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fear-1Quietly sitting in a meditation group, a question was posed by one of the members. The question asked what significance fear has in our lives. At first it seemed like a simple question but upon deeper consideration I realized that it held tremendous influence over the way I and others felt. This led me to attempt to, first, define the feeling.

Most sources defined fear as sensing and reacting to danger. But now this led me to search out the meaning of danger. The earliest meaning I could find comes from the 12th century French dangier meaning “the power to harm, mastery, authority and control.” So, essentially, fear and perceived danger are a sense or belief that we are somehow out of control or in a Fight or flightposition where life and others have power over us. Why would being out of control evoke such an intense feeling? Granted, fear is a primal feeling and involuntary reaction innate to our animal natures. But that only relates to the immediate and impending physical consequences of survival. We as humans know fear as having a much wider and more powerful influence over our daily lives. So, where then does this power come from? I believe that it is trained into us beginning with our earliest ability to think.

As children and before our metal capabilities to think are developed, we have not yet developed the discrimination between self and other so what we feel deprived of or  assailed by only seems to register as a feeling of pain or discomfort to which we simply react by crying. At that point the fear response, other than concerning our primal survival, has not yet formed as we need to have the experience of pain or discomfort, pair it with the perception of a threat coming from outside of ourselves and then create a retrievable memory of it. Memory is solely a function of the mind existing in linear time. Until we develop the capacity to think, that dimension has no relevance to us yet and hence no memory. Yet, at that age, having the experience of pain or deprivation creates a future trigger response in our animal natures to its next occurrence. Once the mind is formed and time is perceived, fear can now have a solid perceivable reference point for which it can generate feelings about future circumstances. So what are we actually saying? That animals gain an instinctual bad-feelingfear through the experience of immediate circumstances and that humans gain this too but we also develop ability to project far into the future and create fear based on “wouldn’t it be horrible if” through the power of our minds. In short, animals can feel fear in immediate circumstances but we humans have also learned to project it way into the future.

Our next question, logically, must be “how and why would we learn to do this?” I believe that our tendency to do this comes from being trained to believe that we must control ourselves and our circumstances if we are first, to stay “safe,” and, second, keep our personal world in a static state through the belief that circumstances can remain unchangeable. Even in light of the fact that we honestly know that security is an illusion, and this is still an unconscious knowing for most of us, we still consciously hold an irrational belief that the world can be animal masteryheld in a static state and that we should be able to control the rest of the world and others in it. But now, we have to ask “where did this irrational belief come from?” The answer is that we’ve been taught by our parents to expect to be able to control our circumstances. As children, how would have been able to know any different? At that age, we simply accept it as fact because our parents tell us it is so. What’s sad and disconcerting is that many of our parents still believe that this is so as they were taught to believe this by their parents.

At this point you’re probably asking yourself what fear has to do with eclipsing the heart. Right? To understand this we must first recognize that the heart uses feelings and intuition as its medium of exchange for communication. We first feel and intuit and then thinking is used to put it in a comprehensible form we can recognize, explain, create a judgment about (preference) and then commit it to our memory. What we think is an afterthought. While feelings and intuition are innate to humans, thinking, or our mental facilities, are all learned. This occurs after we are born through our exposure to the physical world within the landscape of time (past, present and future). In other words, we come into this life with feeling and intuition fully in operation already but skill in thinking must be acquired and developed before it can be used.

Feeling and intuition, the heart’s non-descriptive form of bringing our attention to something, is forever delivering us urges and impulses that are neither comprehended nor explained until they are subjected to the separative discrimination of the mind. Feelings arise in a moving wave and intuition occurs in a flash. It is not until the mind springs into action that they become “solidified” as a judgment of preference specifying whether we’d like to approach or avoid the experience expressed by them.

strategy-1As our mental capacity develops more and more and our childhood physical world begins to take dominance over who we are and what we pay attention to, our feelings and intuition slowly become submerged under the monumental weight and emphasis on thinking. Thinking gradually becomes the strategic and dominant force determining virtually all the choices we make. When our mental functions change the channel to fear, it short circuits all of our considerations for how we choose to act…or not with “wouldn’t it be horrible if.” Our feelings and intuition no longer even have the opportunity to have an influence other than the fear generated by the mind through “wouldn’t it be horrible if.” In this way fear totally eclipses the heart. Other feelings and our intuition are still there but essentially crushed under the weight of our fear invoking mental gymnastics.

