FORMATIVE EXPERIENCES – A CURE?
You may be aware I am currently writing a semi-autobiographical book tentatively titled, “THE WISE OLD MAN & THE KID – A Guide to Living a Positive Life.” One of the premises of the book is the negative impact (for most of us) on our attitudes because of how we mentally processed our formative experiences and convinced ourselves – with the assistance of our self-defeating egos - that we were unworthy, or guilty, or shameful or lacking in ability and self-belief.
Here’s a bit more from my book, pointing out the shortcomings of our education and suggesting a remedy.
“I think the following analogy is of Buddhist origin. Imagine yourself as a beautiful silk cord. One that becomes progressively more knotted as you take on board the demeaning imprints of your formative experiences. Over time this lovely silk cord becomes a massed tangle of knots, so much so that it’s difficult to identify what it really is.
When we reach the realization the identity we’ve made up hasn’t brought us satisfaction or happiness and, indeed, has delivered only pain and suffering either physically, mentally or emotionally, that’s when the Universe steps in.
We’re then presented with a made-to measure, individually designed and perfectly appropriate wake up call. If we choose to heed it, it becomes our turning point and we then begin our journey back to reality, back to our true identity. We begin to untie the knots. We begin to correct our past mistakes, banish our self-doubts, ease our pain and experience more frequent tastes of joy and peace of mind. Eventually the pristine, un-knotted silk cord is restored and we’ve discovered, or remembered, who we truly are.
Our parents can have a huge influence on who we think we are and the persons we turn out to be. Many of our attitudes, our values and behavior from our formative years are derived from them.
“I know it’s generally believed that a range of physical health problems can be genetically inherited from our parents,” said Davey (the wise old man), offering another sandwich to Noah (the kid). “However, I’m more inclined to believe we are far more vulnerable to inheriting our parents’ attitudes, and, if we do, we often duplicate their physical problems as well. Of course, the way we think inevitably impacts on our physical and mental health. For example, prolonged stress, or anxiety, or depression can cause disease in our bodies, or cause mental imbalance. These problems are all created by some form of negative thinking.”
“Is there anything anyone can do about this? After all, we’re only kids and parents call the shots,” said Noah, putting down his fishing rod and selecting a sandwich.
“Good question. To most children, their parents have God-like qualities and we try to be like them by adopting their values, attitudes and even, their behavior. I think my negative attitude and tendency towards depression comes from my home environment, as well as my feelings of unworthiness.
“Generally, we don’t see how rocky the pedestal is we’ve put our parents on, at least until we get into our teens. It can be shock to realize they are more human than God-like. That they do have weaknesses; they aren’t infallible; they make mistakes; they can be mean and nasty, unfair and uncaring and so on. Also, I suggest most parents have got so much going on in their own lives, most neither have the time or capability of wisely mentoring their children through life’s challenges.”
“If they can’t do it, who can?”
“It would be good if every child had a wise mentor. Of course that’s not going to happen – I can count on the fingers of one hand how many truly ‘wise’ people I’ve met over the entire course of my life.”
“Sounds like ‘mission impossible’ then?”
“Maybe, maybe not. I think it’s all about education. When you think about all the rubbish they teach us at school, you’d think there surely would be space to include continuous courses in life-skills and self-awareness. Courses that delve into the power of positive thinking and mind over matter; worthwhile values, and the dangers of following the wrong role models; how to recognize and deal with the temptations of our egoic, self-serving selves; proper education about male and female sexuality, including the incredible life changing effects of puberty; and so on. The list is endless really, but at this time, pretty much neglected by our education system.”
“What about God? Shouldn’t God’s existence be discussed as well?”
“That would be ideal. However, this is where the fun would really begin!”
“Well, not only is there complete disagreement between atheists and believers, there are a multitude of agnostics sitting on the fence. Then there are all of the world’s religions to consider, many of whom have different views on Who God is and what He does. And, of course, within those different religions there can be considerably different interpretations and expectations about Him. Imagine trying to settle on a curriculum to accommodate all of these conflicting viewpoints. What a can of worms that’d be! However, I’m sure it could be done.”
“Putting the God complication aside for the moment, do you think our teachers can handle all of the other stuff you suggest?” asked Noah.
“I doubt it. Training programs would have to be set up for teachers to specialize in these areas. And, I suspect, only people with suitable experience from the University of Life would be suitable to teach this stuff. So, I guess it isn’t going to happen tomorrow.”
“So, where does that leave us kids, here and now?”
“For most, I regret to say, they will have to follow the path of the knotted silk cord. In other words, they will inevitably inherit wrong-minded attitudes; make mistakes, wrong choices and decisions and suffer painful consequences. However, remember, from break-down comes break-through and when their tolerance for self-afflicted pain becomes too much, they’ll be ready to receive wake-up calls and will have the opportunity to turn their lives around and untie those knots, if they so choose.”
“Maybe I’d better play close attention to your story and experiences, so I don’t have so many knots to untie in the first place,” said Noah.”
Okay, okay, I admit the solution suggested by the old man is somewhat utopian. However, there are a lot of suffering people out there (including me) trying shake off the shackles of our entrenched self-defeating behaviors. Had our attention been drawn to life’s pitfalls at an early age, maybe, like Noah, we’d have less knots to painfully unravel in later life?
What do you think?