woman's face photograph
Photo by Noah Buscher

The desire to please others begins to develop in us as children. We learn to mirror behavior that our parents or other caregivers expect of us. In this sense mirroring is a term that is used to describe the behavior in which one person unconsciously replicates the gestures, language patterns, or mindset of another. 

Sometimes our parents have valued emotional control over emotional expression. This was apparent in the way they selectively suppressed their own emotions by only allowing us to see certain aspects. In an effort to satisfy their status of authority we conformed to their will rather than standing firm in our own will to keep disapproval at a distance. For many, the latter would have been seen as defiant or unacceptable rebellion by our parents. Consistently squelching our emotions eventually taught us as children to disconnect from our own internal emotional guidance. Each time we chose to capitulate, we denied our authentic self. As a result, we learned to live from the outside in, instead of living from the inside out. For example, rather than approving of ourselves—approval is sought from those we’ve elevated above our own opinion. The needless search for love, answers to many of life’s questions–and the search for peace, joy, and simple goodness has continued on while all of this can be found within us.

As we branched out and engaged with people other than our parents the same emotionally controlling behavior was likely to show up through us in our relationships. When we do not overcome the often unintentional unconscious emotional oppression of our parents, we become oppressors. “Wielding power over others through control criticism, reprimand, guilt-tripping judgment, or demonstrating our superior knowledge is an indicator not of a superior soul but of an impoverished soul.” Shefali Tsabary.

I remember several instances throughout my life when I have been emotionally controlling –repeating patterns I had observed. Then I could not see how I was limiting myself and what others had to offer me. The way I saw it at the time, an emotional expression that was different than my own was an offense to my position. Harmony and joy could only be evident when we all experienced similar emotional states—or so I thought.

Where did it all begin? It began in my childhood. If I chose to speak up for myself I did so at the risk of rejection and severe chastisement. So, silent subjection became a dear friend. Great confusion set in when I was being fervently spanked as a child and told to stop crying. One time I told my mother the truth about something she had done. She was angry with me for days. I was a budding teenager at the time but the way she saw it is that I was not staying in a child’s place. Unable to handle her wrath, I denied myself again, rather than allow my mother to step up or time to resolve the situation. I apologized for days desperately wanting her to forgive me when both of us knew I was only being honest. Neither of us had any idea I was reflecting back to her who she was. In the moment of the incident we could have grown closer rather than farther apart.

Today I realize, she was doing the best that she knew how at the time. I cannot fault her for that.  She was only repeating a cycle. In this matter I can behold her with compassionate understanding. My mother was demonstrating what her parents had shown her. I have forgiven my mama. Moreover, I have committed myself to self- improvement so that the cycle stops with me.  Live and let live is what I declare! Being able to express our emotions freely while allowing others to do the same adds significantly to the health and well-being of everyone. Thus, helping us all to be our most authentic selves. Inspired by The Conscious Parent: Transforming Ourselves, Empowering Our Children by Shefali Tsabary

Copyright by Deana Gordon

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