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You treat yourself as you were treated

Posted Sep 28 2008 11:28am

After my latest breakup, I decided to get to the bottom of why I would stay in a relationship that wasn’t meeting my needs and put up with behaviors I wouldn’t accept from a friend, let alone a beau. I’ve engaged the help of a psychologist friend, Ben, to help me root out the cause and heal whatever allowed me to stay in a relationship that a part of me knew was not good for me.

In our first session, as I was beating myself up for ignoring the red flags that were all but slapping me in the face, he said, “Let me share with you Psychology 101: You treat yourself as you were treated.” In other words, if you were treated with belittlement and put downs, your inner dialog is also hypercritical and judgmental of you. It’s been ingrained in you since you were little and you don’t even know that voice is there much of the time.

And how you were treated is how you would expect others — especially a potential mate — would treat you. If you grew up in an environment where your wishes were ignored, your needs seldom met, or behaviors didn’t match words, you would be attracted to someone who says he cares deeply about you, yet makes just the minimum effort to satisfy you. Just enough so you have hope he will give you more.

The key to attracting someone who will treat you well is to treat yourself well. I know, this sounds overly simplistic, but bear with me.

If you internally think you aren’t worthy of love since your parents didn’t show you love in a way that felt like love to you, you’ll attract a man who will not treat you in a way that feels loving. That is not to say he or they didn’t/don’t love you — but they express it their way, which may not feel like love to you.

For example, my mother gave me a baby doll for my fourteenth birthday. I was never much into baby dolls and hadn’t played with dolls in many years. Yet she liked dolls, and she thought this one was pretty, so she bought it for me. She felt she was doing something loving by buying me something she thought was nice. I, however, saw this as tangible evidence she had no idea who I was nor what I liked. I see now it was her way of expressing love, but that was not how it felt to me at the time.

The key, Ben says, is to reprogram that inner tape to give you the messages that are empowering, not the negative ones that will perpetuate the pattern that doesn’t work for you. I know, I know, this sounds so common sense — and one would think that just because it is so logical and simple to understand it is easy to apply. Have you ever tried reprogramming deep-seated inner messages? It is far from easy.

By talking out with Ben the messages that made me attract, enter into and hang onto a relationship that didn’t my needs, I am more conscious of them. If I’m aware of the inner dialog that makes me believe in, then behave in ways that are counter to my needs getting met, I have more control over changing the messages as well as the dysfunctional behaviors.

What deep-seated messages do you know run through your brain that keep you repeating unhealthy behaviors? If you’ve been successful modifying them, what has worked for you?

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