Why Stability Feels Unsettling When You Grew Up Around Chaos

“Don’t let the fear of the time it will take to accomplish something stand in the way of your doing it.” ~Earl Nightingale

For anybody that experienced a chaotic childhood, stability in adulthood is unfamiliar territory.

When you grow up in an environment where shouting is the norm, unstable relationships are all you observe, and moods are determined by others in your household, it’s hard to ever feel relaxed.

As an adult dealing with the long-term effects of childhood instability and chaos, I jump at the slightest sound now.

And I know I’m not alone when I say instability is all I have experienced.

I recall one recent occasion when my flatmate asked jokingly, “What’s wrong with you? I live with you!” as she came out of her bedroom and I was startled again.

Stability, peace, and quiet are all unfamiliar to me.

When chaos really is all you know, all that you are familiar with, stability is actually unsettling.

Sabotaging Stability

Stability can feel so unsettling to me that I’ll unconsciously sabotage its presence in my life, for example, by overthinking and causing myself anxiety over things being ‘calm.’

If everything seems to be going well, I’ll subconsciously look to create some sort of problem in my life.

Perhaps a friend texts me a message that seems less friendly than usual, but we’ve been close and getting on for months. I may choose to cause an issue with them and bring it up, simply because things feel stable.

My mind is an expert at creating problems that really aren’t there.

The battle against stability is most prevalent in my relationships. Of course, I’ve done the necessary work (in therapy and beyond) and know that this is largely due to complex trauma and my disorganized attachment style, but it doesn’t make things easier.

In fact, sometimes knowing all of this can make it even more challenging, as everything seems so complex and difficult to overcome.

Why Stability Is an Unpleasant Experience

My therapist told me that in adulthood, we often recreate the family dynamics we experienced as children. For me, this has been very true.

I have entered relationships where I have had to fight to be loved and accepted. I’ve also recreated the abusive cycle many times by accepting and tolerating emotional and sometimes physical abuse.

It was only a year or so ago that I realized this. As you can probably imagine, it was quite an epiphany moment.

For me, it’s taken a lot of courage to move away from drama-fueled relationships and to look instead for stability.

Since we’re hardwired to expect instability and chaos when we have a turbulent background, stability can often feel boring. More often than not, this is the case for me.

Without the drama, shouting, and familiar abuse, many adults struggle to function. Simply put, their identity or relationships are threatened when there is stability, as they aren’t sure how to behave or feel when the instability is taken away.

How I’m Learning to Grow Comfortable with Stability

It’s a process for sure for many of us, but not an impossible one. Or at least that’s what I remind myself.

Sometimes I find it totally baffling that I’m more comfortable with instability rather than stability. However, I do know that our brains are powerful enough to be trained and we can always learn new ways as humans.

Once we gain greater self-awareness and realize we do not have to engage in abusive or chaotic relationships, we are ready to accept stability.

It takes a lot of inner work to understand why we often choose emotionally unavailable or abusive partners. There is indeed such a thing as love addiction, which involves seeking out abusive relationships in order to ‘save’ or be a ‘savior.’

One book I’ve found to be extremely insightful and useful for exploring the concept of love addiction is Women Who Love Too Much, by Robin Norwood. Written for those, like me, who have found themselves repeating toxic patterns in relationships, the book recalls various case studies involving women who enter unhealthy relationships in order to intentionally face chaos and abuse.

Interestingly, the author also explores why women do this and how they are recreating familiar experiences from childhood, along with affirming their low sense of self-worth. Again, something I can relate to.

Why Self-Love Is Key to Healing

When we begin to love ourselves and put in the work to get to know ourselves, we start to recover and heal. In order to accept and attract stability into your life, it must first come from within.

For me, I’m still not fully healed and try to sabotage stability in many ways. However, I am far healthier and content than I’ve ever been—and all of this has come from revisiting and confronting my childhood to gain an understanding of who I am and what has shaped my life, along with my relational tendencies.

When you continually pour love into yourself and work to understand how your past has shaped you, you’re in a better position to create a brighter future.

I’m finally beginning to accept the love I give to myself and the love from others. While I still get urges to sabotage or feel bored without drama, I can see and understand when I’m entering such a state.

For me, this means I’m able to better prevent the sabotaging behavior, give myself love, and accept the stability that I deserve.

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