We all like to think we’ll never become our parents. But the inescapable fact is that we model our behaviour on those who are closest to us, and in whom we hold the greatest amount of trust. And the figures who are most present in our lives are most often our parents. So, it’s only natural we’ll model our behaviour after them. They’re quite literally our role models. But that doesn’t mean to say that all parents are perfect. We all have our core wounds and traumas that play out within our interpersonal and romantic relationships. And it’s these personality ‘ticks’ along with some of the less tolerable aspects of their personality that we can find ourselves unconsciously modelling.
Why Do We Behave Like Our Parents?
The answer here is quite an obvious one… And that’s they’re our primary caregivers and teachers. They’re guiding us to make choices in the way in which they view the world. And so, from the moment we’re born, we’re constantly absorbing our parent’s philosophy on how to act and carry ourselves. And this isn’t necessarily a bad thing – it’s actually a vital part of our maturation process. We need to learn proper social skills and the dos and don’ts of how to function within our present and future peer groups. And we accept this input, because we see very quickly that these skills help us to navigate the world and get our needs met. Much of this takes place from birth up until around the age of seven when we’re in our early developmental stage.This is when we take on a lot of our core programming.
The Three Primary Ways We Conform to Our Parent’s Behaviour
Repeating Patterns: The first way is by directly repeating our parent’s behaviour. If we had a parent who’s a stressed-out workaholic, it’s likely that we’ll adopt at least some of that patterning. And likewise, if we were raised by very introverted parents, who didn’t speak much, that will also have a significant effect on how we interact with our peer group later on in life.
Reacting to Patterns: The next way we model our parents is by reacting to their predominant personality traits. So for example, if one of our parents was cold and distant every time we tried to get close and gain their approval, it might lead to us adopting a pattern of constant people-pleasing to gain some kind of validation later on in life.
Recreating Old Patterns: The final way can actually be quite hard to spot, as it happens on the subconscious level. We may, at times, engage in behaviours that lead to familiar patterns in our childhood. So, for example, we might say something to our current partner in an attempt to get them to treat us the way our parents did during childhood, which can lead to continuing these generational patterns.
The Three Forms of Intergenerational Scripts
Within family structures, there are what’s known as scripts. These are the set of rules that create the dynamic within the family unit. These scripts are unspoken, unwritten ways of deciding who can say what to who, what behaviours and traditions are acceptable, how to speak and even how to think. You could think of it as a family charter for how to act. And within this model, which expands on the primary ways we relate to our parents, there are 3 types of script:
Replicative: The replicative script provides the foundational values that you exhibit within your core behaviour. And these relate to the small nuances of our personality that determine how we like to eat our food, clean our space, our body language and other habit patterns. It can often be the case that children replicate behaviours which aren’t desirable. And when this occurs, the act of performing them imprinted that way of acting as a program within the child who will then unconsciously pass on those ‘family-of-origin’ scripts to their children unless they can become aware of their patterning and break the cycle.
Corrective: Corrective scripts, on the other hand, are all about breaking the status quo. These scripts come into play when you make a conscious decision to go against the patterning of your family dynamic. And this can occur at both ends of the scale. You may make subtle corrections to your current script, or do the complete opposite to it. In fact, it’s not uncommon for many people to run away from their scripts. And this can be done in several ways, such as moving away from the family, becoming religious, and even changing names.
Improvised Scripts: These scripts are neither rooted in replicating nor correcting. But instead, they often represent the natural evolution of the ‘family-of-origin script.’ These improvised scripts are born out of a changing world brought about social and cultural changes, new technology and new ways of relating to one another. Social media is a great example of what might cause an improvised script to surface in family dynamics.
Being Your Own Person: Remodelling Your Behaviour
The biggest barrier in letting go of the patterning of our parents is our self-awareness and willingness to have compassion for ourselves in repeating the same undesirable cycles of behaviour. We need to understand that our situation isn’t unique to us and that it’s ultimately a rite of passage for us to go through the process of letting go of the parts that don’t work. And also to realise that they were never ours in the first place.
And that process of increasing our self-awareness then naturally leads to us asking questions of ourselves. Why is it we behave this way or that? From what part of my past does this pattern come from? Because once we’re able to dissociate from our own behaviour in such a way that we gain greater clarity, we can then use that objectivity to begin making better decisions for ourselves, for our future, and our future generations who won’t have to unpick the same patterns cycles and script that we’ve been influenced by.