Beyond Blue

Beyond Blue


Mindful Monday: Replacing Old Tapes With New Ones

posted by Beyond Blue

On Mindful Monday, my readers and I practice the art of pausing, TRYING to be still, or considering, ever so briefly, the big picture. We’re hoping this soul time will provide enough peace of mind to get us through the week!
On the first page of the book “Cutting Loose: An Adult’s Guide to Coming to Terms with Your Parents,” by Howard Halpern (same guy who wrote “How to Break Your Addiction to a Person”) my guardian angel Ann wrote: “This was a key book for me in therapy. I really learned how to relate to my family and let go of many unhealthy expectations.”
That was BEFORE I told her I was disturbed by a family situation that was triggering some of the anxiety I felt in my childhood.
Halpern writes:

We’re adults. We’ve got all the credentials and scars to show for it. … But a grown-up is supposed to possess himself, to be his own person, to make decisions according to his wishes and his best judgment. Too often we find that this is not the case with us. Frequently we are so limited by habitual ways of acting and thinking, so needful of the approval of others, and so afraid of their disapproval that we don’t own ourselves at all. We are like a corporation that has gone public, and other people own controlling shares. And for many of us in that position, the biggest shareholders are our parents. ….The parent-child relationship is a primary source of who we are, and the mutual emotional attachments are derived from countless interactions, conscious and hidden memories, and profound feelings that go back to our days of oneness with them.

Last week in therapy I began to understand that–the parent corporation thing, and how it plays out in your adult years– with an unexpected clarity. I even named my issue.
“What I have,” I explained to my therapist, “is an ‘intimacy block.’ Every time I’m about to invest my heart and soul in someone, a voice pipes up and warns me, ‘Whoa there, Girlfriend! Step back and protect yourself.’”
The message is like the disclaimer on all over-the-counter medications: “Could cause drowsiness, vomiting, rashes, measles, depression, anxiety, panic attacks, or massive intimacy problems. Take only as directed by your doctor, I mean therapist, because I DON’T REALLY KNOW WHAT’S GOING TO HAPPEN TO YOU IF YOU POP THESE LITTLE BABIES. YOU VERY WELL MIGHT DIE, OKAY?”


My old tapes–the messages, true or false, picked up by me–in my childhood came to this conclusion (let me first qualify this by saying how much I respect and love my male readers): all men are unreliable. Eventually all members of the male species will disappoint you. There. It’s out. That’s what my old tapes say.
The more evolved and sophisticated part of my brain knows this is hogwash, of course, and that the men in my life are kind, devoted, loving human beings. But the old, primitive part of my brain has the tapes. Especially whenever anything happens in our family that reminds me of the childhood drama. And that old, ape brain isn’t about to hand over the tapes. Not even for dark chocolate. So there they are–those negative messages–holding a pep rally, trying to convince the entire limbic system that they are right and the thinking brain is wrong. Explains Halpern:

Recorded in the brain cells of every person are the “videotapes” of every childhood experience and feeling, including fear, love, anger, joy, dependency, demandingness, insecurity, self-centeredness, inadequacy feelings, etc. Dr. Wilder Penfield, a neurosurgeon, found that when he stimulated certain areas of the cerebral cortex, memories of past events came back in full detail, as if they were being played back on a videotape, complete with sound and the emotions that were in the scene at the time of the original event. It would seem that everything that ever happened to us, including those countless moments we thought were forgotten, has been recorded and stored. There are indications that these memories can be triggered to come back and influence our feelings and behavior in the present. Also, registered in our neurons from childhood are the commands, prejudices, injunctions and rules for living of our parents (and our parents’ neurons contain the voices of their own parents). The combination of those tapes of all our early childhood feelings and reactions and the tapes of all the ways our parents behaved and all the injunctions and prescriptions for living they gave us compose what I have referred to as our inner child. These stored transcriptions from our childhood can at times be “switched on” and replayed in the present as current feelings and behavior without being modified by our more grown-up experience, knowledge, and wisdom.

