I have an assignment. Name 5 lessons that I learned in childhood. At first, I tried to avoid digging into any uncomfortable feelings and came up with some cutesy thing about paradox and lesson pairs which I published to this blog but just deleted. I am embarrassed to stand behind those words because they weren’t very honest.
While there were positive lessons based in childhood, they don’t give me much trouble now. It’s the negative, distorted stuff that can really mess up things. So, I’m taking another shot at it. Honesty, while not always pleasant is at least honest.
So, here are the five things I carry around in my psyche. These five “lessons” are five beliefs that can mess up a perfectly good day or a perfectly good life. I share them here not as an indictment of my parents although there are times when I feel some anger at their human imperfections. Honestly, I’ve never met a perfect family or a person who didn’t carry over some garbage from childhood. I know I have loads of company.
Feelings are not rational. They don’t follow neat lines of “should.” Some times they are not based on anything real at all, only limited and faulty perceptions. Objectively, I have no doubt that there were some messed up things about my family. I’m sure there still are but blame is not helpful to me. Identifying how I still carry around false perceptions is important and it is the only reason, I risk airing my dirty laundry and my flawed psyche here.
If you find pieces of yourself here, than sharing is worth it. Most importantly if my sharing causes readers to think carefully about their own lives, the fictions they may still harbor inside and how those fictions can so easily be passed down from generation to generation then my admitting how I feel is worth it.
I don’t always feel this way but I know that only by being brave enough to honestly confront limited thinking can we begin to move toward changing it.
1.) Unworthiness is the roof over your head.
Soaring too high is never a danger when unworthiness has forever clipped your wings. The awareness of my intrinsic unworthiness was the heart of my parent’s belief system. Years later, I was to learn that this “doctrine of unworthiness” could be said to smack of Jansenism, a movement that was considered heresy by Pope Innocent X back in 1653. I long suspected that it infected distant ancestors who brought the contagion and their Roman Catholic faith to the family line in America. Obviously, my head is getting in the way and I’m trying to distance myself through historical side trips.
The unpleasant truth is I never felt good enough.
2.) I am broken
Obviously, this second belief is related to the first. Criticism by significant people in my life was a reminder of my imperfections. Nothing about me was safe or right. How I looked, how I breathed, how I spoke all came under attack. If you hear something often enough it’s difficult not to believe it. Something was wrong with me. I am incomplete, broken, damaged.
3.) I must earn my keep.
I am responsible for making up for all that I am not. Obedience and service is the price I must pay for being a lesser person. I was told I was lucky to be fed and clothed. If I fought back with the standard, “I didn’t ask to be born.” There was hell to pay. Cinderella has always been the fairy tale that makes the most sense to me on an emotional level.
The fact that I can still fold a cloth diaper and even know how to rinse one out in the toilet seems to support the premise that I was of some assistance. As nice as a “thank you” and some acknowledgment might be, it’s not going to happen. Instead, I seem to always find myself in the odd position of the “family trouble maker. ” Ironic, that the child who was the most well behaved, the least of a discipline problem, the one without a juvenile record, the one who diapered siblings, made dinner, mopped floors and cleaned toilets, the one who entered and survived a convent for almost three years would be treated as the “black sheep.”
Feeling like Cinderella is not a formula for happiness or job satisfaction.
4.) My needs are not important.
This is so obvious that it needs no further explanation.
5.) I can’t trust my feelings or my own perceptions.
This is the trickiest belief of all. If I can’t trust my own senses, my own perceptions who can I trust? It sets up an impossible dynamic. Each of us is encased in a body with our name on it. What we experience, how we feel is ours to feel and experience. No one can take that away from me unless I let them and I have allowed this to happen more times than I can ever count.
After bleeding words on the page, I’m heading for the kitchen to make a nice banana smoothie to share with my kids. I’ll let my list sink in more tomorrow.