Granted, the fear that’s triggered by fight or flight encounters (innate animal survival instincts) is essentially unavoidable. But the fear that’s generated by our “wouldn’t it be horrible if” is something that can be reprogrammed. Remember, it’s only a mental perspective that has been trained into us. It can also be replaced by reprogramming ourselves to say and feel “wouldn’t it be great if.” All we have to do is consider the beneficial aspects of whatever circumstances we feel intimidated by. It’ll take work and time but in the long run the physical and emotional benefits far outweigh the tension, anxiety and stress triggered by the “wouldn’t it be horrible if.”

Indiana Jones-3As a culture we have become obsessed with “making a difference” in the lives of others Why? Is it written somewhere? Does our government demand it? Our religions? Our parents? It seems to exist as this powerfully nebulous undercurrent having the determining influence on how we value ourselves. Why? Where did it come from? There are a few points of development to look at. First, let’s take a look at where it might have come from.

To begin with, when we come into this world and as mammals we humans are the most dependent of our genus on our parents for our early survival. For a longer time than any other mammal we are totally dependent on them for our food, warmth and safety. To us, they’re gods. At that preverbal age and circumstance we know nothing and of no one else. We have no Childhood Obedience-2idea that there is any other choice for how we live our lives. In our considering parental training we must understand that this perception effectively trains us toward primarily looking outside of ourselves for support, direction, safety and whatever else we might need. Additionally, we do this unconsciously and as a reaction. We learn very quickly to develop an instinct that if we don’t respond in a way that is to our parents’ liking, they withhold their love, support and attention. Though we may not yet consciously have the ability to recognize the tradeoff we participate in, we most certainly have become trained into responding properly through a rudimentary form of classic conditioning. We do what our parents demand, we receive love, attention and inclusion. When we don’t, we are ignored, neglected or excluded. This basic social training 101 provides us with examples and “proof” that the external world determines if and how our needs are to be answered. This is the first experience that contributes to an eventual perspective validating our future belief that it is more important to attend the outer world than anything else that might be going on inside us.

Church obedience-1As we grow a little older, say three or four, and with our concentration now solidly on what goes on outside of our “jurisdiction,” another layer is added pointing us toward further paying attention to an external influence independent of what we feel or think. An unchallenged demand for our obedience to an external deity is added to our dependency on what is external through an indoctrination into a larger and wider authority; religion. So now, who and what are inside the home and who and what are outside the home both confirm our newly forming belief that who and what are outside of our control determines our wellbeing and self-image. Psychology calls this an external locus of control. That is; the belief that what is outside of our will and influence determines the fate of our existence. Contrarily, the belief that we control our own fate is called having an internal locus of control. Obviously, we can’t be totally one or the other. In the larger view our belief in whether our fate is determined by inner our outer influences can vary significantly depend on the circumstances and situations that we find ourselves in. For example, we develop a very strong belief that our physical movements are almost totally determined on how we direct the muscles of our body but the love and affection we receive is perceived as being dependent on the moods and movements of others in our outer world. So you see that we can have a mix of loci of control concerning who or what concerns our fate.

The reason I’m emphasizing this perspective is because if we don’t subsequently encounter enough experiences and influences realigning us with nature in which there generally exists a balance between our ability to control or be controlled, we grow into individuals who allow ourselves to become almost solely directed by those others whom we encounter in our daily activities. Our potential in our regaining this balance rests upon the training that we might receive from our parents nurturing the parts of us that will allow us to develop trust and confidence in the effectiveness of our own efforts. In the last fifty years this re-balancing influence has occurred less and less leaving us almost exclusively with the belief that the world Control-1determines our fate, or, with our having an external locus of control. There are a whole host of causes contributing and trending toward this perspective but I think it’s safe to say that the largest contributors are the pressures our parents face in their basic support of the family leaving them little or no time for actively investing in resurrecting our inner world of feeling and Self-Trust and the concurrent rise in media affirming that they have our better interests and highest welfare at heart and tacitly asserting that our guidance must rest with them.

