The first seven years of our childhood are the foundational years where the child’s so-called BIOS or the subconscious mind or the habitual mind takes shape. The events and occurrences – be it traumatic or joyous, that take place during these 7 years shapes one’s life.
“It is very important that during these early years a child should be surrounded by noble-minded, generous-hearted and affectionate people with good thoughts, for these stamp themselves on the child’s inner life. Example, therefore, in thought and in feeling is the best means of education at this stage. It is not what we say but what we are that influences a child during his first seven years.” ~ Rudolf Steiner, At the Gates of Spiritual Science – Lecture VI: The upbringing of children.
You can imagine the magnanimity of raising human beings. All said and done, it is a huge challenge. Being a parent doesn’t require any qualifications, but a willingness to constantly do the inner work because parents are their children’s role models, children seek guidance, love, warmth and affection from them.
However, there are times when parents themselves need healing, to shed off unwanted layers and dysfunctional behavioral patterns that stemmed from their own childhood. Emotionally immature parents frequently parent from a place of early abuse, or rejection by their own parents. Many emotionally immature parents are unable to “grow” beyond their own childish demands and self-centeredness, possibly because they were abused or neglected as children.
Perhaps they were not allowed to express their thoughts and feelings for healthy emotional development to take place. This limits their ability to regulate their own emotions in their adult life. The vicious cycle continues and this behaviour passes on to the future generations too until something drastic is done about it.
Here are 5 signs you grew up with an emotionally immature parent
“You may wonder why all children don’t make up wonderfully positive role-selves—why so many people are acting out roles of failure, anger, mental disturbance, emotional volatility, or other forms of misery. One answer is that not every child has the inner resources to be successful and self-controlled in interactions with others. Some children’s genetics and neurology propel them into impulsive reactivity instead of constructive action. Another reason negative role-selves arise is that it’s common for emotionally immature parents to subconsciously use different children in the family to express unresolved aspects of their own role-self and healing fantasies.” ~ Lindsay C. Gibson, Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents: How to Heal from Distant, Rejecting, or Self-Involved Parents
You struggle to regulate your emotions
Emotionally immature parents are enclosed within the cocoon of their own minds and therefore aren’t available to give the attention and affection their child needs. They are unable to process their emotions and break old patterns in order to overcome their emotional immaturity.
This behaviour makes the child question himself, and it makes him feel like he has done something wrong. The child is not capable of comprehending the reality, what he witnesses
becomes a part of his personality.
“Young children are not cognitively capable of sorting out the complexities of your ‘bad days’, unresolved trauma or ancestral patterns. They see your emotions and behaviours simply as a real-time reflection of how you feel about them.” ~ Missy Willis
While the truth is that the parents have been struggling to cope with their own mental/ emotional state, and the child is at the receiving end.
You develop victim mentality
“The parent-child connection is the most powerful mental health intervention known to mankind.” ~ Bessel van der Kolk
Emotionally immature parents find it challenging to raise an emotionally healthy child. The lack of attention and communication becomes a traumatic experience for the child and leads to feelings of self-doubt.
As a result, one develops a negative mindset, where the child feels that nothing is working out for them in life. In my childhood, I have felt victimised and wallowed in self-pity, “why me,” “why does this keep happening to me (whenever things went wrong),” and all the self-doubt questions kept popping up, because I never learned how to handle different human emotions in a healthy manner.
You are forced to grow up before your time
After my father passed away when I was 17 years old and about to enter senior college, my mother was too emotionally disturbed to cater to our (my sister and I) emotional needs. The circumstances were such that we had to carve our own path, be our own guide and compelled to make our own decisions.
In such a case we grew up before time, before we were even emotionally mature of taking big decisions in life.
Now as an adult I can say I have grown up to be capable and responsible, it has been a long arduous journey of healing, there are still several parts of me that need extra care and attention. However, it’s an ongoing process, and I am a work in-progress.
You harbor low self-esteem
When the caregivers or parents are so busy sorting out their own emotional woes, it makes it difficult to motivate yourself to strive for more, and imagine that you deserve more when your parents don’t seem interested in how you go about things in your life.
In my case it always seemed that parents weren’t really interested in developing our skills or pushing us to achieve goals or work on a hobby. The environment was always unpleasant at home apart from the time we went out with family friends etc.
This led to feeling unacknowledged, unimportant, and developed timidness and low self-esteem.
You become overly dependent in relationships
When a child sees the adults in his environment not regulating their emotions in a healthy way, that often leads to chaos in a child’s mind. Trying to wrap their innocent mind around it takes a toll on their emotional well-being, making them feel insecure. A young child needs protection and security while growing up and a lack of it makes the child insecure.
In this whole scenario of protecting myself, I realised over the years that I had built a wall, restraining my unhealed emotions from coming to the surface. When I got into a serious relationship, a lot of these unhealed emotions created havoc earlier on, I had frequent meltdowns, panic attacks, was stuck in a loophole, constantly harboring a negative mindset.
I started maintaining a journal to vent out my feelings, that gradually helped me to tackle these emotions along with other healing modalities that helped clean the mess. In retrospect, I have come a long way to become an emotionally balanced parent for our 3 children.
The long road to healing
According to the author of The Courage to be Disliked, traumatic experiences in childhood cannot be a reason to not change to a better version of yourself.
“No experience is in itself a cause of our success or failure. We do not suffer from the shock of our experiences—the so-called trauma—but instead we make out of them whatever suits our purposes. We are not determined by our experiences, but the meaning we give them is self-determining.”
We cannot let the past dictate our present or even our future. Childhood events are deeply rooted in our subconscious, and it manifests in strange ways in our relationships with others. If you become aware of your own patterns, triggers, then maybe, just maybe, you can slowly and gradually untie the knots in your subconscious that will allow you to flow freely in life.
Letting go and forgiveness are the anchors to help us sail through choppy waters until we find stillness deep within our being.