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Triumphs and Trauma

Why do many highly successful people often come from dysfunctional and unhealthy backgrounds?  Growing up in an environment where bad things happen and where you have virtually no control is a strong motivator to seek control over your future life. There is a determination to rewrite your life script and not be a prisoner to someone else’s dysfunction.  Also when you grow up with very little emotional support, encouragement, and love you typically seek other ways to fill the void and feel a sense of value and worth. Many of my patients with these types of backgrounds direct their energy into either academic or athletic achievement seeking to fill this emptiness. This excellence can lead to wealth, status, and fame.

Ironically, some siblings who grew up in the same abusive households respond very differently.  Why are some not able to change their life’s scripts while others use it as a motivator to succeed?  There is no simple answer to that question.  Maybe one person is more resilient or developed other support systems outside their home.  Or maybe they were blessed with some talents that they were able to successfully channel .  Some people have a mission in life to accomplish more than their parents and prove their worthiness through tangible means like material possessions or status.  Others grew up with very little power and control vowing to never be helpless, reliant on others, or vulnerable again.  They seek external validation since they never learned how to praise or accept themselves.

Unfortunately, many highly successful people from unhealthy backgrounds struggle with healthy attachment and emotional connections.  They learned early on that nothing good comes from emotions and compartmentalized feelings which makes it difficult to develop deep, personal, and intimate relationships.  They gained their worth through work, wealth, and abundance.  Relationships have little value in their world, unless it increases their status or esteem.  While the positive side of channeling trauma into prosperity, the possible fallout is relationship distress.  Of course there are those who have both career and relationship success, but this requires a healthy balance of time, energy, and attention to both areas of life.  Achieving this kind of accomplishment proves to create the greatest level of happiness and fulfillment.

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