Raising children is difficult on average, always has been. Little more than a hundred years ago if that, childhood in fact barely existed. The common man’s life expectancy, once one made it past the early years was still short, was often not past the mid thirties and women often died in childbirth.
This is to set a stage for some “reality” that life has, yes, been for the most part nasty brutal and short. Simply a fact that it really does not take much to realize that in the world without heat and in the cold it was not to easy to feed a baby, carry it around or clean it and it might be easy to see how it was easy to see it as the devil incarnate. Evil made flesh now in “our hands” to be made “good.” Ergo the finger pointed at me the evil one that “I” the child am bad.
This has most profound implications as the child often becomes the bearer of the family’s emotional burdens.
My claim is to simply follow logic. I believe what I have stated so far. I also believe that we have a biological glue that holds us together as a family unit and that is “interest” and “joy.” – My goal in these words is to limit myself to the “here and now”, to the tangible, to what we can glean form everyday life. - We need companionship. But once again the journey to where we are has been very rough. We are beginning to recognize in all of modern psychology the dominance of our “negative” feelings or what Silvan Tomkins preferred to call our punishing feelings. These keep us alive in a very punishing environment that, by the way, is still very punishing just made more pretty by suspended ceilings and bridges that are just as easily swept away by tsunamis’ and earthquakes. That is our punishing feelings tell us what is “wrong” at the moment and that we should take care. As babies these are what keep us alive. They are the only way we have of communicating with our care givers that something is wrong but boy can we get on their nerves! But so again we become the “bad” ones.
We have evolved ever so slightly from this idea that children are bad. The idea persists because it has always been a very difficult balancing act to raise children; to make a go of it.
Lolyd DeMause, a founder of what is called “Psychohistory,”’ delineated six stages of child rearing all of which persist today. They are infanticide, abandonment, ambivalent, intrusive, socializing and helping mode and he feels the last mode which takes into consideration what the child wants for his life only to have arisen around 1950 and he claims that it is only practiced by a minority of parents.
The mother that “has” to emotionally abandon her children or worse for fear of her own life as the father demands that the mother follow his orders or she is beat or worse. One outcome: “look what happened to your mother because of you!” The adult result of this is overwhelming guilt and shame.
My point here is to concentrate on this legacy of us as children bearing the burden of the family’s emotional pain. The theory goes that it has just been inevitable as the world is not perfect. Things only will get better slowly. Parents “have to” dissipate negative feeling somewhere. Yes, terrible thoughts and yes not “excuses” just fact. Can we do better tomorrow?
Then what are the consequences of this legacy for all of us? It is that we grow up with many ideas that we are to blame for much of our own problems and everyone else’s. Simply “I am a bad person.” Why would I not think so? Since I am been told so all along?
I cannot give many examples here but they come in all verities. Just recently someone was very enthusiastic about getting a job after a long hiatus and focusing on all their attributes and the positive aspects of the job, the good hours and low stress that the job was presented as offering. Unfortunately, the job did not work out and when they came in the next time some of the very first phrases where self accusatory phrases such as “I was not ready for that job.” “I was not right for it.” I stopped the person and made them realize this was not at all the case that it was, according to what they had said to me, simply not true.
Or the seventy year old who calls me late at night devastated and “ready to die” as she still hears her father’s voice every time she tries to fix something. “You’ll never be able to do anything.” “You’ll never amount to anything.”
This self blame becomes a way of “fixing” all kinds of problems it “avoids” all kinds of problems and “stuffs” severe emotional pain. It helps us “affiliate” with others so we “at least have someone.” We end up buying too many of the rounds. We are the “sucker” or “mark in the room.” It is a deep belief that I believe I deserve to get “screwed.”
I once read a small study done on the general population in a Family Practice waiting room and it asked if patients in anyway had done something to hinder their care. My own analysis of the data was that a good 2/3 had; they had missed an appointment, not changed a bandage, skipped a medication dose, something, all of these things with some conscious element. We that is somehow are punishing ourselves.
All of this is to say nothing of what I believe to be the case as a medical doctor that the majority of what I see as “physical” illness is greatly influenced if not caused at some level by our “subconscious” affect system diverting “negative” affect places it might better not be. We end up in doctors’ offices.
Shame and Humiliation
Shame and Humiliation
http://www.squidoo.com/thinking-feeling-doing (Summary of Principles used in these posts.)
Tomkins, Silvan S.: Affect Imagery Consciousness NY: SPringer Publishing Company, 1963.
Shame and Pride : Affect, Sex, and the Birth of the Self by Donald L. Nathanson Paperback (March 1994)