Early relationship patterns persist in our adult lives

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Relationship patterns - Mark Ettensohn, Psy.D. Sacramento Therapist

Each of us carries inside of his or her self the echoes of past relationships. These echoes can become sources of positive self-esteem and balance. They can also cause a person to repeat emotional traumas from the past. Early relationships with caregivers become guides for shaping our thoughts, feelings, and expectations as adults.

I believe that every maladaptive behavior can be traced to a time and place where it was once adaptive. Living things seek opportunities to thrive. In the words of Ian Malcolm, a character in Jurassic Park, “Life finds a way.” Even in the harshest of circumstances, life can be observed making the best of things. People – particularly children – are no different. Children are highly motivated to seek the approval of their caregivers. In fact, there are few things more valuable to a developing child than to feel that they are loved and valued by their parent(s). When children are faced with a care environment that is not ideal, they will adapt in whatever ways they can. Those adaptations, while beneficial in a toxic environment, can become toxic when they try to have¬†healthy relationships later in life. This is how adults end up getting stuck repeating the same mistakes over and over again.

We are continually presented with opportunities to reflect on both the positive and negative influences that important relationships have had on our lives. Recognizing how early relationships live on inside of us as adults allows us to take more responsibility for the ways that we repeat old relationship patterns in our present day lives. If you struggle with maladaptive relationship patterns in your adult life, it’s not too late to make adjustments. Talking to a therapist can help.


To understand is to perceive patterns.”

– Isaiah Berlin

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