We all want to think we are very independent and think for ourselves.
But unless we have taken the time to do some inner work, and question our beliefs and behaviours? We can be simply living out our learnings from childhood, for better or worse.
Developmental psychology calls the way we learn to behave and think from the caregivers around us ‘modelling’ or ‘observational learning’.
The famous experiment here is called “The Bobo doll experiment“, carried out by psychologist Albert Bandura in the 1960s. Children who watched adults get away with or rewarded for aggressive behaviour toward a blow up doll were more likely to then repeat that negative behaviour themselves. Bandura’s research also showed that children are more likely to imitate authority figures, like parents.
If your parents stuck out a relationship long past the expiry date, and were rewarded by approval by their parents and peers, you could still as an adult be modelling this behaviour.
Think this doesn’t apply as you are ‘the exact opposite’ of your parents? Perhaps one of your childhood authority figures was always in and out of relationships or jobs. Your focus on doing the opposite can mean you are still controlled by that pattern, just its flip side.
Whose values are you living?
You might also living out your family’s values instead of your own. If your family has a ‘loyalty to the death’ value, and you haven’t taken the time to sit down and question what your own values are?
Then you might be sticking out a situation and feeling tired all the time because your own values are actually authenticity and freedom.
Know you should leave, but feel oddly comfortable?
image by Yoann Boyer
In a relationship you know isn’t great, but feel oddly ‘at home’?
It’s time to get honest about what you learned ‘home’ was. If ‘home’ as a child was unstable, then your comfort zone simply won’t be healthy relationships.
It’s time to stop seeking your current feeling of ‘home’, and work at recreating a healthier version of home.
Psychological issues that keep you trapped
Think it’s something bigger than just learned behaviours and values keeping you stuck? What psychological issues and disorders might be stopping you from letting go when you should?
Convinced that the job you are in is the best you can do? Or that you should stay with a partner you aren’t even happy with as ‘it could be worse’? Low self-esteem stops us from moving forward.
Do you find yourself an anxious mess each time you are in a relationship? And does your anxiety leave you such a mess you are exhausted? To the point you wonder if maybe it’s a relationship you shouldn’t be in, but you are too tired to do anything about it?
Attachment theory states that we need at least one reliable caregiver as an infant and young child to give us unconditional love and keeps us safe. Failing that, we end up with ‘attachment issues’, such as anxious attachment, where we feel we need to win love.
A close cousin of anxious attachment, codependency means we take our self worth from what others think of us. We choose relationships where we gain approval by care taking and over giving.
Our identity becomes so tied up to the other’s approval we can find it hard to walk away, not knowing who we are without the other.
If you are actually in a relationship where there is a certain level of abuse going on, whether that is physical, sexual, verbal abuse, emotional abuse, or even economic abuse? And the worse it gets, the more incapable you feel of leaving?
Unresolved childhood trauma can create a reliance on being traumatised, called ‘trauma bonding’. The brain becomes addicted to the peacemaking and compliments that come after the abuse.
As you might be guessing by now, the reasons you can’t let go and move on often have far less to do with the other person, and much more to do with you, and the unresolved unconscious beliefs and childhood issues that are running your life.
But if this is a long standing pattern for you? Constantly feeling trapped by your own passivity? Or suspect you need to look at childhood trauma, or a possible personality disorder? A counsellor or psychotherapist can help you identify and resolve your past trauma, as well as find better ways of dealing with your present, so that your future becomes a choice you are proud of.