You treat yourself as you were treated

After my latest breakup, I decided to get to the bottom of why I would stay in a relationship that wasn’t meeting my needs and put up with behaviors I wouldn’t accept from a friend, let alone a beau. I’ve engaged the help of a psychologist friend, Ben, to help me root out the cause and heal whatever allowed me to stay in a relationship that a part of me knew was not good for me.

In our first session, as I was beating myself up for ignoring the red flags that were all but slapping me in the face, he said, “Let me share with you Psychology 101: You treat yourself as you were treated.” In other words, if you were treated with belittlement and put downs, your inner dialog is also hypercritical and judgmental of you. It’s been ingrained in you since you were little and you don’t even know that voice is there much of the time.

And how you were treated is how you would expect others — especially a potential mate — would treat you. If you grew up in an environment where your wishes were ignored, your needs seldom met, or behaviors didn’t match words, you would be attracted to someone who says he cares deeply about you, yet makes just the minimum effort to satisfy you. Just enough so you have hope he will give you more.

The key to attracting someone who will treat you well is to treat yourself well. I know, this sounds overly simplistic, but bear with me.

If you internally think you aren’t worthy of love since your parents didn’t show you love in a way that felt like love to you, you’ll attract a man who will not treat you in a way that feels loving. That is not to say he or they didn’t/don’t love you — but they express it their way, which may not feel like love to you.

For example, my mother gave me a baby doll for my fourteenth birthday. I was never much into baby dolls and hadn’t played with dolls in many years. Yet she liked dolls, and she thought this one was pretty, so she bought it for me. She felt she was doing something loving by buying me something she thought was nice. I, however, saw this as tangible evidence she had no idea who I was nor what I liked. I see now it was her way of expressing love, but that was not how it felt to me at the time.

The key, Ben says, is to reprogram that inner tape to give you the messages that are empowering, not the negative ones that will perpetuate the pattern that doesn’t work for you. I know, I know, this sounds so common sense — and one would think that just because it is so logical and simple to understand it is easy to apply. Have you ever tried reprogramming deep-seated inner messages? It is far from easy.

By talking out with Ben the messages that made me attract, enter into and hang onto a relationship that didn’t my needs, I am more conscious of them. If I’m aware of the inner dialog that makes me believe in, then behave in ways that are counter to my needs getting met, I have more control over changing the messages as well as the dysfunctional behaviors.

What deep-seated messages do you know run through your brain that keep you repeating unhealthy behaviors? If you’ve been successful modifying them, what has worked for you?

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5 responses to “You treat yourself as you were treated”

  1. Judy Avatar

    DG, I had 2 alcoholic parents growing up which entails a book writing about all the twisted perceptions one receives when growing up. I myself drink maybe 3 times a year and don’t do drugs. I spent a great deal of time attracting alcoholic and drug taking kind of men and at one point I said “self” this is not working for me. I realized I had to make drastic changes. My self doubt recording in my head is that I am doing everything wrong, even though I succeed or over succeed in most goals I set for myself. I find it helpful and when I have the consciousness to do so, say “I ams”, Example, I AM a beautiful successful kind giving creative strong powerful brilliant inspiring courageous sexy hot mama! I AMS plus praying constantly works for me, makes me good to go for the next round of self doubt. Self doubt does not bring anything positive. I am also a tad bit feisty and when someone says I can’t do something I say bring it on. jm

  2. Judy Avatar

    And also what others think of me is not who I am, I say who I am.

  3. PreviouslyQueenofE Avatar

    Awareness is the first step, DG! Like Judy, I too am the adult child of an alcoholic, and found help and serenity through my local AlAnon group. I had (and still have on occasion) those deep seated behaviors of not feeling “good enough”, and thereby putting up with some pretty wacked-out relationships, and it’s not easy nor is it quick to change those behaviors. My particular neediness centered around seeking appreciation for my physical attractiveness and sex appeal, while at the same time demanding appreciation for my brains. In other words, looking for someone else to give me the self-esteem I needed to feel within myself. The fix (which is ongoing) is very similar to Judy’s: I pray, and I self- affirm, and I focus on the positive things about ME. PLUS If I’m feeling particularly stuck in an unwanted behavior, I remember a specific time or event where I felt powerful, easy, confident, and successful, and intentionally make myself feel that way again. Then it’s easy to do what ever I need to do to protect my SELF.

    best wishes and hugs as always

  4. Liz Avatar

    My life changed for the better when I read the book “The Four Agreements” by Don Miguel Ruiz a few years ago. It is right on about what your post is talking about. He also authored the book “The Mastery of Love” which put everything into perspective for me and has helped me tremendously, also. I stopped blaming everyone and everything for where I was in my life and learned how to take control of it REGARDLESS of my past.

  5. Rori Raye Avatar

    Hi, this is powerful stuff. I just posted a series of pieces on exactly this – how to turn around our negative programming – in a very different way…I’d love it if you’d look at the posts in order and see how women who comment are working through the exercises, and comment back – you seem very wise to me, very calm. Here’s the link to the series (it’s not finished yet, perhaps you have some input…)