Now I have known most of this for a very long time. In college, I identified the connection between my feelings of rejection from my dad and a love life that was going nowhere fast. But I guess what surprised me, as I sat on the couch across from my therapist last week, was realizing how much I’m still listening to those God awful tapes and relying on them to give me the skinny on what I should do about a financial or emotional issue in my marriage and in my life. I was able to spot the fear of abandonment, the subtle statement to live independently, to trust no one, in some of my decisions today. The old tapes run: Remember: Nothing good comes of true intimacy, of giving all of yourself to someone. A woman always needs to protect herself.
Them are fighting words. I know. But I need to articulate the message of my old tapes in order to replace them with new ones that maintain that intimacy is possible within a marriage, that I’m keeping myself from the best stuff in a marriage and in friendships if I go on believing the old tapes. I have my work cut out for me in replacing what I’ve learned about relationships in my past with some new tapes that urge me to trust, to give my whole heart and soul, to throw the old logic away, and to start again.
To read more Beyond Blue, go to www.beliefnet.com/beyondblue, and to get to Group Beyond Blue, a support group at Beliefnet Community, click here.



  • Karen N

    What you’ve written is so true, Therese. I am saving this post and will be reading and rereading it as often as necessary. Thank you-

  • Melzoom

    There is a difference between
    “I do this because this is how my parents taught/treated me.”
    and
    “My first impulse is to do ‘x’ because of my past experiences. But I have the choice to do something different.”
    One is an excuse. One is being self-aware and proactive. One is retaining the role of child. One is redefining oneself as an adult.
    Good job, Therese, in choosing to go with the latter. So many people isolate the issue/cause from the behavior and then don’t move past it, instead allowing their past to define the entirety of their future.

  • V

    Thank you Therese for posting this. I really need to stop nursing old wounds from my childhood. You explained it very clearly. God bless you.

  • marilyn

    thrse this is something i have been working on in therepy latley mel made some valid points as well we do need to some how let it go and make better choice for ourselves.or as i know first hand it can destroy your life.good post

  • S

    This post was a particularly helpful to me as I am currently struggling with very much the same issues as you outlined in your post. Even though, as you say, I became aware of these things in college, I did not identify them with my current problems as I truly felt I had moved past them. It is a little disheartening to know that those things from so long ago can still exert so much control over us, but good to be aware of if we are going to be proactive in our battle to strive to trust and allow someone into our inner circle. I am married and love my husband very much, but I know what you mean when you say you hear the old tape saying, “trust no one but yourself.” It’s a very destructive message that hopefully I can mute by now becoming aware of it’s source and that I will never totally destroy the tape.

  • dustmyblues

    What I have learned about intimate relationships is that they ALWAYS cause pain, no matter how faithful and wonderful our intimates may be, they will always disappoint us. That’s why the old tapes are there, because we have the scars to prove it.
    I guess the only choice we have is to say, yes, it’s worth the pain, the risk, the scars I WILL incur in this relationship.
    Or, No, I cannot afford this investment and the pain that will surely come.
    And yet, we are relational creatures, we do not function well outside of intimate relationships. It seems to me that we are all in a very tough place to be..sometimes seems like a no-win situation–but there I go with the all-or-nothing thinking again. AH, this life..such a splendid mystery.

  • Loraine

    Threse,
    Thank you for this post. It has helped to understand some of my hang ups. I too have felt the rejection of my father. It wasn’t until my baby brothers death in Sept. 1996 that my dad and I were able to try and build a relationship. I went for many years without even aknowleging his existnes. I used my moms married name for years just so that I did not have to refer myself as his daughter. I felt that he abandoned me yet kept my brothers so close to him. When in fact he screwed their heads up as badly as he did mine.
    I still have a strong desire to be his little girl. He now understands that as well. I am 45 and he is 72 now. We don’t get to see each other very often because he lives in Florida and I live in Texas.
    Therese, I have studied some of your video blogs and am a member of Beyond Blue. I would like to take this opportunity to Thank God for you and all of the help that the Group has givin me.
    I cannot afford therapy so this is the only real support that I get.
    Thank you and the Groups so much for the support and Prayers.

