So tell us about your childhood

June 15, 2007

A couple of comments about my last post, this from ‘an elder’

I’m almost 60, and the dynamic you describe could have easily applied in my case, and for many of my contemporaries. …. It seems like there is a little too much stereotyping going on between the generations

This is perfectly true, and it is important to remember that the baby boomers were themselves products of their own parents but the argument that they distanced themselves from their children still stands and I think has a lot do with my generation’s antipathy towards them. And yes that is stereotyping but I’ve received a lot of pointless grief from family members, teachers, bosses and anyone else who saw fit over the years so it feels like a pretty safe one to make.

And this from Ran who points out that:

kids have been raised better and better throughout history, so our parents look bad to us, but compared to their parents, they were probably doing pretty good.

Alice Miller says that while this may be true it doesn’t undo the fact that our parents used a bad parenting pedagogy on us and that we need an opportunity to recover from it. She says that while we are saying these things about our parents we can’t begin to heal. So even if our parents were raised by the devil himself, feeling angry at our own treatment is still appropriate. To offer excuses merely prolongs the damaged state.

I’m not making a big deal about this because I think someone is trying to downplay my own situation (which isn’t bad at all by comparative standards). I’m making a big deal because we need to hear that it’s OK to feel angry about how we were treated as a child – as often as possible. I mean, even though I’ve just written what I think is a sound argument I can still hear the old voice in my head telling me that I have nothing to complain about and not to be so silly. It’s pretty hard to shut it up.

As for the reality of this, it’s pretty hard, I actually like my parents, if they ever read this stuff on my blog they’d be pretty sad and I actually feel sorry for them just thinking about it so it’s confusing to live with to say the least.


I’ve branched out into different areas than Ran was talking about because I think it’s stuff that needs to be said but as for his take on each generation being better than the next I’d like to see more nuance in that. I have yet to read up on deMause but I’m pretty sure that severe trauma can set a generation back a bit. For instance, what about the two generations who went through successive world wars?

There’s a big difference between my generation and my grandparent’s, if we were to track that rate of change backwards I think we’d quickly get back to people who were completely incapable of raising children so I’m sure the wars made a difference. There are many traditions that refer to the seventh generation as being a significant one so I’m going to nominate that as the period of time it takes for trauma to wear off.

It’s undoubtedly more complicated than that though because the implication is that the human race could get back to being perfectly well adjusted in the space of seven generations and that just doesn’t sound right. It feels like there is something pushing us in the opposite direction from our natural inclination to improve so perhaps I might suggest a good versus evil situation contributing to a constant rise and fall in the quality of human behaviour and experience. It’s hardly an original idea but I like that it fits outside our culture’s myth of perpetual improvement.


One comment

  1. If you are truly interested in engaging all the generations into productive discussions, different types of questions might prove more helpful.

    such as:
    1) what do you value, what do you think is important about a particular issue?
    2) what do you believe is absolutely necessary to reach what you value?

    (for example I value individual liberty and believe that public respectful discussion is absolutely necessary to achieve this. In terms of the boomer situation, what do you value that the boomers do not? what do you believe is absolutely necessary that they may not? )

    Somehow these questions avoid the normal hot buttons and denials.

    Anger is a survival emotion designed to motivate us to initiate action. It is always valid to feel. It is our choice how to interpret those feelings and with anger decide what action to take that is in our best interests. (blame, resentment, etc cause neurochemical changes that reduce immune system function, so if you choose these do so knowing it impacts your physical makeup negatively. )

    Posted by: judi | 06/15/2007

    I just wanted to say that I despise the paradigm espoused in Judi’s comment. Productive discussions? Avoiding hot buttons? Choosing how to interpret feelings in our best interests? Know that if we somehow choose blame/resentment it impacts our physical makeup negatively? Excuse me just a moment, I think I may need to vomit.

    Posted by: Devin | 06/15/2007

    Ncie to hear from you Devin. Derrick Jensen does say we spend our twenties vomiting up the experience of our childhood so be my guest.

    Judi, Your response is exactly what I am talking about, it comes over as an older person trying to deny a younger persons hurt – just in a very subtle way.

    My main point was that we have to BEGIN with acknowledging that hurt before any other work can be done. Not until the hurt is properly remembered, acknowledged and dealt with, can we move on to repairing relationships and forgiveness (which I totally agree are inportant things to do.

    As for impacting our phyisical make up, if we take the extreme cases of child-abuse then we come across the issue of body memory where adults literally still feel the pain of their childhood experience and where physical symptoms for which doctors can find no physical cause often manifest.

    As for the more milder form that I experienced, I can see it in the way my body is often hunched or tensed and in the way I don’t seem to have a lot of energy. I really don’t want to have to deal with any of it but now that I understand it I feel quite annoyed when older people do anything that attempts to deny my own trauma. I would also encourage Devin’s very healthy response to this situation.

    Obviously I don’t know you from a bar of soap Judi but when someone does this I assume they must be a person who is still denying their own hurts – and I would encourage them to understand that they didn’t deserve any of the injustices of their childhood that were laid on them – no matter how small.

    Posted by: Aaron | 06/16/2007

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