For those who have been through heartwrenching trauma, the road can be far from easy, but recognizing how your early experiences have affected you can be a huge step forward.
There's no doubt that what you witness when you're younger affects you in some way or another later in life. Sometimes it can be positive but other times it can be quite difficult to navigate through. When we're growing up we model the idea of relationships based on the first ones we see. This could be with our parents or other family members. From imagination and expectations, hopes and aspirations, how we deal with feelings, and how we respond in relationships could stem from our early environment. A study published in Child Development discovered that the kind of emotional support a child receives during the first three and a half years has an effect on different aspects of their life including education, social life, and romantic relationships... and this effect can happen even 20 or 30 years later.
Childhood experiences may also affect the way you communicate with others as an adult. "It seems like, at least in these early years, the parents' role is to communicate with the child and let them know, 'I'm here for you when you're upset, when you need me. And when you don't need me, I'm your cheerleader,' " shared Lee Raby, a psychologist and postdoctoral researcher at the University of Delaware who led the study, according to NPR. Jay Belsky, a professor of human development at the University of California who was not involved in the study, believes that human development is a lot more complicated. "We know that our early experiences likely affect all of us to a certain extent," Belsky explained. "For some, therapy or medication may help. And it's interesting, because there's now other evidence suggesting that the very kids who succumb under bad conditions are the ones who really flourish under good ones."
Gender roles also seem to be a factor in some cases. If you were a child who has witnessed his father deal with situations by repressing his emotions and treating his wife a certain this could affect you as you grow older. The way you handle relationships and your feelings could be affected. “The relationship that a man has with his father tends to have a significant impact on his future romantic relationships,” according to Jessica Small, marriage and family counselor at Growing Self, reports Ask Men. “A man's father is his first model for how men operate and show up in a relationship. There was a period of time where fathers were stoic and emotionally guarded,” Small continued. “I see this show up in my practice with men who struggle to ask for help, share their vulnerable emotions, cry, or create a support system that allows for emotional support,” she added. “This can tend to either create disconnection in the romantic relationship, or potentially lead their primary partner to bear the burden of being the only support system.” It also affects the way a partner shows up in their relationship. Men with absent or emotionally neglectful fathers are more likely to have trouble forging relationships with others. “The absence of a father most often creates an insecure attachment style,” adds Small. “This means that while a man may want closeness and connection, the experience of abandonment can lead to fear, anxiety and ambivalence that makes it difficult for a relationship to develop trust, consistency, reliability and security.”
Whether our upbringing was joyful or far from it, we have the power of choice to improve our lives and relationships for the better. For those who have been through heartwrenching trauma, the road can be far from easy, but recognizing how your early experiences have affected you can be a huge step forward. The more you learn about yourself, the more you can choose to create active changes in your life. So that you can build the life you deserve where you not just survive, but thrive.
Representational Cover Image Source: Getty Images | Guido Mieth