When you're worried about old patterns

I hear a lot of people say things along the lines of “My parents treated me badly in this way. I know they learned it from their parents. I’m terrified that this pattern will emerge in me too.”

The thing is, it’s not an either or kind of thing.

The pattern probably will emerge in you, some. You probably will, at various points, do some of the things you learned in childhood. That doesn’t, in itself, mean that you will turn into an abuser (or neglectful or whatever other bad thing).

You can learn how to act better than they did. You probably already have, to a significant extent, since you already know that what they did was bad and that you don’t want to act that way.

Just knowing this changes some things. But, as you’ve noticed, it doesn’t change everything. You still find yourself playing out some of the patterns you learned, even knowing why it’s wrong. And that can be terrifying. It can make you scared that you’ll inevitably turn into the same kind of abuser. But that’s not the reality.

Playing out some of those patterns doesn’t mean you’re bad or that you’re incapable of acting right. It means you’re doing something difficult, and that you’re not always doing it perfectly. It’s not enough to know that things are bad to do. You have to also learn new patterns of interaction. That can be very, very difficult, and it doesn’t happen automatically. And that means, sometimes, you’ll do the things you learned.

When that happens, the important thing is to figure out what happened, to fix any damage it might have done, and to find a better way to act.