Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Childhood Trauma: Failure

by John Boodhansingh of Zero Mindfulness

Picture This:

You have hopes and dreams and aspirations for your newborn child. You make assumptions about how he is going to be. One of these is that he’s going to do well in school.

Then one day some years later your child comes home with a failure notice. He’s shaken up because, naturally, just the suggestion that one is a failure is troublesome. But it’s the first time, so, put off though you are, you simply tell him he has to focus harder.

Then the report card comes home and there’s a big ol’ “F”.

“You’re grounded.”

As school progresses and with regular rounds of failure notices and “F’s”, parental hellfire becomes common place. Your kid is only 8 or 10 or 12 years old, but, damn it, he’s a failure and needs to be punished. Why the hell isn’t he like the other kids?

With each new suggestion or case-in-point of failure come more groundings. These groundings may evolve into spankings or God-only-knows what other kinds of abuses.

He may be a child, but he’s a failure. No one wants a failure.

And he knows he’d better not cry, either, because crying is what pussies do.

Trauma is piled on trauma is piled on trauma.

Does it hurt you to picture this?

If so, then I’ve accomplished my goal. People need to understand the horrors they’ve been dumping on their children since time untold.

This story hurts me, too. Failure trauma has been a major theme in my life. It certainly isn’t fun to revisit, but it takes someone who’s been there and is willing to face it to bring it to the light for everyone else who plays a role in the same. Otherwise nothing heals and the tragedy perpetuates.

When “Unconditional Love” Speaks, the Child Listens.

A child knows nothing but what the external world tells him. He’s gullible, naïve, impressionable, innocent—thoroughly dependent upon the words and actions of others to determine what he should think, say, and do and to define who he is.

This is particularly true of his parents. To him, no matter what the circumstances of his life experience, parents are to a child the perceived male and female personifications of unconditional love. Therefore, when “unconditional love” speaks or acts, the child listens, the child learns.

Getting back to schooling, then… There might be unease within the child when he’s handed his first “F”. But it’s not too big of a deal until “unconditional love”—i.e.: mom and dad—have their say. They determine what so-called failure really is.

They could say: It’s okay, kid. You’ve done well in other classes. You may be able to do better in this subject but even if you can’t do better I still love you and accept you. Not everyone learns at the same speed and some things are just more difficult for some kids, even grown-ups, because they don’t have an interest. It’s hard to learn what you don’t like.

And, contrary to what seems popular unspoken belief, although the kid is only 5 or 7 or 11, he would get it. He might be young, but hasn’t he gotten everything else?

Yes, he has. But unfortunately, such kind words are not what arise. Instead the child hears: An “F”? What’s the matter with you? You play too many video games. No video games until you get your grades up! I want to see you studying an extra hour every night. I’m going to time you.

Punishment could even involve physical abuse. Oh, but it’s just a spanking. It’s not like I punched the kid in the eye.

Folks who find yourself thinking, saying, and doing such things—wake up! You are striking your child! He comes home from school with the validity of his life in question, wanting nothing more than to be told there's been a mistake... And you slap him and tell him he's a bad kid.

The school has said: Your child appears to us to be a failure. If you agree, please sign this slip to certify that, yes, your child is, in fact, a failure. And so not only does the slip get signed—which is to say that mother and father of “unconditional love” have just acknowledged in written form that their child is most assuredly a failure, is dumb, is less than—but then mother and father of “unconditional love” drive the point home even further by taking away video games for two months and pulling out the belt.

At least temporarily, forget kindness and forget tutoring. The reaction is anger and punishment, instead, as if a kid who’s spending his life in emotional torment with a failure mentality is going to have any drive to do more math problems or show a greater interest in history.

All he wants is escape… Which is another way of saying he’s going to play even more video games or watch more TV or eat more junk food or, later on, get hooked on cigarettes and alcohol to cope with the cumulative stress. Math and history will be resented and rejected to the utmost, for now they’re associated with soul-crushing pain and suffering.

The Failures Who Fail Without Failing

Beyond the perceived failures as discussed above, there also exist the supposed failures who’d received “A’s” through the whole of their whole education.

