Updated: Sep 8, 2022
The Issue Is Never The Issue
Now that’s an eye opener! Here you thought you were fighting yet once again over spending money, child-rearing practices or vacation plans. Sure, that is the content of the argument and since these issues are present everyday in marriage it is not a far-fetched idea. The remarkable thing is the issue sparking the argument is often an underlying, subconscious dilemma from childhood that has not been reconciled or healed.
As children, we are not yet equipped with the understanding of the many situations we may face and therefore we have an emotional reaction and we formulate coping mechanisms to deal with the issue. Many times these coping mechanisms are faulty. An example could be a parent desiring a child to behave maturely in public. The outcome of this goal depends on how this message is conveyed to the youngster. A parent may wrongly frighten the child into submission with such statements as, “Mommy is going to leave you here alone at the store if you ask me one more time for candy.” As the child subconsciously deduces, “ I am unable to care for myself out here in this world. I will die.” That child has that message tucked away in his body. Depending on his temperament he may react with anger and fight To get his way. Another child may decide to be extra “good” always so he will remain secure. He may develop a “go to” of perfectionism resulting in the inability to express any negativity out of fear of losing security and death. The child’s knee jerk reaction gets embedded in his memory and is recalled when conflict arises.
Now as an adult, when issues arise, as they always do, a child will revert back to the childhood coping solutions found imprinted in the memories. Using the child above who decides to be extra good to avoid abandonment may develop passive-aggressive tendencies when in conflicts because they can not express his true feelings. This pattern of coping is very destructive because it manipulates others into believing all is well and then anger or vindictiveness emerges seemingly out of nowhere.
We all come into adulthood with some coping mechanisms that do not serve us in our relationships very well. Know that there is hope in reversing these automatic responses and building new, more functional ones into our system. Thanks to the study of neuroscience the evidence is clear: over time, and with proper counsel one can heal those emotions, release the body of destructive responses and find a new path to healing.