who they were and how they coped with parenthood. That in turn has of course impacted my children that will take a lifetime to work through.


We all have things we need to work through. Whether you had the best childhood possible or the worst, we still can be prone to taking out our hurt on others. I am re-watching my favourite series now – Nashville, absolutely love it. Anyway, there is a storyline that has caught my eye on this subject. It is one of the main characters Deacon who is a recovering alcoholic and prone to violence. His Dad was also a drinker and very prone to violence and taking it out on his wife and kids. Deacon had managed to control his addiction and hadn’t seen his dad for thirty years until he turns up wanting to build a relationship again with his son. It’s interesting watching this dynamic of father and son, both struggling with the same challenges and, understandably so, the son is very angry with his dad for putting them through what he did. He does try to eventually allow his dad back into his life until he finds out he’s drinking again and chucks him out.


The reason I mention this, and I am aware it’s a show, the cycle that families can get themselves in can be complex and devastating for all concerned. Breaking cycles is hard and demands some difficult steps of compassion, forgiveness, and restoration. Long journeys and very difficult processes. I wonder whether there’s some steps you can take this week in your own life to break patterns of behaviour that maybe hurt others?


The least I think is that we need to lay aside our judgement of others. Of course, we need to protect children and make the right steps needed to do that, but judgement never helps anything. Compassion for me is the opposite of judgement. How can I stand in judgement of others when I am a flawed human as well? When I can look honestly as my mistakes and reconcile myself with my past experiences, then maybe I can reach out to others, show compassion, and help them to do the same.

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