There is one more layer over the previous two I’d like to discuss. On top of our training to direct all our attention to the external and being indoctrinated into aligning ourselves with prevailing Odd man outaltruistic perspectives under the threat of exclusion, we are also faced with the potential for a type of demeaning labeling intended to notify and include others in our exclusion if we don’t. This labeling is more common within the frameworks of metaphysics and religion rather than in any secular circles. Simply put, when we attend our own issues and interests over those whom our society deems needy, less fortunate or in need of assistance we are labeled as selfish. Unfortunately, where the word selfish was originally seen as simply indicating the direction of our attention, over the last half century our contemporary culture has gradually replaced its meaning with an undesirable and derogatory flavor and coloring.

So now we have three compelling influences encouraging if not demanding that our thoughts and feelings be almost totally focused on what is external; our parental training and qualitative bonding, our second layer of complimentary religious values and our third layer of potentially derogatory social labeling. In this light, is it really any surprise why we are so obsessed with what everyone else thinks and feels about us? This combination of factors is lethal to our having any control over our emotions and self-image. The effect that the external world has on our perceived value is overwhelming. It almost literally states that the assessment of our value is totally out of our hands. This seems truly ironic since someone else’s value is to be determined by us as we become adults ourselves.

Far afieldIt may seem that I’ve gone pretty far afield asserting how we’ve come to perceive that our personal control has become almost solely determined by our external world but I wanted to show how deeply our looking to the outside world for love, acceptance and approval is ingrained with us. Now, let’s take a look at only one of the results of our intensive training: our obsession with needing to “make a difference.”

Overloaded burroAt this point I think it’s easy to see how we can be saddled with such a desperate need to do so. We desperately want to think well of ourselves and are petrified of being labeled selfish and ostracized through the disapproval of others. So much so that now, when we take time to do for ourselves and invest in our own thoughts, feelings and welfare, that it generates feelings of guilt and fear that we’re depriving someone less fortunate of their due from us. This combination of factors is also responsible for generating feelings of our never feeling that we’re able to be or do enough. I think you can see why our advertising media has been able to have a field day with this aspect of our psyches.

Deep hole-1I think we can also see how deeply ingrained this message has been implanted into our psyches. So deeply, in fact, that many of us are blind to its effect on us and that we have gradually grown into accepting that self-determination is no longer a normal part of the human condition and temperament. Many of us have even gone so far as to assume that serving others must be our purpose for living in our current physical incarnation. Of course, our religious leaders gleefully accept and encourage our believing in this premise, especially since this perspective assures them of being able to direct our activities and resources.

So whom are we really making a difference for? Ourselves! Under the blind of doing for others we unconsciously feel that it fulfills the external world’s requirements of us. Why does it feel so good to do for others? Because we have been taught to believe that it fulfills and validates our exhibiting expected behavior earning us love, approval, acceptance and inclusion from the external world. Will it ever be enough? Of course not. How could it be? There are more people in the world than we could ever minister to the needs of.

Is “making a difference wrong?” Of course not. The point that I’m making is that our behavior has become so automatic, overly skewed and obsessed with the outside world that we have totally neglected to give our own feelings, thoughts and urges any consideration for fear of being labeled selfish and ostracized within our clans. Remember, in all life there always is a balance between inner and outer natures. Our contemporary child rearing and social training has effectively nullified the value and validity of our inner personal natures through applying the threat of excommunication, punishment and exile for our misbehavior and selfish attention.

shakespeareSo what to do? It all boils down to us asking ourselves one simple question in every encounter we have with every other person. Do I want to belong or do I want to express through choosing my own path? It takes courage to choose our own path and run against the grain risking exclusion. A deeper question might be, “Do I want personal growth or security?” This was the deeper meaning of Shakespeare’s questioning soliloquy, “To be or not to be.” Growth can be frightening. Security can be boring. We all end up struggling and attempting to strike a comfortable balance between the two. The more we let our training and social conditioning take precedence, the more we perceive life as having an external locus of control feeling safe and secure while also feeling trapped and bored. The more we let our own feelings, urges and intuition take precedence, or allow ourselves to be selfish, the more we perceive life as having an internal locus of control and feeling the excitement and freedom to express as we please.

