Look around. We’re not living in the realm of the well-adjusted.
Do you know what really sucks about recovering yourself from childhood trauma? All the realizations. There are a lot of painful truths that bubble up. When you let yourself fully slide down the rabbit hole, when you follow all the threads, you realize that a lot of failures have led you to where you are. Specifically, the failure of your parents to give you the emotional and mental groundwork you need to thrive.
That’s apparent when you look around at the world. Getting a foothold and a second to breathe between your own waves of pain, you see the patterns in many other people around you, too.
Because the truth is that most of us are traumatized. Most of us are moving through this life hurting and confused, still wounded from things that were done to us when we were too young to understand what was happening. It’s a tough place to be. Once you see this truth, look around at the rest of the world.
When does the trauma stop? Because it hasn’t stopped yet. Look around. The world wouldn’t look the way it does if more of us had been raised by healthy, well-adjusted parents who had the best intentions in mind for their children, their families, and their communities.
When you look at the big picture, the world isn’t getting *that much* better. If anything, it’s staying pretty much the same — which is alarming all on its own. In 200+ years, the greatest advancement we’ve gotten is adding more tax-paying citizens to the workforce. Everything else? All those old, rotten elements of the past we deplore? They all exist still, only the shape has changed.
Climate change continues, accelerated and unfettered. The gap between those with and those without gets wider by the day. Gun crime? It’s been relatively unchanged in America since the turn of the century (where they still had gun fights and school massacres). The system strips more and more individual rights with every election cycle. The world isn’t getting better for those living in it on the ground, away from the ivory towers.
They call each other names. They whip out personal insults and grievances. Some individuals get so angry that they “doxx” others (meaning to get them outed publicly and even fired from their jobs).
It gets vicious, and one can’t help but see the drastic emotional immaturity in all of this behavior. None of this visceral anger and explosive reaction is normal in someone who is emotionally mature, someone who understands their emotions and how they affect the opportunities they want to create.
Our parents have to take a hit for this. The stage for our emotional well-being is set in childhood, with the lessons we get from our parents. We watch how emotionally mature they are, and we copy that maturity (or immaturity) in ourselves. If they send us out into the world without the right emotional tools, we repeat poor life behaviors just like them.
Part of the parental responsibility of protecting your child is readying the environment for them. You don’t just stand next to them and beat away the monsters. You also have to prepare for the environments they’re going to be in. Protect them from the dangers that exist by getting rid of those dangers before the child exists.
Our parents didn’t do that. Look around. If you’re a woman, the world is dangerous in every single place you go. Not your bedroom, the bathroom, a classroom, a bus, or a library. As a woman in 2022, you don’t even own your own body. For minorities living in countries like America, it’s much the same.
The world is rarely made radically better before a new generation comes in. Our parents do little to make drastic changes to this world before they birth us to reaffirm their own greatness and importance to themselves (and other parents like them). They shoot first and ask questions later.
Our parents didn’t protect us by making the world a better place. In fact, in many respects, they made it worse and then left us to struggle with it. Of course, with none of the support that we need in order to be successful and healthy as human beings.
Then there’s the support to consider. What supports exist in this world for most of us? If it all goes wrong, if you lost everything tomorrow, would there be a network of people there ready to scoop you up and put it right? Most of us are wanderers with no village these days.
We lack the social supports we need, the mental and emotional health support we need, and the physical health support. Financial, material, you name it. It’s not there. The majority of us grow up in lack and we exist in a constant state of lack thereafter. There’s little support like that in the modern world.
That’s the basis for empathy. As your emotional intelligence grows, so does your empathy for the experience of other people.
Would you describe the current world we live in as a genuinely empathetic one? As a society, do we work hard to take care of the weakest among us? Do we hold them in softness? Or do we judge them? Do we close our hearts to them and make a laundry list of excuses why they are not worthy of help?
If one looked at the rates of homelessness in the United States, certain answers arise. Those answers become even more apparent when you watch videos of Kensington Avenue and see the pain and the hopelessness there.
