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  • Johanna Lynn

The Imprint of Emotionally Immature Parents

Sam shifted uncomfortably in his chair as he began to recount the incident that had prompted him to reach out to me and book our session together.

"Things just keep escalating with Alison lately. We'll be having a normal conversation and then, boom, one of us says the wrong thing and we're in this huge blowout fight. It's so exhausting...I can't focus on work, I cancelled my last golf game with a friend - its like everything feels like too much"

He looked up at me and I sensed the emotional exhaustion in his eyes. 

"Even the making up part is terrible too. We're trying to reconnect physically and emotionally...but I can't let myself go fully. Part of me is still guarded, flinching internally from the hurt and fear of the conflict resurfacing again. I want to, but I can't seem to let my guard down."

I nodded, making a note but not interrupting as Sam looked down at his hands, sensing that he was reflecting before sharing more. 

"I can't keep going on like this. I have this fear that even if I leave Alison - another relationship would end up in a similar place."

I then shared with Sam "Your role as the supportive one in your family, the one your parents would turn to instead of being available to you. How you focused on your parents' emotional needs while putting your own aside?" 

Sam's eyes widened slightly as we revisited this core issue.

How we were parented, whether our needs were consistently met or inconsistently dismissed, directly impacts how we navigate our love relationships today.

"So in your dynamic with Alison, anytime conflict arises or emotional needs aren't being met, your nervous system goes into threat mode, into a kind of freeze or self-protection."

Sam considered this, nodding slowly as the connections became clearer.

 "The distancing, the guarding against intimacy...I'm subconsciously bracing for more being put onto my shoulders than I can handle."

With an extended sigh, he continued on by sharing "Even when Alison and I make up, I can't let go of those intense hurt feelings - its like they linger for days afterwards."

Smiling warmly at Sam, we began the healing work to remap those earliest pathways of insecure attachment so that Sam could bring a more embodied presence to his loving relationship.

In our session, we explored somatic practices to renegotiate the bodily sensations of shutdown around emotional closeness. Giving Sam resources to pause and rework the unconscious narratives fueling his protective shutdown.

Sam now had a clear understanding for how his emotionally shut down parents shaped today’s relationships, providing context and understanding to no longer get tripped up by the same arguments or engage in the blame game with Alison.

With patience and vulnerability, Sam's dynamic with Alison transformed. Disagreements were navigated through with more ease instead of damaging meltdowns. Passion and playfulness resurfaced as trust blossomed. They began to have more understanding and compassion for the earlier parts of each of their early lives.

Sam's commitment to understanding himself and the painful patterns that kept coming up in his relationship meant fewer blowouts and more meaningful connections. They experienced less conflict, more passion, and a deeper understanding of each other. Sam’s commitment to healing his emotional inheritance transformed their relationship into the loving, supportive partnership he always needed.

Have you ever considered your family signature and how it shapes your relationships?

You can use your family tree like a compass to understand the origin of your present day challenges.

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