My first blog focused on how we continue to be affected by the experiences of our childhood, especially those that have required what I call, a survival adaptation or survival system. In breaking free from these deeply hidden barriers to our potential, an understanding of how children think, what they feel and the origins of their fears is a crucial first step.
Children think concretely, not abstractly, and do not understand the subtleties of language, assuming a literal meaning of words. Describe a piece of clothing as “hot” and they will be afraid to touch it. Children also are egocentric, which translates into “it’s all about me.” This is not a question of being egotistical or vain but about their beliefs, thoughts and questioning of how they exist in their worlds.
Ask a child why the sun comes up and he answers: “To wake me up.” The concrete thinking is caught in the timing of the sun being in the sky when the child wakes up. “Waking me” catches his belief that he is responsible for what is happening in his world.
Thus, how a child takes in the messages of childhood can lead to distortions of understanding and a need for a survival adaptation. For example, if I am a child and my mother has a broken leg, I understand concretely that she is limited in what she can do for me and her lack of availability doesn’t have much to do with anything related to me.
If however, my mother is suffering from depression – (note: depression is an abstraction and beyond the capacity of a child’s understanding) – then I react with feelings of not being good enough to make my mother happy. My survival adaptation could then take the form of being the perfect child. I become responsive to every actual or imagined need and request of my mother in order to make her happy, even at the expense of sacrificing my own life’s potential.
Beginning to remember what your childhood was like is the first step to breaking free.