Relationships are the most central experience of us human beings. How we relate to ourselves, other people, and life itself, shapes and conditions the foundation of our experience.
In this article, I’m going to show you exactly why I make these statements. I’ll walk you through the process of the formation of personality and the identification with our conditioning. I’ll also describe how to step out of your conditioning and connect back to your deepest resources. Which allows you to live from your authentic self, have growth-oriented relationships, and find creative and innovative ways to navigate your life.
At the end of the article you can find a video in which I explain the whole concept with visualizations!
A big part of your Personality is formed by Relationship
When we are born as children, we bring with us the Seed of Consciousness. We have our own individual Self already from the start. Depending on what you believe or perceive, you could call this the Soul, the Self, Consciousness itself, whatever you like!
So you, as consciousness itself come into this world, and for the first years of your life, you are completely dependent on your parents to care for you, nurture you, hold you and look after you.
This relationship with your parents is the first connection with other humans in which you can experience yourself. These are the formative years of a person, where so much of what later becomes our personality and identity is created.
In this relationship with our parents or caretakers, we learn about the world and its functioning.
As children, this relationship with the parents is mainly about two things: secure attachment and the fulfillment of core needs.
I won’t dive into the topic of core needs in this article, but to understand more about them and what happens if they aren’t met, you can read this article: What is Developmental Trauma?
To keep it very simple, we can say, that the child learns through the interactions it has with the parents and forms ‚understandings’, which are based on the experience in these relationships.
As children, we do not yet have an awful lot of ways to deal with situations and our abilities and resources are limited. Because of our dependency on adult beings, we have to secure attachment with them first and foremost. If any of my needs are having a negative impact on the attachment to parents or caretakers, this need has to be suppressed to secure the attachment.
Let’s take an example: I cry as a child because my mother is not holding me and I lack the physical contact that I need to feel safe and get to know my body’s boundaries. The crying leads to my mother becoming upset and shouting at me, sometimes ignoring me. The need for physical touch and the pain of not getting that need fulfilled becomes too dangerous because it threatens the attachment to my mother. To secure the attachment to my mother I start to suppress the need for touch and the pain of not being touched.
When I do this, the relationship with my mother becomes safer, because she doesn’t get upset anymore and doesn’t have to ignore me. The experience at that moment is that needing to be touched is not ok and even dangerous. Later this experience will form into a strategy of dealing with the unmet need, which can show in the personality (being insecure, distant, rigid), in beliefs (‚The world is cold and unsafe‘ / ‚I don’t need touch or connection‘), emotional patterns (‚I don’t feel like I belong anywhere‘), etc.
So the experiences we make in relation to our caretakers as children form our Personality later on.
Later on we do not realize this, because it is ‚us‘ and it is ‚normal‘.
Authenticity vs. Attachment
Young children are always walking that tightrope between Authenticity (Core Needs) and secure Attachment in the relationship with their caretakers.
And even though there’s still a healthy form of co-dependency later on in our life, it is never as formative as it is for children, because at this time our survival is dependent on the secure attachment. If we lose the attachment, there’s no way we could make it on our own. That’s an instinctive knowledge that is present within all social animals. So to maintain a secure attachment, we adapt to the situations we find ourselves in. We adapt to the relationships we find ourselves in. We adapt to the people providing this secure attachment for us, no matter how the relationship to them is.
This means, if my parents punish me for not abiding by their rules, I will at some point give up my own authenticity even if these rules are against my integrity, in order to secure my relationship with my parents.
Consciousness and Conditioning - How we identify with relational Patterns
Relational patterns and social conditionings are happening at a very early stage in our lives. At the same time, that we learn where our body begins and ends, we learn that our behavior has effects on the people taking care of us.
Because our parents are our main reference point at that time, we just internalize the experience we have in relationship with them and later project this experience onto the whole world, believing: ‚This is how it is!‘
Maybe my father gets angry when I’m too loud while playing and having fun, so I learn after a few times of receiving his anger, that I better keep my energy down and not be as loose and cheerful.
Maybe my mother gets really insecure when I’m crying. I can easily feel this change in mood in my mother as a baby. Being insecure, my mother is giving me even less of what I need to fulfill my need; the reason I was crying in the first place. At one point I learn that suppressing my need and the impulse to cry to get what I need is easier and makes the relationship with my mother safer.
These situations happen so early in our childhood, that we are still in the process of building our own identity and learning how to navigate being human. All these experiences are then just being built into this development. And because we do not have the ability to question the behavior of our parents, we just take their actions as ‚normal‘.
And because our parents are symbolical figures to a child, that represent humankind to some extent, we do internalize the strategies, that make the relationship to them safer, and from there on we use the same strategies in all our relationships with other humans.
We even project these experiences on life itself, believing stuff like ‚Nothing is freely given‘ or ‚If I’m not like this, I’ll never get attention for anything‘. We assume that life is just that way and do not realize that we are looking at – and are reliving – our very own childhood experiences.
Only later in life do we develop the ability to think about ourselves and the situations we find ourselves in from a perspective outside of us. We become able to think about thinking and reflect on our actions and behavior.
So as children – while we are in the process of building an identity – there’s no separation possible between ‚I‘ and ‚my experience‘. It’s all just one thing. In other words: My Self (or Seat of Consciousness) is completely identified with my experience and the relationships I have.