These are the kids whose parents couldn’t even accept a “B”. For these kids’ parents are such hard-asses that, in their minds, even to get a “B” is essentially to get an “F”.

While trauma for these ones isn’t typically as bad as it is for the ones receiving “F’s”, I’ve no doubt there’s still trauma to be found.

Although "The System" itself may rain down accolades and scholarships on these children, because of the deriding ways of mom and pop “unconditional love,” the kids believe themselves to already be failures or near failures-in-the-making. This group pushes so damn hard to succeed, and may well manage to do so at least intellectually, but their effort and success are merely a means to both deny their failure self-perception and to attain their parent’s approval.

Parents: Please Take a Long, Hard Look at This Situation

If you are a parent, what I’d like you to first do is notice the hopes and aspirations and assumptions and such you may have of your child (or children). Notice where they come from. Notice that although they may exist within a “grown-up’s” mind, their original source is “out there” somewhere. Meaning: All these belief and behavioral “rights” and “wrongs” have been picked up not via inner-knowing but from culture, from TV, from parents and grandparents, from government recommendations, from religions, and so forth.

They are all fabricated shoulds and shouldn’ts. My child should be smart. My child shouldn’t make me unhappy. My child should do what I say. My child should be slapped if he gets poor grades. And on and on, ad infinitum.

So just first notice this: that a parent’s thoughts, words, and behavior toward a child are typically based on unquestioned external ideas which, too often, drive reactive punishment when the “shoulds” and “shouldn’ts” aren’t appeased.

Secondly, parents, I’d like you to contemplate your own childhood experience. Because, plain and simple, you pass on to your child whatever traumatic “unfinished business” you carry (conscious or not) that you’d absorbed from your own parents when you were a child.

If your kid is coming home from school with “F’s” and you hurt him rather than expressing love (you’re allowed “tough love” but anger, punishment, and abuse is a very different story), it means there’s something you need to work out from your own childhood. Your child is just a mirror you.

Deep, deep down in those places you’ve been avoiding, do you believe yourself to be a failure? Were you taught by your parents that degradation and abuse are adequate “preventative measures” for poor grades? How about the anger that arises every time your child brings a new failure notice home? What—or whom—are you really getting angry at?

Keep in mind that you cannot hurt another unless you are hurt yourself. Equally so, you cannot love another if you do not first love yourself. There is no love in the harboring and creation of trauma.

The System Perpetuates the Hell That Is Duality

Now I’d like you to notice something else.

Notice that The System is about the perpetuation of two things: uniformity and duality (which themselves perpetuate pain and suffering).

Kids go to school and they’re all expected to be like everyone else their age. If they fall behind, they are “failures.”

What’s wrong with you? Why can’t you be smart like everyone else? Why can’t you just fit in? Why do you have to be such a problem? Why do you have to ask questions the teachers can't answer? Why? Why? Why?

Then high school comes toward it’s close and the SAT’s come about. What are the SAT’s, or Scholastic Aptitude Tests? They're standardized tests wholly based on intellectual mind function (to hell with the unlimited-capacity 90% of the right brain hemisphere which works in abstraction) that are meant to determine where a student fits into the square, "One Right Way," consumerist world culture.

In other words, as the student comes to the end of 12 years of schooling, The System effectively tells the student and potential future educators whether he is smart or stupid. And the kids and parents go right along with it like it’s the God’s honest truth.

Even worse is it in China with their “gaokao,” or college entrance exam—a test which carries so much weight toward the passing or failing of an individual, toward whether one will be forced to become either a garbage man or a corporate executive, that stress-driven suicide is not uncommon among the students while still in preparation for the test.

But whether here or over there, our schooling system (and most all of our society, really) is one where there are always people who will “come up short,” who are “not good enough,” who are “less than.” It is a system wherein there are always people who will come to believe they are irredeemable failures and thus live their whole lives with such a despairing attitude.

Hurt and Healing

I imagine it’s evident to you by this point that failure, even potential failure, can and does easily become demoralizing at best and thoroughly traumatizing at worst.

