I find it incredibly interesting to behold, probably becuase so many of my friends now have children… Children who are told that they are clever and intelligent tend to excel at school… Children who are told they are brilliant students also do tend to do well and excel at school… Often, subsequent studies that you can discover indicate that they are more likely to be considered successful in life…
of course, that last bit is open to conjecture and opinion and so on, though I think you know what I mean here.
Of course then, on the flipside… Children that are told they are not very clever or intelligent, do tend to cleverly live up to those expectations as well… How many children have been told they are not as clever, intelligent, taltented, gifted (etc) as their sibling?
I really have something to get off my chest today… I have been rather well tempered on the blog for the last week or so… Let me explain…
I am thinking about the lives of the younger adults and children at the Westboro Baptist Church… What were they told as children… How were they told it?
Did you see those guys with their anti-gay protest at the Oscars?
The brilliant Sean Penn in his pseech, ever so eloquently expressed himself about the anti-gay protestors at this years Oscars… A reporter asked Penn what he would say if he had a chance to talk to those protesters, here is what he said:
“I’d tell them to turn in their hate card and find their better self, you know. I think that these are largely taught limitations and ignorances,” and he went on to say… “It’s very sad in a way, because it’s a demonstration of such emotional cowardice to be so afraid to be extending the same rights to a fellow man as you would want for yourself.”
I agree with Penn about the sadness of people who allow their worst selves to keep them trapped in a pit of hatred… When we look at the self-fulfilling impact of our parents teachings and beliefs about who we are, then it is a sad day for how those children and young adults from the Westboro church are destined to experience life.
I also think Sean Penn was right about the inherent emotional cowardice, because if only these people could summon up some courage and bravery, perhaps the act of such elevation would bring them great joy and maybe even allow them to celebrate the rights of all human beings, no?
The resentment these protestors seem to carry around with them is toxic… So much of my therapeutic work is spending time helping people let go of resentments that are eating them up… So that they can have move forward to experience nourishing and satisfying human relationships.
In therapy, people sometimes need to stop dredging up perceived failings of our parents, be free of our spouse’s painful distance, forgive our children for the inevitable mistakes they have made as they’ve grown up… Is that not really the only way to repair a relationship and to experience the pleasure of loving and living?
What life have those children got in store for them? One filled with hate, war and fighting… Which surely is not something that should be commonplace…
Which raises some interesting questions for us all to ask ourselves, in my opinion… What dominated the words you were told when you were growing up? How do you think that affected you?
I suppose that naturally leads to you having to look at and ask yourself… When you look at those influential in your life today… What are you being told today? In all forms of communication… Who is telling you? The of course, what are you going to do about it?
Ok… Tomorrow, I am jumping in to rescue someone that everyone in the UK seems to dislike right now… I am championing a person that most seem to dislike… Hmmm… My balls are going on the line somewhat…
I run the very popular (22,000 visitors and rising) language learning website: http://www.joinmartin.wordpress.com. Every day, I receive emails from people telling me they have been inspired- by my blog and other things in their lives- to give learning a language a go. These people go on to tell me that they have avoided following their language learning dreams until now because they were told they weren’t good at languages by their school teachers. Some people who email me have escaped such negative messages but they have still avoided following their language learning dreams. Why? Because they had been told or somehow got the idea that learning a language took years, cost a fortune and required hours of effort.
Now before I’m set upon by the union for traditional linguists (believe me, it happens) I should point out that learning is about investing in yourself and there’s a lot of hard work involved and no quick fix. All I’m saying is- based on what people have told me- many people put off learning a language not because they’ve had a go and not done well at it but because someone once told them they wouldn’t be very good at it.
Now, old Bandler would probably say that these things that are holding people back from giving language learning a try are just beliefs people have picked up and ascribed to themselves. Ideas they have entertained for too long. The personality is in a constant state of flux but each of us seem so sure of what we are and what we are not. So sure of what we can do and what we cannot do.
