One can learn a lot from watching children make new friends. Their youth grants them an unbiased innocence ridding them of undue prejudices, intolerances, or predispositions. They simply delight in meeting other children and are uninhibited by societal rules on how relationships are “supposed” to be formed. In a perfect world, they could be the one teaching adults a thing or two about how to create new companions.
One of the responsibilities parents are tasked with is teaching them how to create strong and safe friendships. We warn them not to take candy from strangers so their natural curiosity won’t jeopardize their safety. We may caution them not to ask questions which may be embarrassing when they are merely trying to satisfy their insatiable inquisitive nature.
The boundaries and restraints we put on children are what we believe to be for their general benefit and welfare. Nonetheless, children interpret them as limitations. Is it possible some of these restrictions negatively impact the way they will form relationships in their teens and continue to affect them throughout their adult lives?
There are many factors which help us decide how we create new relationships. The biggest influence for many is how we learn to interact with our own family. Those whom we first learn to love and trust can help or hinder the way we develop relationships. They can feel comfortable, impersonal, or distressing and since these are our first experiences, they establish a precedence for how we ought to feel and what our significance in relationships is.
What we are not always aware of are the detrimental actions we unknowingly do to hinder a child’s ability to form relationships. A child might be constantly teased simply for wanting to be a part of the conversation, and eventually gives up on trying to engage, ultimately discouraging future interactions. There are countless more situations – both positive and negative – which shape how everyone ultimately learns to form relationships.
The most perplexing thing about these troubling scenarios is that they typically are not choices we cognitively make. We don’t knowingly choose to teach our children how to develop poor relationships but short of committing to do our best, we may not always offer the best advice.
Relationships happen at the speed of life. Although we may choose a specific person to be our friend, we don’t always understand the methods we use in forming social bonds. We simply try to be ourselves and never comprehend how our past interactions caused us to act the way we presently do.
While our childhood does have an immense influence on how we learn the art of relationships, it doesn’t mean our negative experiences only doom our chances. It is possible to dismiss how we were treated and seek out more positive ways of interaction. Instead of remaining quiet when told they ask too many questions, a child will find others more willing to interact and gladly participate and take great pleasure with their queries.
Although we don’t methodically plan how we develop relationships, the way we ultimately do becomes a pattern in our life. While many times it may have just been a coping mechanism, nevertheless they become patterns in our behavior. They also infiltrate our reasoning and we tend to default to these “thinking patterns” as we navigate through our relationships.
It doesn’t matter if they are always successful; it is how we learned to react. Sometimes we learn from mistakes and other times, we continue with the same patterns because we don’t understand how those thinking patterns dominate our actions.
Perhaps someone you know has had a history of abusive personal relationships. After their current one ends, the person swears they will never be caught in this kind of relationship again. Yet not even 6 months later, they find themselves in a similar, dark situation. Why are they constantly falling victim to this trap which they vowed would never happen again?
It is conceivable when they were very young, they had a parent who punished them a bit aggressively. But after the punishment, the parent may have felt poorly, hugging and showing them affection. If this scenario occurred frequently, it is likely the confusing signals of punishment followed by love created a thinking pattern where the child may believe love must exist only in the presence of pain or abuse.
Although the child did not willingly make this choice, the repetition and familiarity of these contradictory feelings created a sense of normalcy and twisted their thinking patterns to perceive this as “normal.” As an adult, this person may sense this abusive tendency in another and that creates a subliminal attraction for this person. It is also possible if abuse is not present in the situation, the thinking pattern may cause them to prod their partner into abusive behavior solely for that irrational feeling of normalcy.
Breaking the pattern
Our thinking patterns can be so notorious we neither see them nor realize their influence over us. They can haunt us our entire life and cause us to never experience a true, loving relationship. What is more alarming is that we can’t break them because we are not aware they even exist!
It may require the counsel of a good coach or therapist to help uncover these destructive thinking patterns which have become engrained in our daily lives.
If we are fortunate enough to become aware of them, the next step is to watch them show up in our relationships. Prepare yourself by preplanning how you will act. Don’t be afraid to stop yourself in the middle of your thinking pattern and change it. Fight through the discomfort knowing if you default to your old thinking pattern, the same detrimental outcome will undoubtedly once more repeat itself.
Uncovering problematical issues with our thinking patterns is a great way to find out what’s behind building great relationships. If you or someone you know is having difficulty establishing and maintaining relationships and want to uncover their thinking patterns, please don’t hesitate to reach out by emailing me at: firstname.lastname@example.org.