A lot of adults are living their lives playing roles they’ve assumed to be their innate design even though that may not be who they are authentically. These adults are mostly victims of childhood neglect or poor emotional nurturing that made them had to fight for themselves to survive the unpleasant situations.
As children, we needed adult guidance in virtually all areas of our lives until the stage when we also become independent enough to take the lead for ourselves. Unfortunately, not every child gets to have this kind of opportunity of being with caregivers who are stable and in tune with their own authentic feelings. As a result, those who don’t have that grace end up learning life alone; the aftermath of this lingering to the phase of adulthood or the rest of their lives, if they do not become intentional about their emotional healing.
The need to be seen, heard and acknowledged as valuable and feeling validated in words and actions towards a child by the caregivers in their lives is so paramount to the general wellbeing of the child that the lack of it can cause great damage that is sometimes too huge to repair easily in the future.
A child’s caregiver(s) could be the parents, teachers, older siblings and relatives or any adults who are in charge of raising that child.
The child learns to trust these people at an early stage, and mostly derive their sense of safety and identity from them. If the child is made to believe that they’re not safe by the way any of these important persons in their lives treats them, then the child might become an adult who lives the rest of his lives in much insecurities afraid that the word isn’t safe for them to be in.
One of our major roles as caregivers to a child is giving them a sense of safety, especially emotionally, by the way we talk to them, listen to them and make them feel validated. Or the child might feel abandoned, unloved and unwanted.
A child can sense being abandoned from the feelings of lack of safety which is communicated in various ways the child is being treated from the moment he broke free from the water of the womb into the family world he now calls home. These feelings of abandonment becomes a hole in the wounded soul of many adults who had dysfunctional relationships with their main custodians.
Unfortunately, it goes on to affect how they see themselves and what roles they take on as their personalities. In order to cope with the difficult situations; being naive, and not knowing how to take care of himself in a world where he’s supposed to be guided, loved and cared for by those before him, the child learns, rather ignorantly, some maladaptive ways to cope just to survive. His experiences from that moment on becomes one of a life tuned into a survival mode of perpetual low vibes and low energies emanating an insecure sense of self. So the child learns to take on roles eventually masquerading as his real self.
Even though these roles are just the manifestations of his childhood’s lack of proper nurturing that are now unconsciously leading him on as who has become identified with.
A caregiver who’s emotionally unavailable to himself or herself cannot be in tune with the emotional state of the child. She might try as she may but ends up frustrated because that part of her is locked up in some emotional wounding—maybe she wasn’t shown any kind. For these reasons, it becomes difficult to blame our caregivers. Our goal isn’t to blame anyone here. It should be to heal ourselves and help re-parent any parts of us we now feel needs more love and attention we lacked as child. That’s the way of healing.
It takes a lot of conscious efforts for us to provide emotional support to another human being when we lacked the same at that age ourselves. Therefore, it will be helpful now that the adult who’s preparing for parenthood finds it necessary to heal, or, at least, become aware of the very important role s/he plays in helping a child regulate his or her emotions by the way they regulate and feel their own authentic emotions now. This is one of the benefits of healing ourselves first before rushing to birth children that might continue in some of the unfortunate cycles we had.
In the absence of a caregiver’s support of the child’s emotional regulation, the child learns other ways that might be helpful at that time to cope. These roles might go on to affect his sense of identity in adulthood.
Some roles we pick up might eventually manifest as any of these:
•You might have become used to not caring for yourself because your sense of worth is tied to being the one that takes care of everyone but yourself. You become a CARETAKER. A caretaker feels important being the one everyone else rely on. He gets so used to being this role that he often neglects his own needs. As these needs keep beating at him within, he might experience an eventual breakdown from trying to please everyone but himself. This is the child that were mostly a parent to their own parents. They may have never known what it means to be taken care of.
•Sometimes you take on the role of the LIFE OF A PARTY as the ever cheerful one who’s never showing any pain. You’re like the “high” one that is never vulnerable; but likely have been shamed in childhood a lot for your behaviour, looks or for just being you. To hide your innermost pains you try to make yourself and everyone else happy around you. So you now become the adult who views others as a way to feel that you’re fine while hiding all the pain in jokes. These are some of the people that when alone have a flooding of unpleasant memories haunting them. So they may often run from self in order not to feel what’s inside them.
•You could have become so used to self sacrificing that you want others to always view you as the selfless good soul, so you become that always AVAILABLE PERSON for everyone due to your inability to say NO. You try as much as you can to always be there for everybody at all times even if that means a 24 hours on the move. This is your own way of feeling worthy; to be seen as selfless!
•Maybe you reject your own independence or desires in order to keep your family life going even at your detriment because you’re the HERO WORSHIPER who views your childhood caregivers as without faults despite all that happened to you. People like this may suffer from deep down unresolved wounds from any of the important members of their families and then grow up viewing others, especially their closest bonds as a way of showing what perfection is supposed to look like. It is their own way of replaying how they wished they had been treated. Some of these individuals take on the blames of their abusers on themselves and assume themselves as the reasons their caregivers had done whatever they did to them.
•You might even play THE VICTIM role or an under achiever because you actually see others as threatening, so you hide under victimhood for fear of the shame you had experienced as a child. Being a victim means that you remain small, and therefore not seen. This is is your way of running from the constant criticisms you had experienced growing up. You reckon that if you can just be at the back and not heard of, no one would see your faults or blame you for anything.
•Maybe you’re often the THE PROTECTOR in most cases as you try to protect or rescue others to make up for the lack of protection you were denied when you needed it yourself. This response is your own way of trying to heal from the time you were vulnerable but felt unprotected, so you now view others as helpless and needing your protection. You’re in a way doing for others what you had wished the adults in your life did for you. It’s like a fantasy.
•You can also be an OVER ACHIEVER, who’s making efforts to be seen as a way to cope with your low self-esteem. People like this use mostly achievements to feel valued, while dealing with inner emptiness. They might have felt really abandoned as a child, and in order to be heard of and validated, they work themselves out for more and more achievements. The achievements serves to boost their ego and gives them a sense of worthiness.
There are a lot more than these but I’d stop here to drive my point. I hope you observed that most of these roles are often the adult trying to be what he was not given or being the role he had lacked himself as a child from his caregivers. It’s important to add that these roles are mostly unconscious programming that you might be unaware you respond to life this way. They’re mainly from our childhood experiences, often predominant in children that lacked firm parental guides that could have helped them experience situations rather authentically in ways to showed validation for their true feelings and emotions.
If you find yourself in any of these roles, there’s no need to panic. Start by acknowledging the experiences you had, and allow the awareness sift in. Healing begins with being aware of what needs healing first. In the light of that awareness, open your heart to the truth of who you are authentically as you begin the inner work of recovery.
Start learning to feel the feelings that may arise as you go on in this journey. Part of those feelings might be the authentic ones you abandoned as you picked these roles.You may seek a professional guide to help you with this journey.
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Therapist and Emotional Wellness Coach.
To your healing.