Recognizing unhealthy patterns and changing them

How to Deal with the Pain and Unhealthy Patterns of Your Childhood to Facilitate Your Own Emotional Evolution


We all have a backstory. Even those among us with fairly positive and uneventful childhoods have experienced something that has stuck in our subconscious and possibly hindered our emotional growth. Unfortunately, many of us did not have happy childhoods, or at least completely happy, and we carry a lot of that sadness with us, whether we’re aware of it or not.

I recently had a fun conversation with Men Leadership Mentor extraordinaire, Stefanos Sifandos, or Stef, as he’s known to his friends. Stef, who is half Greek and half Italian, spent part of his childhood in Greece, before leaving with his parents to live in Australia. Missing his family in Greece terribly, Stef never felt like he fit in living in Australia. That outsider mentality stuck with him till adulthood.

Besides the “man without a country” feeling he had growing up, he also felt disconnected from his father, who was better at expressing anger than love and affection. “I was always trying to please him,” Stef says. He found himself always walking on eggshells around his father, never wanting to be the reason for his anger. This led to exaggerating illness or injury just to gain sympathy. “Most of the time, if I got him to feel sorry for me, it would minimize him being angry,” he explained.

This complicated relationship led to Stef feeling isolated and alone as a teenager, and even as an adult. Isolation, as we all know, can lead to some pretty unhealthy behaviour, and Stef wasn’t very proud of the person he was becoming.

Realization Hits Eventually

Australia’s unspoken dirty secret certainly didn’t help Stef deal with his unconscious pain. “We have a drinking culture here in Australia, and it perpetuates the suppression and the numbing of what we truly want to express.” he says, “The alcohol wasn’t serving me,” When Stef realized that the reason he was feeling so physically sick all the time was from the drinking, he decided to stop. This is where things got heavy.

Stopping the unhealthy habits we’ve used to enable ourselves not to deal with the pain we’re carrying is always a good thing. However, once we stop self-medicating, realization hits hard. When there’s nothing left to numb the pain, it can come at us fast and hard, and it’s sometimes so overwhelming that we begin to develop other unhealthy habits, sober or not. We may lash out at our loved ones, or act out in a relationship, become unfaithful or verbally abusive. There are so many ways our brains begin to deflect our own pain onto those around us, all to protect us from dealing with our own internal pain.

There’s No Armour for the Inevitable

There’s no way to prevent it. It’s all going to come crashing down. If we don’t deal with our pain, our disappointment, our mistakes- it’s going to wash over us over and over again until it becomes impossible to become who we want to be. There’s no armour for the inevitable- it will eventually eat you alive if you don’t deal with it, there’s no other way around it.

Once Stef realised this unfortunate truth, he knew it was time to take action. Now, Stef’s plan of action is a bit unconventional, and I realise not everyone would be able to do it. Still, I feel it’s important to talk about it nonetheless.

Stef left his businesses, stopped working and went into isolation. He completely dropped out of regular life and went deep into his psyche. For the next couple of years, he fasted, he meditated, he practised stillness- he did every sort of spiritual and energetic therapy work you can imagine to really strip away those years of conditioning and pain, until he was left with someone he could finally recognise. Not everyone was supportive of what he was doing. In fact, he lost a few friends in the process. “I lost a lot, in order to gain”, Stef reasons.

You Don’t Have to Drop Out to Drop In

Now, I fully understand that dropping out of society and regular life isn’t a realistic thing for most of us. Thankfully, Stef’s methods aren’t entirely necessary for the rest of us. You can still do deep internal introspection without isolating yourself from your normal life. It’s still hard, it’s still messy, it’s still ugly- but it’s necessary, and it will eventually lead to emotional freedom and understanding.

We all have to do the work. Evolution doesn’t come easy. It’s about breaking down the layers and layers of pain, confusion and denial that we’ve covered ourselves with throughout our lives. But you’ll begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel, and it will guide you throughout your journey. You don’t have to do it alone. Together we can battle the demons of the past to a peaceful, more emotionally rewarding future.

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