When this programming gets into the mind, when the energy of the physical and emotional hurt lodges itself in the body, it creates nothing short of a life of regular nightmares—only there’s no need to go to sleep to experience them.

Even worse is that, because the trauma is subconscious, the everyday words and actions of a failure-mentality individual become charged for disaster—without the individual ever realizing hurt is coming until that hurt has already come.

This struggle will persist for a whole lifetime if the issue isn’t worked out.

As I've seen through my own experience: Life generally amounts to naught more than an interminable repetition of unintended self-sabotage and despairing self-destruction. Nothing seems deserved nor worth trying for because failure is always “guaranteed.” If the attainment of something (relationship, award, etc.) is sought after, chances are exceedingly high that, just prior to attainment, all that was built up will inadvertently be devastated and feelings of self and other will be hurt, often times quite severely.

Folks, this failure-focused culture is one ship we have to turn around. Not for just a few kids but for everyone. Everyone is either affected indirectly by those who struggle with the failure mentality and experience or directly since they carry it within themselves; the former of which includes all of us and the latter of which constitutes an enormous number of people though most are living the struggle in unawareness of what it really is.

With that, I offer you 6 solutions:
  1. If you are a parent, examine and heal your own childhood trauma. (We cannot pass on hurt that we don’t carry within ourselves.) Find methods that work for you: meditation, journaling, energy healing, whatever. There are many ways. We all hurt and we all need healing.

  2. If an adult, work with a counselor/therapist to clear out the root issues. If you are a parent and see the issues in any of your children, although a counselor/therapist may be useful, to start perhaps you could find a way to gently address the failure issue with him or her. Just be mindful of the nature of children: they are mirrors of their parents. If you find they close down every time you bring up the subject, perhaps they are just showing you a seemingly unrelated unhealed side of your own self (ex: believes a father: It’s not manly to talk about my feelings, or I refuse to admit that I, too, failed some classes.).

  3. Support schooling systems that aid the holistic development of children, such as Montessori and Waldorf styles. Part of the reason we hurt so bad is because the first 18 to 22 years or so of our lives are basically forced rote intellectual learning that separates the "passers" from the "failures." Furthermore, abstraction, creativity, and emotion are the majority of our inherent nature. To repress personality and "free energy" is to create great hurt.

  4. As Chip and Dan Heath repeatedly say in their book: Switch: How To Change Things When Change Is Hard, we need to learn to focus on the “bright spots.” This is to say that rather than focusing on short comings—which forces mindsets and situations into deep negativity—we focus on the positive aspects instead, like the three “A’s” that were earned along with the “F”. From there we’d work to understand what made the “A’s” possible and apply those same techniques to the more troublesome areas.

  5. Our schooling systems need to begin teaching the truth through teachers who can actually teach (denying positions to those who are, for example, football coaches looking for a few extra bucks). Always bear in mind that failure notices and “F's” (and any other lower grades) could imply utter disinterest or a lousy teacher, not stupidity or laziness. We must learn to stop blaming the student when the error is within The System. Similarly, The System teaches us a lot of garbage—deliberate lies, misinformation, etc.—as usual, anything that will perpetuate "Slavonomics". As our individual consciousnesses are linked to the collective consciousness which holds all information from past, present, and future, we know inherently, though rarely consciously, a lie when we hear it. Naturally, such nonsense is difficult if not impossible for us to assimilate; the ones who do assimilate it well must create and maintain the greatest yet false "cognitive bullshit receptors."

  6. Love your children. Treat them how you want to be treated yourself. It shouldn't take a martyr to recognize that it’s profoundly painful to be on the receiving end of verbal denigration or physical abuse. I can only imagine that for most parents it isn’t exactly enjoyable to be performing the acts. It’s not an accident you feel terrible while in the midst of hurting your kids.

A Parting Prayer

I Hope this writing and the suggested paths to resolution help you both in recognizing these failure-related difficulties in your own life and the lives of your kids and in making headway toward healing.

My intention for you as I close this, now, is that any failure-related struggles affecting you and your children may be healed with ease and Grace.

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