We repeat what is known. Even though we know the behaviour is dysfunctional and not serving us well, we repeat it because it feels familiar and we know what to expect. This is what I refer to as the devil you know, and we frequently choose it over the unknown because it is familiar. We practise what we were taught as children. Because we learned them when we were vulnerable and our brains weren’t fully developed, the beliefs, coping skills, and behaviour patterns that we acquired in childhood become deeply ingrained. Moreover, they are difficult to alter after years of use.
We repeat traumatic experiences in an unconscious attempt to gain mastery over them. If you felt rejected, unloved, or powerless as a child, you may recreate similar experiences and relationships in an unconscious effort to heal yourself by gaining the acceptance or love of another person or by regaining a sense of control. However, we tend to choose partners and friends who treat us similarly to how our parents did, and we continue to play our roles as we always have, thereby recreating the same outcome.
We believe we deserve suffering. Often, traumatised children are told they are bad and deserve to be abused, or that they are the cause of their father’s alcoholism or the family’s problems. And even if we are not directly responsible, we internalise our family’s shame and place the blame on ourselves. We believe we deserve emotional pain, abuse, failed relationships, and shame as adults because our self-esteem has diminished. Unhealthy relationship patterns are unfortunately learned and transmitted from one generation to the next. And we will likely repeat them until we have healed the underlying trauma and feel lovable and deserving of respect and kindness.
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Dr. Nicholas Jenner, a therapist, coach, and speaker, has over 20 years of experience in the field of therapy and coaching. His specialty lies in treating codependency, a condition that is often characterized by a compulsive dependence on a partner, friend, or family member for emotional or psychological sustenance. Dr. Jenner’s approach to treating codependency involves using Internal Family Systems (IFS) therapy, a treatment method that has gained widespread popularity in recent years. He identifies the underlying causes of codependent behavior by exploring his patients’ internal “parts,” or their different emotional states, to develop strategies to break free from it. Dr. Jenner has authored numerous works on the topic and offers online therapy services to assist individuals in developing healthy relationships and achieving emotional independence.