Have you ever thought that during our lives, we constantly reshape the content of the experiences we make so that they match a specific personal pattern, a specific self-perception? To give a very intuitive example: a man who despises women might constantly misinterpret the behaviors of any woman he meets so that that behavior becomes the appearance of some hidden defect.
Or, a person who hates connecting with others will constantly tell himself that he fears doing this and that his social anxiety impedes him from joining them.
Such persons keep projecting the same personal expectations onto every new experience. And because it is something that emerges from their own psyche, people are rarely, if ever, aware that their expectations are what holds them back in their lives, and not the external circumstances.
However, although you might become aware of patterns in your behavior, you still would not easily want to change them. Such a change equates to being thrown into another universe: how many of us would change our present known conditions for the adventure of traveling through a black hole at the end of which you no longer know who you are and what your place in this life is?
Everything you are is based on your past— there is nothing new in this proposition. But we could also rephrase this sentence: you have a particular image of your history that you constantly carry into your present-day image of yourself. You are like a time traveler who is glued to past images about himself.
This is a spontaneous behavior of everything in nature. It is such a universal feature that Whitehead, an English Philosopher, said that their incapacity to change their memory is what defines inanimate things. An electron is what it is because it cannot control its feeling to be different from the feeling it had about itself in the past.
Due to their consciousness, human beings can do this to a certain extent. Because of their capacity to adapt, people are constantly constrained to face newer and newer situations. Society expects us to adapt. Even kindergarten children are expected to adapt, both by their parents and teachers. Then all the institutions we go through during our lives are made starting from the premise that those who enter them can change themselves and adapt to them.
However, this is an external adaptation, and it could leave our internal psychological patterns untouched. Perhaps only people who have been forced to go through countless experiences manage also to accomplish some internal change because, otherwise, they would have collapsed.
Of course, internal versatility in their personality must also exist, something that allows them to not stick too much to their past self-image, and to be able to reshape it constantly according to the present requirements. The most evident examples in this regard are politicians.
The self-help literature today constantly points to the necessity to detach yourself from past self-images if you have problems today and you do not know why they invariably occur in your life. This is because we are emotional, feeling beings.
Those images are not simply visual content, but they are heavily burdened with emotions. It might be that, because in our childhood we had for the first time a specific emotion concerning a newly perceived thing, we will continue to produce that particular feeling regarding that type of thing for the rest of our life.
This feeling is all the more powerful with respect to your family members, especially your parents. Because you lived those feelings in childhood, they shaped not only your emotional reactions toward your family but also your emotional reactions toward yourself, or rather, the emotional response toward the awareness of their presence in your soul.
An abusive parent creates not only a repugnant feeling within yourself toward him or her, but also an awful feeling toward yourself too. You feel that the abuse hurts you, and from then on, you will want (more or less unconsciously) to avoid as much as possible being set again in the same situation and reliving those horrible feelings. But there could be something more here.
Due to the common social representations – according to which parents must be loved and respected by their children – the abuse could have also created an inner contradiction. There occurs an emotional conflict between the social representation of a good individual – which you end up internalizing and considering as part of your identity – and the real feelings you have towards that parent.
And if that emotional conflict dominates one for decades, you can imagine that such an individual will develop a general contradictory way of being himself. He will feel contradictory emotions concerning everything because his brain, accustomed to that feeling, will constantly push forward that emotional pattern of the past in every new interaction with things or persons.
As a result, he might become an uncertain person, someone who is unable to decide what to do, whether to follow the emotional calling of a new social position or not, or of a new relationship or not. He would wish to follow it, but he also fears the possible harmful consequences. This is what the early abusive experience had taught him: to be prepared for the worst because life provides you only the worst.
Of course, he might never be aware of such a subjacent thought. And therefore, his life constantly continues to unfold along the same lines. Although self-help literature has its own value, it cannot solve such deep problems. That literature is written for the general public, but you are a unique individual.
The problems presented in those books perhaps are not at all your problems. You need to read numerous books to stumble upon something similar to your case. But what is more, although you might identify your problem, those books cannot make you aware of how that problem distorts your life experience in every situation of your life.
You would need to write down your experiences and thoughts concerning each such situation. And here is the problem: if you do this alone, you lean unconsciously toward introducing your general distorted way of being into your notes. You need someone from outside who is competent to see your automatic mistakes and cut the ties with that behavior whenever it appears.
You need a dialogue and not a monologue. Only the dialogue with another person can raise you above the down-sucking emptiness of your monologue.