It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.-Fredrick Douglas
Gut punched…the first time I read this quote, I felt light headed. Here I was, a woman of considerable mental and emotional intelligence trying to take on debilitating task of repairing a severely damaged man.
I believed him. I pitied him. He was a wounded bird. I wanted to fix him.
My belief quickly turned into me making excuses for him. My pity morphed into enabling. I allowed him to throw parties for his misery, which I often attended, instead of forcing him to accept accountability. Refusing to accept that I could not help him, I went along for the ride.
I was a slave to his life traps, and he had many.
A life trap is a pattern that begins in childhood and remerges throughout a person’s life. It begins with something painful that was done to us by our families or other children and can dictate the manner in which we engage with others in adulthood.
In the book Reinventing Your Life and Feel Great Again, the authors identify 11 life traps. These include: abandonment, mistrust, dependency, vulnerability, emotional deprivation, social exclusion, defectiveness, failure, subjugation, unrelenting standards and entitlement.
When life traps are present in romantic relationships, they have the potential, like in my example, to keep both people hostage.
Whether it’s for you or someone you love, here’s how to identify these traps and begin the process of healing:
A child who has experienced abandonment tend to harbor a great deal of fear and insecurity. These children live in a constant state of anxiety, worrying that they will be left by their partners. If abandonment is your life trap, you may find yourself being extremely clingy and controlling or guarded and aloof.
- Free Yourself: Recognize that the absence of someone in your life is not reflective of who you are as a person. Once you accept that nothing you did caused that person to leave, you then have the power to determine your worth outside of that experience.
Mistrust and Abuse
Victims of abuse are constantly waiting for their partner to cheat on, lie to, manipulate, humiliate, physically harm or otherwise take advantage of them.
- Free Yourself: Re-victimization is real. Children who are exposed to abuse as a child are more likely to experience abuse in adulthood. Being especially attentive to your healing is imperative. Spend time figuring out what authentic and nurturing love looks like.
Parents who constantly lived in a state of worry and anxiety often create dependent and vulnerable adults who are unable to handle everyday life without help or validation from others.
- Free Yourself: Focus on self-confidence. Make sure you are able to make solid decisions for your life and stand on them. If not, you will allow another person to craft your identity.
Emotional Deprivation/Social Exclusion
A lack of connectedness in childhood creates emotional deprivation or social exclusion with adults. Emotionally-deprived adults desperately seek the intimate connection they did not receive in childhood, so they pour everything into their relationships, believing that without love, they are nothing. A socially-excluded child experiences a great deal of rejection in their childhood, so they enter into relationships believing that they are unattractive, sexually undesirable, boring, inadequate, or insufficient. This life trap makes it extremely difficult for adults to connect with their partners because they never truly feel worthy.
- Free yourself: The ability to find peace within is essential to overcoming this life trap. Until you are able to love yourself and recognize how truly phenomenal you are, you will look to others for approval, or you will reject any person who attempts to love you, believing you are not deserving.
This life trap supports the belief that you are inwardly flawed and defective. You believe that if anyone truly gets to know you, they will determine you are unlovable. Defectiveness often causes a person to feel like a failure. Often comparing themselves to peers, adults who have these life traps always feel small in comparison to others.
- Free Yourself: Self-ridicule destroys everything in its path. Accept that no one person is more flawed than another. Stand in who you are and realize that you are precisely where you are supposed to be in life.
Perfectionist parents tend to rear adults who subjugate themselves to someone else’s control or adults who set unrelenting standards for themselves or for their partners. Individuals who subjugate are willing to sacrifice their own needs for the sake of pleasing others. They attract dominant partners or people who are too needy and damaged to reciprocate love. People who have rigid standards typically place emphasis on status, money, achievement, physical attractiveness and recognition.
- Free Yourself: It is not your job to try and fix anyone else. Whether you are allowing yourself to be mistreated for the benefit of another or focusing on your partner’s flaws to deflect from having to look at your own, this is hazardous to your own progression. Redirect the energy you devout to others to yourself.
Over indulgent parents create entitled adults. These adults tend to believe that they are worthy to be lavished with time, attention and monetary gifts.
- Free Yourself: Tthere is nothing more unattractive than a self-centered, demanding person. Anything that is given to you is by choice. Learn to appreciate the efforts of others.
Lifetraps do not have to keep you confined. The first step to healing is to identify the impact that your upbringing has on the person you are today. You have the power to free yourself from self-defeating thoughts, attitudes and behaviors that you accumulated in childhood. .
Healthy relationships consist of two individuals who recognize that they are under no obligation to be the same people they once were. A healed heart welcomes in the most rewarding love.
BMWK, do you or your partner have a life trap? How are you working on it?