Were you the mature child in school who went out of their way to apply themselves? With traumatic childhood experiences, one learns to grow up far too quickly. The essential phases of childhood and teenage years get skipped, and we miss out on character building and exploring.
What used to be our proudest feature turns around to mental health struggles in our adult years.
“The worst trick a childhood anxiety disorder pulls is, you spend your early years being applauded for being so much more mature than your peers, because you aren’t disruptive, you don’t want any kind of attention, you don’t express yourself, you keep yourself to yourself – this makes you a pleasure to have in class, etc – and you start to believe it’s virtue. But you’re actually way behind your peers in normal social development, and who knows if you can ever catch up.”
The good news is, you can make up for lost time! The key is to be open to vulnerability and complete honesty. Can you freely admit your character defects and the way your worldview is affected by what happened to you? I wrote about the inherent defensiveness of adult children here, but mostly we will have to confront the ambivalence of our own feelings.
Not having learnt this as children, can we accept our negative feelings without denial, rejection or an escape into addiction?
Looking for character defects looks like this:
Up until my university years, I was a teachers pet. I took more extracurricular’s than Hermione to stay away from home and feel smart. This translated into an unhealthy need to compete with my peers to feel superior, as I had learned to fight for my parents affection with my siblings at home. Also, I fell into the pattern of making friends with the class bully. Having to earn love felt familiar to me, and without the work of internal reflection, I sought out relationships and jobs that reminded me of this dynamic I felt safe in.
Finding out where you were victimised is dangerous if you never move beyond it.
“Playing the victim role: Manipulator portrays him- or herself as a victim of circumstance or of someone else’s behavior in order to gain pity, sympathy or evoke compassion and thereby get something from another. Caring and conscientious people cannot stand to see anyone suffering and the manipulator often finds it easy to play on sympathy to get cooperation.”
― George K. Simon Jr
But needing everyone to be happy can quickly lead to manipulation on the victim’s side!
If any of this rings true to you, the go-to bible is ‘The Drama of the Gifted Child’ by Alice Miller.
“If it is very painful for you to criticize your friends, you are safe in doing it. But if you take the slightest pleasure in it, that is the time to hold your tongue.”
Without external and professional help to process our trauma, we will never be free to experience our feelings. We have to admit to ourselves that our past is directly impacting our present actions, and be accountable for them.
Can we allow ourselves to be human, to fail, feel miserable and disappoint others?
Let’s close this off with another quote by Alice Miller:
“Where there had been only fearful emptiness or equally frightening grandiose fantasies, an unexpected wealth of vitality is now discovered. This is not a homecoming, since this home has never before existed. It is the creation of home.”