The best-selling psychotherapist Nicole Lepert, How to Work on Yourself, has been published by Bombora Publishing House. In the book, she talks about childhood traumas and their impact on adulthood. We publish an excerpt from the ninth chapter, in which Nicole analyzes how parenting affects relationships with partners.

1. Having a parent who denies your reality

Whenever a child is told that his thoughts, feelings or experiences are not true, a vacuum is created in his true self.

Those who still have this wound often continue to deny their own reality in order to maintain balance.

Such people do not recognize their needs or become pathologically complaisant. Among them there are often martyrs who act selflessly to their own detriment. As a rule, they avoid conflicts and follow the mantra “If you’re okay, then I’m fine.” People traumatized by the denial of reality may even become confused in their own perception, because they do not feel connected to intuition and have not trusted it for a long time. They continue to shift their decisions and needs onto others. As needs persist and dissatisfaction grows, they end up placing responsibility for their choices on everyone around them.

2. Having a parent who can’t see or hear you

Those who felt they were ignored or neglected by their parents learn early on that they need to keep their true selves quiet in order to win love. A similar reaction is characteristic of those who grew up in a family whose members were emotionally immature (often used coldness or boycott as punishment). In such an atmosphere, love is either scarce or unconditional, so that people strip away wants and needs almost entirely to make sure they get the most they can. Often there is learning behavior.

Those who have been ignored, at the slightest sign of threat, are ignored in return.

Also, this trauma can manifest itself in the choice of a “big personality” as a partner. One of my clients noticed that she is attracted to strong partners – achievers, with whom it is literally “crowded in the same room.” This is a deep wound – “I can’t be seen or heard.” Therefore, such people look for a person who maintains the established pattern, and are drawn to the familiar state of stealth or invisibility. This role, however, activates all the uncomfortable emotions associated with the belief “I can’t be seen or heard.” Every time the woman already mentioned chose a “big personality”, the relationship inevitably collapsed, as soon as she began to resent her partner for the same reasons that initially allowed her to feel a spiritual connection.

3. Having a parent who indirectly lives your life or “sculpts” for themselves

When a parent directly or indirectly expresses a preference for our beliefs, wants, and needs, it limits our true self-expression. This manifests itself in many different ways and often results in us relying on outside advice—from partners, friends, even those we think of as mentors—when we need information or feedback on any major or minor decision. These are people who always need to talk things over—sometimes multiple times and with different people—to figure out how they “feel.” Because they have always been told what to feel, think, or do, they have no connection to their inner compass. This often results in them being constantly on the lookout for a guru or guide, or blindly succumbing to a whirlwind of various new ideas or groups.

4. Having a parent who knows no boundaries

As children, we understood them intuitively, although many grew up in families where parents did not build clear boundaries. Moreover, some parents unknowingly violated our boundaries, encouraging us to do things that made us uncomfortable in order to be “polite” and “nice”. This experience blocked our intuition and inner limitations, causing us to doubt our inner signals. In adulthood, this manifests itself in the fact that a person does not take into account his own needs and systematically allows a disregard for his boundaries. Over time, this denial of needs can develop into anger or disgust, the concept of contempt described in research famous family therapist John Gottman, “relationship killer”.

We feel contempt and wonder, “Why do people take advantage of me?” or “Why don’t people appreciate me?” – and this is a normal reaction to violation of personal boundaries.

But what we don’t realize is that this behavior is due to the fact that throughout our lives we have not limited in any way the time, energy and emotional resources spent on others.

5. Having a parent who is overly obsessed with looks

Many people received both direct and indirect signals about their appearance from their parents, who focused on physical appearance (weight, hairstyle, clothes) or even on the appearance of the family unit in society. In adulthood, this develops the habit of comparing ourselves to others in order to see if we match them on this external level. What we don’t realize is that emotional well-being goes much deeper than the outer façade.

This reliance on appearance leads us to focus too much on the image of ourselves that we put on display. Sometimes we even deny or intentionally hide painful or difficult experiences in order to “save face”.

Social networks that make it possible to post beautiful photos and captions to them only exacerbate the situation, since behind this picture many find themselves deeply unhappy.

6. Having a parent who doesn’t know how to manage their emotions

When we see a parent overwhelm their emotions by exploding or pulling away, we feel emotionally overwhelmed. By adulthood, it turns out that we lack the adaptive skills to help cope with feelings and general emotional resilience.

Many adopt the same reactivity or suppression of emotions from their parents.

For some, feelings are torn out when they scream at others or rush around the house, slamming doors. Others deal with difficult experiences by withdrawing. This may look like conflict avoidance or denial. In extreme cases, these are people experiencing dissociation. To enter this state, some turn to external aids: dull their senses with drugs and alcohol, social media distractions, and find solace in food. The connection itself can be an anesthetic, and when we’re preoccupied with relationships, we don’t need to wonder if something deeper is making us unhappy.

Nicole Leper's book

The book “How to work on yourself” will help you take life into your own hands. How to deal with childhood traumas, why there is internal resistance to change – you will find out the answers to these and many other questions.