Roberts rules of orderNo one who has followed the all the rules has ever had any significant effect on history except to perpetuate the status quo. The crux of these questions is that we must work toward what leads to a balance by either choosing to diminish an excess urge to conformity through forging our own path toward self-hood or choosing to diminish an attitude of anarchy through choosing a path of conforming to and sharing with our community. Our choices must work toward a balance between inner and outer perspectives. Neither extreme is sustainable. Any attempt at maintaining either extreme, conformity or anarchy, will end up drawing universal situations that will move toward restoring the natural balance. That’s simply the way of nature. Why not have the courage to give consideration to both by attempting to walk the middle path? Risk a little middle Path-1criticism and disapproval by acting in your own interest. Offer a little love and compassion even though you might be labeled as a wimp or weak. Keep an inner balance between you and the world. Remember, either extreme will eventually elicit a universal response anyway forcing us to adjust on the road ahead simply to reassert the natural balance.

Fence-Split Rail-1In this day and age with our population growing in leaps and bounds, we’re finding less and less space to be able to expand in. Some cultures find it easy to live in close quarters. Others of us, like those of us who have become acclimated to the wide open spaces of the western hemisphere, find close quarters and people who move too close to us, unnerving and sometimes even painful. For some of us, we may find it surprising that there is more to establishing personal boundaries than just deal with physical proximity. Because physical space is tangible and essentially visible, it is easy for most of us to understand why we might feel the pressure we feel and can easily comprehend what needs to be done to minimize its effects. However, the feeling that we may be encroached upon emotionally or intellectually includes much more than just the visible space we can see and feel. Since it is intangible, it is also much more difficult to navigate let alone to recognize that we are emotionally or intellectually being squeezed. In this article I’ll cover:

  • Boundaries operate from two perspectives,
  • Cultural Differences,
  • Family Dynamics,
  • What causes the necessity for personal boundaries and
  • Points to remember that will assist you in clarifying the limits to which you’d like to protect your self-determinism and comfort

Knight in armor-1Boundaries operate from two perspectives. In both tangible and intangible cases we do our best to establish boundaries or fences, if you will, to prevent encroachment. Generally, we think of these fences as keeping people out of “our space.” But these boundaries give us something more. They give us perceptual limits to know where our space ends thereby giving us our Girdle-1limits and permission as to how far our reach and responsibility might be allowed to extend. An analogy might be if we owned property that was tangent to another property owner and there were no land marks to tell us where our property ended and our neighbors’ began, we would have no way of knowing how much space we had to work with or what we were responsible for. But if a fence marked the dividing line between the two, we could easily have a feeling of what we had to work with and how far we could develop it. Our emotional boundaries work exactly the same way. They enable us to feel how far we can go while also telling us when our neighbor has stepped too far into our space. The difference between physical space and emotional space is that physical is established by traditional distancing by way of culture. Emotional “space” is established by the prevailing implementation of manners inherent in the culture and etiquette concerning self-determination.

Giri-2Cultural Differences: A major component to look at in establishing personal boundaries is that where we set our fences will be different for each person and their culture. For example, in a tangible format, southern European people are used to living in close quarters and in a hot climate. This gives an intensity to not only their rapport with us but tends to draw them in closer physical proximity to us when they are relating. Northern Europeans also live in close quarters but their climate is much cooler which also reflects in their proximity in creating more space between themselves and the people they are relating to. Hence, the perception that northern European people are more cool and “stand-offish” than southern.

Closetalker-1Generally, our physical boundary settings transfer to our emotional boundary settings as well. That is, we will find southern Europeans behaving in a more intimate manner with us than northern Europeans including much more flexible allowances when it comes to interpersonal manners. So emotionally we find northern Europeans to be cool, calm and reserved and with more rigid emotional guidelines while we find southern Europeans to be hot, animated and expressive with looser emotional guidelines. When they relate to each other the northern European will find the southern European agitated, pushy and invasive while the southern European will find the northern European elusive, withdrawn, rigid and secretive.

