Thursday, May 21, 2009

MysticBliss: The Lie of Childhood as Explained by Paul M. Martin

I want to talk about something difficult, and I want to ask that if you want to comment that you make sure to read my words carefully, because I am writing them so.

In the comments and elsewhere, when we are discussing depression and childhoods and our current lives, there seems to be some common themes surrounding parents and blame.

Mainly, that we don't want to blame our parents.

For what they did.

Keep reading carefully, please.

First of all, the life you have right now? The one you are living? That is all yours. You built it. If you don't like it, it's no one else's fault.

But the life you had as a child? (I speak of the ones that were difficult.) The one where you weren't loved unless you made them feel good about themselves? The one where you were made to feel afraid...all...the...time? The one where you were made to feel fat, stupid, not good enough?

That childhood? Totally your parents' fault.

Now, I don't care what kind of life they had before they were parents. Once they became parents and you were their child, they had a vast and deep responsibility to you. We know how children are made and it is avoidable.

I don't care that you think they were doing the best they could. They were not.

You don't want to blame them, but I am here to tell you that you are allowed.

For what they did.

We do not hesitate to blame criminals for their actions. And in a philosophical, emotional, spiritual, ethical, and moral way, many (too many) parents act in criminal ways.

Why? Because they can. Because this culture says that children are property.

Again, your life right now? Your responsibility. But to take full responsibility, you will have to admit what happened. You cannot repress it.

I can't say this enough: If you insist on repressing your true and valid feelings toward whatever happened to you, it will continue to show its ugly self in your life in a million ways.

You will never have the life you really want, because this monster will always lurk, will always poison everything.

The real Secret? The one the Secret people don't tell you? The reason the Secret doesn't actually work for most people or they give up? You have to work through your crap so you can honestly and truly know who you are before you can ever begin to "ask the universe" for what you want.

So take the first step: Be brave. It's okay. The sky will not fall. God will not strike you down. You will not die.

Name it. You must name it. Naming it will then hand the power of it back to you and you will move on in ways you never knew you could.

Then and only then can you choose bliss.

Here's an excerpt from Paul M. Martin's Original Faith: What Your Life is Trying to Tell You that I came across on the excellent blog MommyMystic.

I love this quote because there's no children being locked in closets and not fed or being burned by cigarettes, "just" children not being loved for who they are:


A parent or other primary caretaker either does not love us or, far more often, does not express it clearly and consistently enough for us to be sure of it. An experienced lack of love from a parent is the fundamental source of the wounds that so many of us receive in childhood.

When this occurs, it is because our parent is somewhat ambivalent about his or her feelings for us. The parent doesn’t completely accept something about our real nature. We may not be smart enough or talented enough. We may be too physically rugged or assertive for a girl or too small and quiet for a boy. We may be too inhibited or not self-disciplined enough.

Our interests and aspirations may be wrong. We may not like working with our hands enough—or with our intellects. We may like music too much and not take enough interest in sports, or the other way around.

The real problem, of course, is that we are not sufficiently like our parents or their aspirations to satisfy their ego. Many of us spend years of our adult lives coming out from under the burden of this unnecessary baggage. As parents, this is a burden we can and should avoid passing on to our own children.

The Lie

Having preconceived notions of what our children must be like in order to be fully acceptable to us is the equivalent of telling them a terrible lie. What our children hear is that they are not good enough – that something is wrong with or lacking in their very being.

Though it’s a lie, children readily believe it. With little or no knowledge of the outside world as a potential source of acceptance and approval, young children are in no position to realize, “This is only my parent’s hang-up. No reflection on me!” They believe the lie in the act of hearing it.

Viewing the abilities of our children as a means to satisfy our ego desires is unhealthy for parents as well as children. Indeed, outgrowing egoism is a good two-word summary of our primary developmental task as adults. And clearly it helps our children develop trust, confidence and self love when they see themselves with eyes unclouded by the illusion that that they were put on earth to be made in our image. It even becomes that much easier for them to take first steps toward standing in right relation to the greater truth that embraces us all.