Join Martin’s parent the “Beyond The Question Learning Network” launches next month. It’s dedicated to helping people to go beyond their perceived limitations and learn a new skill or try something new. As part of the BTQ network, I’m launching The Maths Blog to finally slay an old demon and improve my skill with numbers.
What we’re told when we are young can have a profound impact on us. When I was very young, I experienced a terrible period where I was subjected to constant, unprovoked, malicious emotional assaults from those who were supposed to be charged with the protection of my education. I was told on a regular basis that I was disgusting, wrong as a person, different in a negative sense, ugly, unattractive, less than the other children and pretty much worthless. I was made to feel terrible about myself. I was very unhappy and lashed out against what was happening with tears and tantrums. I was made to feel that nobody would ever find me attractive and that I would most likely die alone.
Now, the version of me that sits here typing this would have destroyed the people who were trying to give me these ideas about myself. But I was very young and I had no idea how strong I was or could be. I spent most of that time terrified. I even walked out of the school and marched up the road. Anything was better than that place. Now, a child walking out of a school should cause an alert and it does these days but that school just laughed about the incident and, eventually, sent my sister after me.
Eventually, I couldn’t take it anymore. The only way to deal with what was happening was to take some of those negative ideas and make them my own ideas about myself. I made the choice. Nobody can make you feel bad without your consent. I chose to allow those negative beliefs in. I invited the monsters in.
Did those beliefs stay with me when I moved on from that place? Yes they did. Were they the dominant force in my thinking? Oddly, no they were not. But they lingered. They say an insult only has power if you believe that some part of it might be true. I’d be called ugly or unattractive and I’d entertain those ideas. Even negative beliefs are a form of certainty and getting rid of beliefs does through one into a frightening realm of uncertainty so people do cling to beliefs- even if they happen to be negative ones. Mind you, I didn’t so much cling to my negative beliefs as they clinged to me.
In 1997, the tipping point came. I declared war on my negative beliefs about myself. Some of the beliefs had clung on so deeply that it caused me physical pain to remove them. But remove them I did. One by one.
Sometimes, even now- when the nights are dark and the cold wind blows- I worry that those negative beliefs might be based on truth. What if I am unattractive? I mean, on the face of it, that belief makes no sense. I’ve dated and had relationships. I went on a dating website and the messages were in the hundreds. Ok, I’m no Brad Pitt but there has to be something there or I’d never have got anywhere with women.
A lot of these negative beliefs about myself that I picked up tap into my biggest fears about how my life might turn out and that is what gives them their power. But the negative beliefs themselves are the cause of their own undoing. I entertained the idea that I would spend most of my life on my own. So I got used to the idea. I became more comfortable in my own skin and with my own company and this actually helped me to become a more confident person. I enjoy the company of others and like it but I don’t necessarily need it.
A wonderful woman called Kate fell in love with me and I found it difficult to let her love in because I allowed myself to fall back on and entertain the idea that nobody would feel that way about me. I’m even surprised to the point of amazement when anyone calls me “sexy” (I quite like it though so, if there are any women out there who fancy calling me sexy….).
To be fair, that issue isn’t so much about negative beliefs as my being hurt in past relationships. I got hurt and did the thing that came naturally to me: I surrounded my heart with a defence force the size of the UN’s. Kate tells me it really is time I let go of a lot of the nonsense ideas I have about myself. I’m not perfect by any means but, according to her, I don’t deserve to feel bad about myself and I’ve done so much to make a positive difference to other people that I really ought to be positive about myself.
I’ve come so far and achieved so many wonderful things and life has been, for the most part, amazing. The people who told me I’d never amount to anything were wrong. There thoughts and ideas have not informed or controlled my life. They have been with me as nagging irritations (like flea bites) but as nothing more. I think the fact that I have a real problem with authority might have helped me attack and remove my negative beliefs about myself. But I’m by no means a unique case and I think anyone can cast off negative beliefs about themselves.
We are not saints and the darkness is written into us as much as the light but those who seek to do no harm to others should not seek to harm themselves.