Personal space-1Family Dynamics. Since our country is such a melting pot of cultures, there is a tremendous variety in how people relate to each other. Our expected boundaries between us and others will be a reflection of how we perceived our family and its boundaries. It is in this way that we will approach others and consider ourselves considerate if we stay within our learned boundaries. Most of the time we don’t recognize differences with others until they encroach or evade. So, when things include someone outside the family structure, things often become a little dicey.

What causes the necessity for personal boundaries? We can easily understand the dynamics where physical boundaries might be involved, but suppose we are relating with someone who wants to emotionally direct our behavior for their own benefit. Their assumptions about how they expect us to behave may lead them to putting us in a social situation where we might feel shameful if we didn’t respond in a specific way. For example, if someone they know is having difficulty performing an activity or is unable to perform that activity, the person making the assumption about us may volunteer our services to their perceived person in need. Suppose that this is an activity we would rather not involve ourselves with but saying no would make us Female Dominance-1appear to be selfish in the eyes of others. This would make us feel that if we didn’t perform what we were offered for, our social standing would be diminished in the eyes of the person being “serviced” and surrounding individuals. The person offering our services either has no awareness that performing as such would be disagreeable to us or, in a more sinister way, they volunteered our services so they would not have to become obligated yet gain “credit” for finding someone the assistance. If we don’t speak up, we would find ourselves cornered and performing. Yet if we do, we look as if we are behaving selfishly.

There are many people in the world who are master craftsmen at manipulating us into performing in ways that will augment their social status and benefit while augmenting our responsiveness to their coercions through a form of emotional blackmail. Yet, there are also still people with whom we come in contact with that have no comprehension of the pressure they put us under to perform in the ways that they assume simply because in their family and culture it’s the way that they would have responded. We need to be aware that those who coerce us are CrushedCulture_Forbesaware that their coercions can be and most often are interpreted as innocent expectations based on their own culture. They play this game much like a double entendre provides an opportunity for a manipulator to “be excused” from blame simply because it’s possible that they acted innocently. Personal boundaries are necessary because of both scenarios; the innocent assumer and the crafty emotional manipulator.

Erecting personal boundaries has a lot to do with our self-perceived social image and the amount of Self-Trust and personal dignity we were allowed to develop as we were growing up. The more Self-Trust and dignity we were able to develop, the more likely it is that we will permit ourselves to set up strong personal boundaries. The less Self-Trust and dignity we were allowed to develop, the more likely it is that we won’t speak up and will have weak personal boundaries thereby finding ourselves performing the tasks assigned to us by the “assumers” and the emotional manipulators. So, what must we do and not do relative to establishing personal boundaries?

The following points will assist you in clarifying the limits to which you’d like to protect your self-determinism and comfort…the goal of setting personal boundaries.
Megaphone-LPoint #1 – We must learn to speak up even if we are put in a position of appearing cowardly, selfish or lacking compassion. The person who innocently assumes that we will act the way that they would will simply be surprised at our lack of conformity. The person who is attempting to emotionally manipulate us will really lay into us by emphasizing their perception of us as being selfish, cowardly and lacking of compassion relative to their comfort or preference. They will essentially threaten us with the potential conveyance of this perception to the individuals involved in the circumstance they are manipulating. This will trigger our acquiescence into action thereby preventing the need for conveyance. We must not give in. We must still refuse even in light of this threat. If we do give in, it will open us up to future manipulation by them and others just like them. The key with handling the manipulator is that once we get past their initial assault by sticking to our guns and not capitulating, they will most likely not use us again in this fashion for fear of being exposed for dishonest manipulation themselves. They know that if they push their perception too far, most people receiving it will sense something “fishy” going on and their cover will be eventually be blown. They will then simply move on to someone else whom they feel will be an easier touch. Remember, it’s getting past that initial assault that frees us. Once you’ve given in once it’s much harder to turn off the manipulation.

