Your own identity as an adult is built upon who you were taught you were as a child. How do you rewrite your life to build a new adult self?
How we see ourselves as adults, is based squarely on who we were taught we were as children. If our parents/caretakers/role models taught us that we were a valued gift, a total delight and worth everything, then there is a good chance that this is how we see ourselves. If our parents/caretakers/role models taught us that we were worth something ONLY if we met certain criteria, or we pleased them, or we achieved some measure set by them, then there is a good chance that we will never measure up to what we expect of ourselves, or we may become rebellious and defy anyone who attempts to help. If our parents/caretakers/role models barely saw us, had no time for us, considered us nothing more than a bothersome nuisance, there is a good chance we won’t even try to achieve – or we’ll try too hard and burn out.
If our basic understanding of the world was that this is a fairly good and comfortable place to be, then no matter what life hurls at us, somewhere deep inside we will find solid rock upon which we can rely. If, however, our early years engrained in us the belief that this is not a good and comfortable place to be, then when life hurls thunderbolts at us, we will find that our whole reality is built on shifting sands and we may become unbalanced very quickly.
Our ability to cope depends on inner strength and outer support, and this, in turn, depends on what we see as normal. And ‘normal’ has definite links to childhood.
As we grow from childhood to adulthood, there are particular milestones we need to reach; these are well documented with regard to the child’s physical and social requirements. But they are not as well documented when it comes to their emotional needs. By understanding that a child’s emotional maturity develops in stages linked to age; and if something happens at that age that makes it difficult – for whatever reason – for the child to do this appropriately, then there is a problem that pops up in adulthood.
Of course, as adults, if we understand this, and we go back to rethink the events of childhood, and we complete all the steps that are required of children in the growing up process, then this is not the dark and gloomy picture It seems. There are life stages that have to be completed, and as adults, we can revisit and revise what was done or not done. This may be painful and it may be frightening, but if we want to live a complete and powerful adulthood, this must be done.
Otherwise, we are simply wounded children living in an adult body. We see the world and other people through a veil of pain and confusion and cannot possibly see them as they really are. Unless the wounds of the damaged childhood are healed, and its demands for emotional growth are met, we may find that this aspect of the personality tends to dominate and wreak havoc in our lives.
Many aspects of emotional health and strength depend on a strong beginning. I saw a bumper sticker on a car, saying “It’s never too late to have a happy childhood.” So true. If necessary you can become your own parent, you can give yourself the gift of your own inner tuition.
HOMECOMING: John Bradshaw
GROWING UP AGAIN: Jean Illsley Clarke