  • Mary Anne Heyde

    Loraine, what part of Texas are u in? I live in Houston and would be happy to be another support partner! We can email each other directly, chat and share thoughts and feelings if u would like.
    T,
    I REALLY enjoyed this post, thank you for sharing your own experience with us. I have sensed your struggles recently, within your own marriage and want you to know that I have kept you in my thoughts and prayers! I have you your own Saint Teresa candle! prayer candle on my altar. Keep in touch and I will do the same. Much love to you,
    Mary Anne

  • Frank

    Those aren’t fighting words to me – but they do make me feel compelled to give another perspective. . .the man’s. For some reason, we’ve allowed men to become some sort of one trick pony that always disappoints, is never faithful, etc. You see the trend…the words always and never seem to pop up with great regularity. There are very few times that the use of always and never are appropriate for describing human nature. But we’ve all done it from time to time. And we do it with the best of intentions but with the worst of thoughtfulness. Who says always and never the most? Well, in my experience, it’s primarily from adolescents. But it does carry over in those old tapes – for a fact. But if it was wrong thinking when it was pronounced from on high as a 13-year old, it’s still wrong when replayed as a 63-year old.
    Our early years when we’re just gaining physical evidence of our sex – we’re raging hormones. And those hormones definitely skew our thinking, men/boys and women/girls alike. So we make mistakes in our thinking, logic, etc. Mistakes, errors in judgment, sin – well, we call these things by various names but whatever we call them, they found a home in our subconscious – and they’re emotional minefields until we dig them up and properly dispose of them. So, from my perspective, we should examine those early ‘truths’ (which are often far from true) and demystify them. When Jesus disposed of the demon Legend, I suspect it was a fairly good example of an extreme makeover, from the inside out. The cleaned up closet of the mind was transformed by the renewing of the mind. Today, we can do that too.
    We don’t want political correctness. If something was a truth way back when – well, then, it’s still a truth. But if it was flawed or faulty thinking that needs some revision – well then, by all means, let’s fix what’s broke. I’ve found that when people say that they’re brutally honest with themselves, what they frequently are is just brutal with themselves – and they’re their own worst enemy and harshest critic. If we made mistakes in our thinking, let’s just seek forgiveness from God and ourselves and start building the new bridge to somewhere. In other words, let’s build a bridge and get over it.
    I remember some moments of rejection and isolation and loneliness in the teen years. They were painful in the extreme but today I’ve gained a tiny bit of wisdom and realize that the worst offenders were the ones who were experiencing those very same pains. Would that I had a magic wand to eradicate the pains of the past – but I can’t – but I can pray for myself and others.
    Blessings…
    Frank,

  • Lydia

    Therese, I have been suffering from Bi-polar, anxiety, agoraphobia, etc… for too many years to even count…. Every post and video I either read or watch brings me to tears…tears of belief & finally understanding of all of these concepts and feelings. I feel like sometimes you have read my mind—and truely understand what is in my head and heart!!! I must “thank you” from all that I am…for being so honest and true to your feelings and sharing soooo much of yourself with others!!!! You are such a “special” person!!!!!
    Thanks again……….Lydia
    P.S…I still tell myself each day—”IT WILL GET BETTER!!”

  • valerie

    Wow, Therese, your tapes play the same thing as mine. However, mine are not quite so kind. Mine says, “All men are d _ _ ks” Perhaps I should tell you the second letter is an “i” and not a “u” or an “o” or and “e.” Nice, huh?
    Yes, my loving husband appreciates (NOT!) that unfortunately he ends up getting lumped in the category of “all men” when in fact, he is the most loving and kind man. I always tell people that Jack is God’s grace to me. Because the relationships I was in were so awful and so abusive.
    Unfortunately, I find it very hard to separate my past experiences with “intimacy” with what should be the ones I should enjoy in a loving and God-fearing marriage. We’ve been married for 22 years and I’m still not to a place of trust. We’re working on it. When asked by my husband what he can do to make me feel more comfortable and for me to trust him and allow myself to feel vulnerable, all I can tell him is to pray. Because I have no magic answers. It will take no less than a miracle (which I truly believe God can perform!) for us to have some semblance of a “normal” sex life and intimacy.
    It hurts me deeply that I am unable to show my husband love in the way he desires and what is right and pure in a marriage. Those tapes keep telling me different.
    Thanks, Therese, for your honesty and your willingness to share a personal side of yourself that isn’t always easy to reveal. It truly makes me feel I am not alone in my feelings. I am NOT a freak. So, thanks!!!
    Love Valerie

  • Tiffany

    Oh My GOD!!!! I have been living with the old tapes exactly as you stated!!! I never even thought about it in that manner. You may have just given me the advice I need to continue my relationship and be happy with all that is!!!! My New tapes begin today!!!

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