(Photo Credit: Christine C. Reed, Cemetery, 2009)


positively present said...

Really great post. I loved the insights here. Thank you!

hmmbrd said...

Yes yes yes. i would add that there is a need for a safety net of some sort before having the courage to name the truth of your childhood. This might be one friend or community or therapist or whatever. We know when we are ready, albeit with some trepidation.
your words are true and very compassionate. to be able to see the fullness of our lives, good/bad/ugly and say 'this too'. without that, we will be less alive.

mommymystic said...

I am so glad you liked Paul's excerpt and included it here. And thank you for the link.
This is a tough one for me - the line between healing anger and wounding anger towards our parents. I think I see what you are saying - that until we really own our pain, and who/what caused it, we can't heal and move on, it just becomes repressed. Also, change won't happen in the way people parent unless we speak up. But on the other hand, I have also seen people get trapped in this anger, and become defined by the wrongs done to them in the past. So it seems like such a hard line to walk. And as a parent, I know I am limited, I screw up, I sometimes send the wrong message, and I have to believe that will all be OK, that the greater love I have for them will show through and trump all. But I am not always sure. So this gets to the heart of alot of things for me, for sure!

Christine Claire Reed said...

hmmbrd, Yes, we all need help and I think this is one of those places that a support group can be more helpful than an individual therapist -- to be around people who have been there and are open about it.

mommymystic, the fact that you even think about this stuff tells me that your children are blessed by a good mother.

And yes, that's why I asked people to read carefully. :) Because I would certainly never encourage people to lay down in their crap and stay there.

The point of identifying is that that is the doorway through which we will find freedom. There is no way around -- only through, as they say. It is not fast and it is not easy but it is necessary.

Repression kills. (Spiritually as well as physically)

Paul Maurice Martin said...

Christine, I'm happy my thoughts resonated with you, and thanks so much for the link to my book.

My response is right in line with what you and Lisa are saying - that your post is about the process of working through the past vs. getting stuck in it. There are some things we need to work through in order not to stay stuck - as you address here - vs. the ways that people sometimes have of focusing on the past that are repetitive and unproductive.

Lil said...

Christine, I understand AND agree with what you and Paul offer as an explanation to healing our childhood wounds.

However, I maintain that some adults never get or see or receive the opportunity/enlightenment to get past all that crap and move forward. For example, my mother had an abusive childhood all around, as did her other syblings. Somewhere along the way though, she realized that she could change and no longer play the victim in her life and instead lead one full of self-love and compassion for others. Out of six children, she is the only one that, for some reason, was able to obliterate her mother's way of living and opinion of her, and move towards happiness and fullfilment isntead.

How does that happen? How do some realize that blaming their parents is not the answer, and some never realize that they are even still living a victimized life?


Christine Claire Reed said...

Paul, Thank you so much for stopping by. Your words are so powerful; we are all blessed by your insights.

Lil, I have lots of theories, but none of them really satisfy me. I'll write you an email.

But...we are all born with different burdens to bear and different capacities for bearing them.

tinkerbell the bipolar faery said...

I had read this passage before, and yes indeed it resonates. All too often I have seen people define themselves by wrongs done to them in childhood. I agree with Lil, tho' ~ in my heart I think blaming is not the answer.

Christine Claire Reed said...

Accountability is part of the issue here. We use it for all other types of criminals. Again, we just see children as property and so they are not afforded the same protections.

It's okay to say that what someone did is wrong.

olivosartstudio said...

Thanks for this post. I don't feel so alone in thinking like this... I posted a while ago on my website re: scapegoating- something my mom and stepdad did to me because of their own "baggage". It has been a difficult road: to arrive at a point where I can recognize that indeed I am allowed to "place blame" and that furthermore, this is something I NEED to do before I can arrive at a place of forgiving them...because indeed: they did the best they could do. But yes,the responsibility is valid: when we become a parent-it should be our aim to be a good parent.
I know I make mistakes as a parent...but I can not blame my own up-bringing-indeed, I hope to LEARN from my parent's mistakes.
my scapegoat bit:

Paul Maurice Martin said...

