Have you ever known someone who repeats the same self-destructive behavior over and over? Perhaps someone who neglects personal needs to accommodate those of others; or a person who regards himself as a failure despite his many successes? An individual who may often form relationships that frequently ends in disaster?
These and other unpleasant outcomes are the result of continually reliving highly negative, damaging experiences caused usually during childhood. They manifest first and foremost in the neuro-musculature of the body and are held their in ways that often cause physical pain.

As these negative experiences create expectations-- set the tone-- for future beliefs, values and behaviors, they may be considered, "negative imprints." At times, highly emotional experiences create life patterns which seem unrelenting, invincible to change. People often feel imprisoned by them, making it difficult to live satisfying lives. Negative imprints generate a host of unsatisfactory behaviors to which we become accustomed over time. Then as adults, we continue to engage in these and similar behaviors in a variety of situations, because that is all we know.

For example, just after Adrienne was born, her mother was badly assaulted and robbed. Shortly thereafter, her father, died suddenly. Throughout her childhood, Adrienne, raised only by her mother, was taught to be wary of people, avoid activities, and consider danger ahead at every turn. As a result, she grew up with few friends, rarely engaged in social activities electing instead to adopt a life in which she was a self-imposed prisoner at home. Ultimately, at forty-five, she did marry briefly until her former husband lost patience with her paralyzing fear of leaving home.
Recognizing the various negative imprints in our lives is the first step toward creating a healthier, more positive change. Several common negative imprints include:

  • 1- Suspicion, distrust. Some people acquire then cultivate the expectation that they will be hurt or abused by anyone with whom they develop an intimate relationship. Often, they had been mistreated-- physically, sexually or emotionally-- as children. Then as adults believing themselves unworthy, they are attracted to abusive, distrustful partners.
  • 2- Emotional Impoverishment. For any number of reasons-- parents' alcohol dependence, former child abuse, their own parental modeling-- there are those who were raised with inadequate parental nurturing. Their noteworthy actions went unrecognized, instances of positive comments were few and far between, and physical contact-- love-- was rarely communicated. This conditioning produces adults who believe they are misunderstood, unloved and then seek others who are cold, unyielding, distant with whom to identify and relate.
  • 3- Helplessness. Those individuals whose attempts at independent functioning were ignored or otherwise punished-- but certainly not encouraged-- grew up believing themselves in- competent at performing everyday tasks and problems. They were conditioned to believe when a situation arises, there is no choice but to panic, then depend on others to get things done. Often, they seek strong, decisive, domineering people for partners and avoid deciding issues, lest they make mistakes.
  • 4- Anxiety. We all experience anxious feelings and behaviors at times. However, like the ringing in one's ears or the nagging ache of arthritic knuckles, some people experience on-going anxiety. They live in constant fear-- through negative internal feelings, dialogue or pictures-- that medical, criminal or physical disaster will strike. As children, they were likely conditioned to consider every possible negative outcome (and then some!) which can occur to a human being, and never forget! These were the kids who sat out while others played, lest they get hurt, cold, or sick.
  • 5- Codependence. When children are made responsible for their adult parents' needs, sacrificing their own to avoid feeling guilty, or being rejected, they develop a codependent lifestyle. In this regard, a codependent is one who depends on others to depend on him (her) in order to feel accepted. As negative imprints are learned phenomena, they can be re-learned as positive ones.

Consider a negative imprint, how it began and now pervades your life. Identify a positive change to pursue. Then take the plunge. Try it, recognizing you can always go back. Sometimes imprints are learned so well; they have been applied in so many contexts that an individual is unable to access and organize the positive resources required to "unlearn" them. In such cases, professional assistance may be required in order to relinquish negative imprints...and make new impressions.