A quote from a client I was working with recently:
“I don’t value myself, so if a girl falls in love with me, I automatically respect her less.”
Let that sink in for a moment. Practically a whole novel is contained in this one sentence (as well as some admirable awareness and honesty).
Emotional logic influences our behavior vastly stronger than any rational knowledge. In fact, more often than not, people use their rational minds to justify their emotional urges. Too bad that emotional logic is often based on our childhood impressions in combination with our instincts and hormones. It makes perfect sense in a certain simplified way, but it narrows things down to a very limited, exaggerated and generalized perspective. Then it branches out, coloring our impressions and conclusions about our new experiences.
Some more examples:
“I associate love with violence – so if somebody offers me love and attention, I become irritated and push them away, sometimes by verbal violence, even if I love them. Partly because I’m frightened, partly perhaps because aggression is allowed in close relationships, in my frame of mind.”
“My girlfriend was controlling and manipulative – but no matter how much I disliked it, that’s what made me feel safe and able to relax and let go of my own need for control. It’s like I felt somebody had to control things, so better her than me, because I didn’t feel competent enough.”
“My mother used to tell me about my alcoholic father, “You are the only one who can solve this!” However, I didn’t dare even try to help father, because I felt I would have failed and thus taken away my mother’s hope. Now, as adult, I feel blocked when encountering problems – I’m afraid if I try, I will find out how much I don’t know – and I’m supposed to know it.”
“As a child, I needed to believe that I was the cause of my parents’ fights – otherwise I would have felt even less important. I wanted at least something going on around me, some emotions expressed, even if unpleasant. Now I find that I feel somehow comfortable and even in a weird way comforted within relationship chaos and emotional pain.”
There are some common rules to emotional logic:
- children trust their caretakers and identify with them
- children try to preserve important relationships, often at the cost of their own individuality and self-image
- children tend to take blame and responsibility for what they cannot understand
- to protect themselves from painful emotions, children create defense mechanisms (such as anger, avoidance, obsession, manipulation and countless possible others)
- these patterns become filters for subsequent experiences
- in problem situations, our brains tend to resort to whatever behavior seemed to work best in childhood.
These basic rules, interacting with individual experiences and circumstances, often create convoluted yet still rather predictable consequences, not unlike fractals created by mathematical equations. That’s why exploring our deepest imprints together feels like science and art in the same time.