Lil and Christine, one factor that seems to make it harder for people to get over adverse events from their early years is when neither parent was a "good enough" parent.

That is, if a child receives a good secure sense of affirmation from one parent, that's a huge plus that strengthens the individual for getting over the adverse effects of the other parent as he or she matures.

Christine Claire Reed said...

Paul, I would agree -- one parent would then be acting as the witness to the child, though I wonder about enabling and all that.

Now, in my case, I was lucky enough to have neither. Both mine were/are ill and violent people.

BUT I had a Great Aunt, who, early on, showed me (the best way -- by example) that there is/was another way to be. Somehow at the age of 8, I articulated to myself that it was not ME but THEM and that I would survive.

Anonymous said...

I'm always starting my comments with thank you ... and yesterday in my car, I thought to myself that it's because these little seeds you plant every day are stretching higher and higher toward the sun in my life. This post today inspired me to write longhand for the first time in ages about the ways my parents continue their emotional abuse to this day, ways that I haven't acknowledged or contemplated til now. It was very liberating.

I completely get this post, even though it's been something I've struggled with, and I am so thankful it showed up today. I know this week's work has been tough on you, but we are all better for it, and I applaud that you are working through this so openly, and for all of us who are right along with you. Better off because of your journey, and its voice.


Christine Claire Reed said...

Jessica, I'm glad that this post stirred up necessary stuff for you. It's extremely difficult when the abuse continues into adulthood. For many years, as an adult, I thought I could help my parents.

But, first, no matter how old we are, in that relationship, we are still the child. And we canNOT parent our parents as much as we want to.

Second, my trying to help eventually was just turning into me helping them abuse me. Does that make sense?

Anyway, keep writing; it only helps. There is never anything bad that comes of being honest with ourselves. :)

Emma said...

I think one of the recurring themes that comes up when these topics are broached is: “I know I need to forgive them.”

There is a sort of obsession with forgiveness. “Forgive and forget,” “let bygones be bygones,” “turn the other cheek”…

I think the importance (and meaning) of forgiveness is blown way out of proportion and causes a lot of harm. We feel guilty if we haven’t forgiven someone yet. Wait…what? So, someone hurts us and then…we feel we’ve done something wrong for being hurt, for finding it unacceptable to hurt someone?

A great look at the concept of forgiveness was shared on another blog recently. It was written by Jesse Wolf Hardin and I want to share a little here: “It’s important to remember that the opposite of forgiveness is neither hate nor holding a grudge, but holding someone responsible for the results of their words, acts and omissions just as nature itself does. And we need to hold each other as well as ourselves responsible for those things unworthy of being excused or condoned, not by either punishing wrong doers or submitting to punishment ourselves, but by insisting that they – like us – are honest about their effects, doing all possible to make better, rectify, heal and thereby be redeemed.”

Just because you have not forgiven someone, doesn’t mean you’re a monster constantly spewing hatred into the world. I phrase that dramatically, but I think that’s the secret feeling a lot of people have.

As adults who were hurt as children, we are pressured first to overlook and pretend nothing happened. If we can’t manage that, then we are pressured to understand and forgive. I say that understanding is useful and it does NOT go hand-in-hand with forgiveness.

“Upon close examination, we can see that forgiveness serves neither others nor us when it leads us to overlook what should be noticed and evaluated. When it functions to condone what should reasonably be unacceptable, from larceny to ecological destruction and the mistreatment of children. When we absolve the guilt of those people or institutions that should be admitting their role and making amends. When we “let bygones be bygones” with inadequate consideration of what our acceptance of wrongful acts might result in in the future. When forgiveness becomes a reason for tolerating what no self respecting being should tolerate, for excusing the inexcusable, the fouling of rivers, clearcut hillsides, racist attacks and date rape.”

OK, no more quotes, but the rest of the piece can be read here:

Christine Claire Reed said...