writing a list-1Point #2 – It’s extremely important that we have a clear understanding of what we want and what we don’t want. This way our erecting of personal boundaries will be solid and clear, especially, to us. Then, when someone contrives a situation that attempts to waffle our convictions and our fear of social disapproval, we can simply say, with certainty and comfort, I don’t feel comfortable doing that. You should know that it takes courage to offer a flat refusal. You are essentially calling the manipulator’s bluff and are forcing his or her hand. Many will launch into conveying your “unworthiness.” But you must remember that if you allow this to happen once there may be many more repeat scenarios. It’s better to endure one “besmirching” than to live through a whole series of them. Your best defense and support is a strong Self-Trust and respect. You can develop this easily through listening to your own feelings and intuition and respecting their validity…something many of us have been inadvertently programmed by our parents to disregard in our early childhood training.

Talk to the handPoint#3 – When we do say I don’t feel comfortable doing that, do not offer an explanation as to why! The manipulator is a master at turning the game around to his or her benefit. If he or she can show you the holes in your preferences and reasoning, you will then again feel obligated to do what it is you’ve decided that you don’t want to do because the obvious reasoning has been invalidated by your manipulator. If you don’t perform what your reasoning has been trashed for, you will again feel like a fool in the eyes of your peers.

It’s important to know that emotional manipulators can “smell out” those of us who have weak Self-Trust and confidence. It’s as if we broadcast “I’m easy” simply by the way we hold ourselves and the way we interact with others. Once we develop stronger Self-Trust and confidence, the way we hold ourselves and the way we interact with others will broadcast that we’re not susceptible to manipulators. Then, they will set their sights on others to fill the mark.

Personal Boundaries are not something that we need with everyone. That’s one of the reasons why it is so difficult in knowing when to express them. Those who are unaware that they are overstepping them are often very apologetic and sometimes even ashamed. As long as you verbalize your preferences, it is enough in dealing with them that they won’t be transgressed again. It’s when you encounter emotional manipulators that you must remain aware and up on Pic-cat-in-mirroryour game. The best way you can do this is to know your limits ahead of time and not be afraid to express them and stand up for them even in lieu of potential personal assault of your character in the eyes of others. Your limits and preference must be clear and apparent to you. Their best tool is their ability to tune into and use your hidden shame, self-consciousness and any lack of self-confidence or Self-Trust as their weapon to implement your coercion. Building your Self-Trust and respect is the best thing that you can do to guard against being manipulated. Remember, you are responsible for your own subversion by letting them do so…not them! It’s all in your hands…

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Sysiphus-1Stress has certainly become a buzz word relating to just about anything in life that appears to give us difficulty. For many in our current culture, who find ordinary life issues falling into patterns that either thwart or block their efforts to make life run smoothly and easily, they tend to view their difficulty as being stressful. Then what's the difference between stress & challenge? In this contemporary instant gratification society stress has become the catchall label applied to whatever doesn’t come easily according to our expected preferences.

Granted, our world is moving faster now than a generation ago having intensified personal and social pressures and creating the perspective that life is more difficult now than it used to be. However, we can’t completely blame changing external circumstances for the difficulty we perceive. The slow introduction of expected instant gratification to our culture has cast adrift qualities that were present when things weren’t instantly gratified and while we also accepted the premise that we would have to work toward the things that we wanted. With that earlier perspective also stood the learned qualities of patience, tenacity and the acceptance that some things actually require time and effort to bring to fruition. With the advent of instant gratification all of these qualities appear to have fallen by the wayside, especially when we list what we feel is required of us for our personal accomplishments. What is even more unfortunate is that they appear to have been forgotten by many parents and are no longer taught to the younger generations. With the younger generations, and some adults, instant its-all-about-me-1gratification has regrettably metastasized into entitlement. And as entitlement has gained a foothold, we also find that we are also losing the learning manners and compassion. Granted, they are, or were, also taught but seem to have also been forgotten. So now, as we concurrently focus on what we feel is stressful, we have either forgotten or come to ignore patience, tenacity, manners and the need for compassion as they have been prioritized to the bottom of the list, if considered at all, all in the name of battling stress. At this point I also have to say that stress should not be used a valid excuse to be rude. Before the encroachment of instant gratification and entitlement, patience, tenacity and acceptance were strong component representatives of an important perspective and quality we considered in our approaching life; namely, challenge. So, what has changed that has made such a big difference between what we label as stress and what we label as challenge? Aren’t they the same dynamic but just with a different label? I believe that they are. The difference is in why we approach the issues differently that their label has been applied to. Let me explain.

