You come home from work for 5th time this week later than you anticipated. Your husband isn’t happy about it, per usual. You expect that he will be angry and sarcastically apologize first thing when you walk in the door. This almost immediately leads to yet another argument. You feel defeated and wonder if things will ever go back to how it used to be. You wonder how you got to this negative and hostile place in your life and your relationship.
One of the most common questions I get in therapy is “What happened to make me like this?”. In the absence of things like a recent tragedy or illness, people who are seeking out therapy for issues they have been struggling with throughout their lives often feel at a loss for how they “got this way”. Understandably, in addition to looking to improve they are also seeking answers about how their mental health got so out of hand. Maybe things were always a little bad, but never this bad. Maybe you always struggled a bit, but never this much.
What often happens is that a combination of factors have all come together in the “right” way over time to cause your struggles. A person can be born with certain genetic/biological vulnerabilities to things like hypervigelance. Someone can also grow up in a home environment that doesn’t model skill sets to tolerate and manage mental health issues. As well, it is possible to have had experiences throughout your life reinforcing ineffective coping techniques, such as a trauma.
No matter the combination, what happens over time is that these things come together in all the wrong ways to start to shape how you view yourself and the world. Your world is shaping your perception. You have enough negative experiences and eventually you come to expect them. Then, at some point these processes flip. You start creating a self fulfilling prophecy. Rather than your world shaping your perceptions, your perceptions start shaping your world. Because you have started to expect bad things to happen, you begin acting in a way that ultimately makes it easier for them to. You can get stuck in this kind of negative cycle and it can be important to improve your life to be aware of this and start to make different choices.
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