Emma, THANK YOU! I think the concept of forgiveness is too often used as a weapon. THANK YOU! Did I say that already?

Also, in Catholic theology, forgiveness IS NOT necessarily tied to reconciliation. You can forgive an act (if that is what you need) but that doesn't mean you have to have a relationship with the person who harmed you -- NO MATTER WHO THEY ARE.

(We should, I think, hold people related to us by blood to HIGHER standards than strangers not lower -- and in most cases we are holding them to lower. Things we would never accept from a stranger, we think are fine from relatives.)

I am going to that website you mentioned right now...

Tess said...

I thank God so very often for the gift of good, loving parents. Not perfect, limited as we all are, but good and loving.

And hard-working, and funny, and affectionate, and deeply wonderfully eccentric. They've been dead for many years, and I still miss them so much.

svasti said...

I do get what you're saying here, even if I struggle with it. I still find the lie rather enticing.

But also, I wonder... where does it all end? Most parents, it seems, will go into parenthood unprepared to just drop their stuff and/or not let it interfere with bringing up baby. If they even can!

I mean, the ideal (and my idea when I was younger) is that you don't have kids until you've worked your shit out, named those things you need to name and you've come out the other side. But reality doesn't work on ideals, so what to do?

Do we look to our parents for the faults of our upbringing, and then tell our children to do the same? And even if we've worked through 150% of our own issues, will it be enough not to create new ones for our children?

They are different beings to us, and they will react to situations in ways we can't imagine, because we are not them. The chances of them coming through childhood un-harmed is unlikely.

Of course, the way those wounds are tended to is something else. I guess, if they are dealt with effectively, honestly and fully... perhaps it won't matter so much? Because its not just that we get wounded, its how those wounds are allowed to heal that really counts.

Christine Claire Reed said...

Svasti, I think this issue has a lot to do with intensity and frequency.

EVERY parent, EVERY human makes mistakes. In psychology, there is a categorization of parent called "good enough," that results in a human able to fulfill their potential, etc. or at least, theoretically, a human able to take control of their own lives and become individuated.

An abused and neglected child will have to work years, if not a lifetime, to achieve individuation because abuse and neglect meld you to the abuser in unhealthy ways.

I think, too, a good test of how your parents treat you is to ask yourself if you would tolerate it from a good friend.

The more adults of abuse name this problem, I believe (and I am an optimist), the more this problem has light shone upon it, the more this culture will learn better parenting, the more abuse and neglect will be stopped in its tracks.

At this point, as adults, yes, it is all about our healing from the wounds, you are right.

But much healing comes from ceasing hiding.

svasti said...

Yeah, I agree - intensity and frequency have an impact, as they always do.

Thinking of my parents as friends makes it quick work - I'd think they were very poor friends, actually. Wait, I wouldn't be friends with my mother but dad would maybe be an acquaintence. Certainly they wouldn't be people I see all the time!

And really, its ourselves we have to stop hiding from, isn't it?

Liz said...

Wow, Christine...sorry for the lateness of my comment, I'm catching up on stuff...
This was a hard post for me to read. I am a parent...was I ego-involved, did I participate in "lying" to my daughters? I believe that I tried hard to be supportive and affirming and to love my girls for who they were..but there is a chance that no matter how hard I tried, there were moments when the old stuff slipped through, when my parents abusive words, their dissapointment in who I was, oozed into my perceptions of my own children...None of us are perfect. I make mistakes with my girls daily, I'm sure - especially if you ask them...
who's perception is the right one? Maybe I'm not making much sense here. I've questioned myself as parent so much over the last 21 years, daily, in fact. I still do. This is a tough one.

Liz said...

Correction: I AM a parent...funny how that came out...I'm going through some stuff right now concerning parenting/my girls/my reactions to choices they are making right now as 19 and 21 year olds...and wonder how I will ever be able to let go of the overwhelming feelings responsibility...

VICKI IN AZ said...

I truly am so happy that you linked me to this post.
It is so helpful. I find you to be so tender and kind with peoples feelings. That is such a gift.