From childhood we’ve all sensed imbalances of power. In most relationships, though often unspoken, we feel we are being continually measured, pegged at different levels. We all know who’s stronger than us – whether verbally, emotionally or physically – and we know who can punish or frighten us. We sense where we are placed in our social circles, whether at the centre as the ‘queen bee’, or further out towards the fringe.
Each of our early experiences are peopled with memories which touched us, both the good and the painful. The patterns we each developed to flourish and to survive then are the same as those we still use today. That particular person or event from our past is long gone, but our learnt patterns of relating remain. We continue to see ourselves and others (even God) through this lens.
In order to become free of our learnt relational games we need to recognise them. Otherwise we’ll just continue to look for situations that retrench our patterns. For example, children who’ve been abused may find themselves choosing life partners from whom they expect put-downs. Or, if they’ve had a dominant mother, they may only feeling ‘normal’ in a relationship where the woman is in control.
It is very important to grieve (not deny) the losses and pains that should never have happened. It may, for example, have been the sibling rivalry or bullying that made us always try to prove ourselves as worth something, but which stole our joy and natural curiosity in learning skills when we were young and innocent. Or, our ability to trust may have been damaged by the death of a significant relationship and that wound needs our attention now. Because as children these early events were bigger than us, we didn’t yet have tools to process them or to defend ourselves. Now, as adults, responsible for our healing and growth, we can go back into each negative situation and feel its pain. It was a death of something in us, so needs to be grieved and released. This event has shaped us but needs to be laid to rest. What we carry inside ourselves can either remain our blockage or, once released, become our bridge of deeper connection as we shift the patterns that have shaped us for so long.
We will need to go further than simply realising how we respond relationally. As we interrogate ourselves, asking, ‘What is my pattern? How am I responding?’, we see where we need liberation from our learnt pattern. We don’t need to remain the victim of what life has dealt us, nor to let our story have a negative spiral. Often we have assumed that the people who hurt us are the problem so we blame them, but they are just the mirror showing us what we are carrying. We can turn around our way of seeing with questions like, ‘How has this experience grown me and helped me to see what I never saw before?’, and so come to realise the hidden gift in our pain, for we have learnt wisdom, gained insights and sensitivity to life situations which can bless us and others.