How did you cope—as a kid—when mom and dad weren’t available? You’re answer can say a lot about you, and how you cope, today.
There are three ways in which a child can adapt to a parent’s failure to attune. First, and probably most common, is compliance.
With compliance, the child represses the fear, the sadness, or the anger, and instead aligns with the parents dismissal of their feeling.
“Mom’s right, I must just be a crybaby.” Or, “Mom’s right, there must be something wrong with me.” And in that, the child loses connection with his or her feelings, and acts in a way that is completely aligned with mom’s dismissal of those feelings.
Now, for the compliant child, as they grow up, they usually continue, even in adulthood, to be compliant with other people,
Another way a child responds to a parent’s failure to attune, is through self-righteousness or rebellion. Here, and the child gets in touch with his or her anger and, having his feelings discounted, grabs ahold of the anger, but does not use that anger to protest.
Instead, they internally say, “I don’t need you anyway.. Go away and leave me alone.” The child tosses away the entire relationship in his or her anger, instead of using the anger to express his or her true voice.
When this happens, and as a child grows up, and when his feelings don’t get met, he is quick to anger and to discount and throw away relationships even in adult life, sometimes for a short time, and sometimes forever.
Finally, a child can respond to a failure to attune through withdrawal. Here, the child simply retreats behind his own citadel, internally, leaving the outside world in favor of the inside one so he won’t get hurt again.
As this person grows up, they tend to be quite internally focused, not available to reach out and talk to others as there’s an internal certainty that the other person won’t be interested in who they really are.
So the question about which child you were, when no one was there for you, is really an important one, because it informs who you are today.
This will tell you little bit more about yourself, and help you better understand where some of your ways of being came from. In the next blog post, we’ll talk about what positive alternatives might be to these three ways being.