What Is Self Esteem?
Self esteem is that sense of being valued just because you exist. It develops from healthy attachment during infancy and an ongoing reflection of love without it being conditional on certain behaviours taking place.
Some children are raised with the expectation that they perform well at school. The idea of "perform well" may differ amongst families.
Some children are raised with the "be seen and not heard" motto in the family.
There are many family mottoes that shape a child's self esteem or self worth and some are just plain unhealthy.
To the extent that a child suffers from low self esteem is usually the extent they as an adult they will experience challenging relationships.
We tend to attract partners who have the tendency to wound us in a similar way to our childhood experience. This usually becomes apparent after the honeymoon phase of a relationship which may be anywhere from 3 months to 2 years.
When this happens a power struggle usually starts and this is when many couples start counselling.
Family of origin issues and self-defeating patterns of behaviour have a negative impact on relationships.
According to Dr. John Van Epp, in his book titled How to Avoid Falling In Love With a Jerk, "Unhealthy emotional needs lead people to develop one of three relationship patterns that attempt to interpersonally resolve what can only be fixed intrapersonally. In other words, when you do not deal directly with your issues, they often become embedded in your relationships."
This idea stresses the importance of healing past emotional wounds on a personal level before becoming entangled in a relationship and projecting blame on a partner.
Dr. Van Epp proposes that it can take up to three months into a relationship before any of these patterns become evident. He stresses the importance of taking the time to get to know someone really well before making any long term plans together.
THE THREE PATTERNS that Dr. John Van Epp has identified are summarized as:
- IDEALIZATION: This pattern occurs when disappointment and pain are avoided by viewing the relationship through rose-coloured glasses. In this way it becomes easy to avoid seeing reality.
- IDENTIFICATION:This dynamic occurs when one imbalanced person gets together with an equally imbalanced person. Van Epp uses the example in his book of bossy wife with an equally compliant husband. In order for one person to act out their pattern, they need their equal and opposite partner to enact the pattern.
Van Epp says that, "The problem with this kind of opposites-attract dynamic is that instead of fixing your emotional imbalance, you identify the opposite quality in someone else and think that your relationship will complete what is lacking. It doesn't! Instead, the relationship multiplies the problems and drives you further from center".
"The message is clear", advises Dr. Van Epp, "fix yourself first, or your unresolved emotional problems will disrupt both your choice of a partner and the relationship you establish".
- INCARNATION: This pattern occurs when "you are prone to re-create the dynamics of an unresolved relationship where your needs were not fulfilled."
"It is as if you have the script of some unhealthy relationship pattern written in your head, and you keep playing out your part - only with different characters. Some refer to this as a self-fulfilling prophesy. The old story line keeps repeating and culminating in the same destructive ending. Naturally, you are shocked each time this happens, as if you never saw it coming. You promise yourself you will never get involved in this type of relationship again, only to arrange a new cast with the same old script".
Van Epp suggests that sometimes a person is "so determined to live (the) dream, that (they overlook) certain warning signals in order to fulfill idealistic wishes".
Men with this profile, "usually turn out to be controlling, narcissistic, and emotionally abusive. They often have an extreme swing from infatuation to detachment as soon as some imperfection blemishes their ideal love."
Van Epp has some interesting ideas and there are so many books on relationships that it would take a lifetime to read them all.
The Imago philosophy behind relationship counselling is that healing actually takes place within the couple relationship. Realistically, most of us meet the "answer to our prayers", fall in love and either live together or get married before we know what has happened.
During Imago Relationship Therapy, the counsellor facilitates a specific dialogue technique between the couple with the intention of reaching understanding by each partner of the other's perspective. The outcome is an experience of greater empathy and validation. This is a simplistic account of the process that often leads to deep healing and long lasting change.
It is a journey of becoming more conscious and growing in deeper intimacy and trust to eventually reach that euphoric "just falling in love" feeling again. The difference is - that the love is genuine and real, rather than a projection of each other's unmet childhood needs onto a partner.