Born to be wild? Born to please is more likely.

It’s in our nature, we love to make the ones we love happy. As young children we live to please our parents. Nothing makes a parent happier than an obedient child, one who willingly complies with the explicit family rules and standards. These rules are created to insure safety, to promote healthy habits and to educate about a moral and ordered life. Parents hope the habits they require of their children will influence their child’s character; that the externally applied rules will be the mold that shapes the interior character of their child.

  • “Look both ways, before you cross the street.”
  • “Brush your teeth before you go to bed.”
  • “Write thank you notes to people who’ve done something nice for you.”

These explicit family rules fall short of their hoped for target. Our interior sense of self is more frequently shaped by the implicit and often unspoken family rules, which demand equal obedience and compliance. Born to please, we aim to satisfy these unarticulated family rules. Usually these unspoken injunctions end up causing harm and brokenness.

Here is an extensive, but not exhaustive list of such rules. Take a look and see if any sound familiar to you. We’ll talk more about it next post.

With you on the journey,


Examples of the relationship between family injunctions, childhood vows and current issues

INJUNCTION – Vow – Current Issues

DON’T EXIST, DON’T BE – I’m not valuable, It’s all my fault, If things get bad enough, I’ll kill myself. – Depression, Self-abuse, Suicidal thoughts or actions.

DON’T BE YOU (The sex you are, the ethnicity you are) – I should have been a boy/girl, No matter how hard I try I’ll never please, why even try? I’m shameful, I’m not good enough – Sexual identity issues, other types of identity issues, Depression

DON’T BE A CHILD – I can’t/won’t cry, I can’t have fun, I won’t ask for anything, I’ll take care of myself – Express rage when sad, Never have fun, Over serious

DON’T GROW UPI”ll always be Daddy’s little girl/ Mama’s little man, I am helpless, I need to be rescued – Separation problems, Fear of abandonment, Learned helplessness

DON’T! – The world is dangerous – Phobias, Other anxiety issues, Control issues

DON’T MAKE IT – I’ll never do anything right, I’m stupid, I’ll show you, even if it kills me, No matter how well I do, I should have done better – Repeated failure or sense of failure despite success, Life-threatening physical illness, Type A personality

DON’T BE IMPORTANT – I’ll never amount to anything – Underachievement, chemical dependency

DON’T BELONGNo one will ever like me, I’m different, I’m better than the rest of the crowd – Feeling of alienation, anger, superiority complex, paranoia

DON’T BE CLOSE I’m unloveable/unattractive, Others are dangerous – Social Isolation, Loneliness

DON’T TRUST I will never be hurt, it might kill me, I must take care of myself – Impaired relationships, Suspicious/paranoid – Extreme independence

DON’T LOVE – I’ll never let anyone close, I must keep my heart safe – Problems with intimacy, Sarcastic demeanor

DON’T BE WELL, DON’T BE SANE – I‘m frail, I’m crazy – Phobias, High susceptibility to illness

DON’T THINKI’m dumb – Extreme emotionality, academic failures, avoid decision making

DON’T THINK WHAT YOU THINK, THINK WHAT I THINKEveryone else knows better than me – Passivity, Non-assertiveness

DON’T FEELEmotions are a waste of time, to feel is dangerous – psychosomatic disorders, inability to connect with others

DON’T FEEL THATI’ll never get angry, sex is bad, crying is weak – Indirect expression of anger, Passive aggressive, Certain emotions are taboo


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