Making and experiencing this distinction between the ‚I‘ and the ‚conditioned parts of me‘ is a feature of being an adult. And it’s what makes it possible to change your experience of life dramatically!
Creating Space around our Conditioning
When we are identified with our conditioned parts, there is no possibility for change. Through the lens of these conditioned aspects of ourselves, we have a very limited worldview and not much space to navigate our experience in creative and innovative ways.
Only through de-identifying from these parts of ourselves and getting back in touch with that ‚Seat of Consciousness‘ at our core, are we able to change our experience and ways of being.
De-identification from these parts of us happens through observing what is going on within us and exploring this in the setting of a clearly defined relational space.
In Circling we create this space by the use of the five principles of Circling and the understanding of the Self and its Parts.
Read about Circling in this article: What is Circling? Finding your Authentic Self
In Parts-informed Therapy, we work with this, by establishing a connection between the Self of the client and the Self of the Therapist first, helping the client to strengthen their own connection to this resourceful place within themselves. And from there, the client will be able to create new relationships with his/her own conditioned parts.
This different way of relating to ourselves – exploring what is, instead of acting it out unquestioned – can create a gap between ‚you‘ and the conditioned parts of yourself that would see you act in certain predetermined ways. When you can observe these parts from the outside without needing to change them, an understanding of their ways of being can start to develop.
Most often when we can observe the functioning of such a Part from the compassionate place of the Self, change is already present simply in the observation.
We are essentially forming a new relationship within us. A relationship of understanding and compassion from the Self to that part of ourselves, that has been conditioned into a certain way of being.
When we gain this internal Space around the parts and relate to them differently, we also start to relate to other people differently.
Instead of reacting to what the people around us are doing, we can observe the reaction within us and still choose a different path of action.
We get to choose how we want to navigate any given situation, instead of reacting the same way over and over again.
Instead of seeing other people and the world through the lens of our conditioned parts, we can begin to see others, the world, and our conditioned parts.
Relationships are the perfect mirror
In relationships, all the conditioning from our past shows up! Even if we aren’t able to see it for what it is, most of the time.
All the ways in which you may have learned to suppress your authenticity to safeguard attachment will show themselves in your relationships. The closer the relationship is, the more these relational patterns tend to show up.
And it’s either staying with these automatic responses and reactions, believing that ‚that’s just how it is‘, or starting to observe your own reactivity and learning the skills necessary to communicate what is happening within you in a constructive way.
That’s why Circling can be such a powerful practice if the understanding of Self and Parts is present. On the one hand, you are learning how to observe the Parts within you and what they would want you to be doing, without you acting it out directly. This creates the space between the witnessing You – your Seat of Consciousness – and your Parts. And on the other hand, you can directly experiment with your authenticity and with new ways of being. The space invites innovative and creative ways of dealing with a situation differently than you used to deal with it out of your conditioning.
And in trying out new ways of being, relationships will again be the perfect mirror.
You will directly experience and see what impact you are having on the people around you.
Maybe behind the conditioned reaction of insecurity, lies authentic anger. But is anger still the right expression in this present moment? By getting some distance from the insecurity, you may come upon the anger.
But when you express this anger towards others, you create defensiveness. The anger belongs to the past. It was conditioned through the lack of fulfillment of one of your core needs. Because you didn’t get what you needed you used to get angry. But you realized as a child, that being angry earns you punishment, so you started to hide this energy and became insecure: ‚I cannot show this anger, it’s too dangerous’.
The relationships in the here and now are again mirroring back to you, that this anger is a conditioned response. You get some distance from the anger and observe it. You start to understand it and realize why you are angry: Because one of your needs is not being met! You start to become aware of the need, that has never been met in relationships before. You become able to articulate this need better and better. And you learn that the need itself can be fulfilled.
Now you are an adult and you have the resources you need to be with that need of yours. You are no longer dependent on one person to give you what you need. Your Authenticity and the need for attachment are no longer in a battle. And you can free yourself from the conditioned experience and actualize your personality. By understanding these parts of you, you can dig up your authenticity and restructure yourself, so that you are your Self!
That’s the other reason, why relationships are so important!
On the one hand, the relationships we have as children with our parents are forming our personality.
On the other hand, the relationships we have later in our life, have the potential to become vessels of growth. If you can live a relationship, in which you are not acting through your conditioned parts, but observe these and relate from Self to Self, this relationship will become an incredible mirror for you to see your Parts and find your authentic Self!
Getting back in touch with your Self
In the de-identification from the understandings, we have gained in our early childhood, especially the ones that limit our expression and abilities to be in healthy relationships, lie such huge rewards to be found!
Deep intimacy, the freedom to be your authentic self, the possibility to fulfill your basic needs, and your further goals and dreams. All this is deeply connected to what you have learned and internalized as a child and how you choose to deal with these automatized parts of yourself.
In getting back in touch with your Self, starting to build the relationships within you, and releasing the conditioning from the past that is limiting you, your complete experience of yourself, others and life will change from the ground up.
Relationships with others can either be where your conditioning becomes hardened and even deeper engrained, or they can be the fertile ground for your personal growth and liberation.
It’s dependent on the understanding, the attitude, and the connection the ones own Self.
Do you have feedback, questions, thoughts? Let me know in the comments, and i’ll get back to you! 🙂