An empathetic society isn’t one that casts out those in the greatest hurt. They don’t judge them, condemn them, or punish them. Even when that person has made wrong choices, empathy is held. Compassion is prioritized.
Now, look at your own relationships. Have you partnered with a lot of abusers? A lot of people who put you down? Made you small? Would they have done that if they had a wellspring of empathy to relate to you from? If they had been emotionally intelligent, what could that relationship have been?
What would this world look like, do you think, if more of us had been trained to see the “lowest” among us with an intimate understanding of how emotional health works? Would we struggle so greatly with our own emotions — our relationships, our careers — if our parents had taught us emotional intelligence tools? Probably not.
Again, the foundation of our communication skills is set in childhood. We learn how to communicate our feelings and our needs to our parents, who then teach us what to expect based on those responses.
Consider the child who is never given the freedom to develop in this arena. The child who is yelled at when they express emotion are told “not to cry” or that they’re being babies for having feelings they react to. Now, consider the child who is punished for their emotions. The child is punished when they ask for something or set boundaries with a parent.
Who does this child grow into? It’s an important question to consider.
Does that punished child become a well-adjusted adult who communicates their feelings openly and with ease? Are they are a person who sets boundaries? Are they a person so angry at the denial of their parents that they go the extra distance to deny and diminish the boundaries of others?
It’s the flip of a coin. Either way, adults who don’t communicate their needs and emotions healthily are usually adults who were punished or gaslighted as children. Peel the layers back and you find someone whose needs were never met. Who can deny the role of the parent in making people who roam the world hurt themselves and others?
Partially, this comes down to education. Critical thinking is not a skill that is prioritized in curriculums that daily pull funding from things like ethics, social studies, history, music, and art. This complex skill is not a priority when teachers can’t even feed their families.
But what’s behind the development of these curriculums? The laws that deprive educators? Twisted people, were instilled with outdated understandings, values, and dogma by parents who were emotionally immature and devoid of a wider social empathy. How were they made? They didn’t come out of a cabbage path.
Now bring yourself back home. If schools aren’t doing the work of teaching critical thinking skills, then surely the parents are? All parents would want their child to have the ability to sus-out the truth for themselves…no?
Parents aren’t stepping in. Critical thinking skills are not going up. Not Gen X, not Millennials, and certainly not Gen Z.
We’re not leaning into questioning ourselves. The majority of us don’t question what we’re told by friends or enemies, family or our bosses, celebrities, and politicians who hold sway over their personality cults.
Increasingly, we are becoming a society that questions nothing. We play along with what we’re sold and move emotionally at any commercial whim. Parents aren’t breaking that cycle. Because they don’t know how to, they are ignorant of the realities, or they don’t want to. The truth is in the patterns.
Why wouldn’t a parent teach their child this method of self-protection? Why wouldn’t they want them to question what they’re told? Well, blind obedience is easier for a parent than autonomy.
This can create a blind allegiance pattern, which we then see playing out in the blind allegiance of millions to their favorite politicians, celebrities, and athletes. All of this is reinforced by childhood values, too. Break it down. We are taught to “love our parents no matter what”. We are also told we must defend them no matter what.
This validates and vindicates everything they say because they are mommy and daddy is always right. No person should have such unquestionable power. We are all human, all able to make mistakes. We should be accountable for those mistakes and not bury our heads in delusion out of preference for comfort.
All of that is going to require a major change, though. Not only on a personal level but on a societal level, too. We have to take the realities above and change the entire way we build parents and families.
Parents have to change not only the way they parent but *why* they parent. Instead of bringing children into the world to better their lives, they have to do it to better the condition of the world as a whole.
That’s a big ask because it means not seeing your child as a direct extension of yourself. It’s a big ask because it’s going to mean even bigger sacrifices and even harder work from you on a mental and emotional level. You’ve got to see your role as creating a piece of the future, not creating a source of unconditional love and validation for you as a parent.
Families have to change. What we expect from them, what we put into them, it all has to change. Start there, and you may just get a future that’s worth fighting for.