Let’s make sure we have one thing clear–sticking by someone through thick and thin and feeling stuck in a relationship are two very different things. The latter implies a more negative connotation and no one wants to feel like they are stuck with their significant other, as if they were a burden. And honestly, this goes for any fact of your life, not just your relationships. There are certain beliefs and learned behaviors that contribute to how we handle our lives and what we choose to suffer through.
Author of “Your Mind Is What Your Brain Does for a Living,” Steven Jay Fogel says, “We think we’re making decisions based on the present, but we’re usually not. We tend to operate on automatic pilot, responding to situations based on the coping strategies and thinking patterns we developed in childhood.” This decision maker can be referred to as our inner child. I’ve realized that a lot of my childhood beliefs have made their way into my adulthood and I’ve started challenging those learned ways of being. There’s a lot that my inner child is keeping me stuck in and I’m ready for freedom. So how do you know if your inner child is keeping you trapped, especially in a bad relationship?
Ask yourself these questions:
1. What is causing your pain?
Think about whether you’re in a relationship or job that’s become less and less satisfying and increasingly painful over a long period. Describe in writing the elements of the relationship or situation that are persistently causing you pain and how long you’ve been experiencing these problems. Knowing that there are three ways to end your suffering: accept the situation, change it, or remove yourself from it – write down the reasons you’re staying even though you’re suffering and what is preventing you from choosing Door 1, 2 or 3.
2. How are you interpreting your partner’s behavior?
If you repeatedly fight about the same issues, describe the issues. Think about whether you’re unconsciously investing the issue with a meaning based on your “autopilot” thinking. For instance, if you’re arguing because your partner’s messy and ignores your requests to be neat, are you interpreting that as disrespect toward you? Do you further interpret that disrespect as a lack of love for you? Is it possible that your partner is just not a neat person and that has nothing to do with his feelings for you?
3. Do you have impulsive autopilot behaviors that are causing problems?
We can often check the impulses that stem from our autopilot brain just by stopping to think before we act. Bursts of anger are one example; suppressed anger that turns into passive-aggressive behavior is another.
4. Do you feel shamed or blamed by your partner’s critical comments?
Write down the comments accurately—as they were spoken. Then think mindfully about whether your partner was really shaming you or if you interpreted the comments in that way because of your own inner critic. If it was the former, have a conversation with the person about how you feel when this happens, and state that you’ll be more open to the feedback if the criticism can be expressed objectively.
5. Did you bring a myth with you into the relationship?
If so, describe the myth. For example, you might have believed that you will cure everything that’s wrong with the other person. Or that she will fix all of your problems. Describe how you came to believe that myth and what it would take for you to release it.
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