There is a very strong movement toward spirituality in our current culture. I feel that it is a reaction to our overemphasis on our physical comfort and survival as our perceived outside pressures have led us to focus more on tangible issues than our emotional well-being. Granted that our emotional well-being has a lot to do with how we fare in our physical world but I also believe that it has become a casualty as have our other inner qualities lost through the advent of stress having morphed into entitlement. The point I’d like to make here is that the over-emphasis on tangible issues has over-emphasized the importance of how we allow the external world to influence us. There should be a balance between the inner and outer issues for us to find peace. This emphasis intensifies our belief that the world has much more of an effect on what we can or can’t do or be in our daily lives. As our belief switches to the premise that the world determines our fate, we slowly move into the perception that our efforts are helpless-1controlled by external circumstances. This can create a growing and persistent feeling of helplessness leading to depression. Both are symptomatic of constricting or even halting our energy flow. This brings us to the historical definition of stress dating all the way back to the 1300s. Explaining stress as a verb it’s quoted as “to subject someone to force or compulsion” and “to draw tight” and as a noun it’s quoted as portraying “hardship, adversity, force, pressure, narrowness and oppression.” We can plainly see that all these definitions relate to our reacting to outside forces.

obedience-1There are many factors, most of them aforementioned, that would lead us to assume this perspective, where one, least of which, is not being encouraged to trust our own judgment in our child rearing years. I believe that as the younger generations have been raised to primarily focus on conformity, obedience, restricting their expressiveness and attending to the welfare of others over their own personal well-being that we have, effectively, sabotaged our youth and ourselves through neglecting to apply encouragement at crucial points in their development.

When children receive encouragement, they no longer see what life presents them with as an immutable fate but something that they have the power to work at changing if not completely overcome. If we are not given the opportunity to at least test and confirm our own effectiveness in changing the world and adjusting it to fit our own comfort level we are left only with a confirmed belief that we have no personal power and that the world controls every aspect of our fate in our daily lives. Without encouragement we are beaten before we begin. Challenge is joust 1defined in the 14th century as an “act of laying claim to something,” a “calling to fight” and “one who challenges another in a contest.” If we have no confidence in ourselves, no trust in our abilities stemming from discouraged childhood efforts and no belief that we can change our personal circumstances, what hope do we have of moving past the perception that the world determines our fate? This is the essence of challenge; that we have the ability to contend, that we have the self-confidence built on tested and encouraged childhood efforts and that others in the world are no better or worse, no more deserving or confidence-sumoundeserving, no more capable or incapable than we are. This is the major difference how and why we differentiate between stress and challenge. Stress says we are hopelessly bound by what the external world presents us and challenge says we can change most anything we put our minds to. The first is bred through discouragement and imparting a fatalistic attitude to our children and the other is bred through parental encouragement and the allowance and encouragement of confident self-testing.

Whether we realize it or not we have done ourselves a terrible disservice by giving so much power and permission to the outside world to determine our individual fates and well-being. Is it any wonder that the spirituality movement has taken on such momentum against the self-help booksemotional oppression that we feel under the wheels of the modern machine? There are a plethora of books, programs and videos instructing us on how to overcome overwhelming odds but if we are devoid of the hope that comes from encouragement, we will remain dead in the water despite all the ingenious methods available to us. So, where do we begin? First we begin by encouraging each other of us to follow our dreams and to understand and accept the fact that it takes time and effort to mold our own world into a place where we can find peace and comfort. But the most important place is in the hearts and minds of our children who need to feel that they can and that they are allowed to change their world. confidence-2This can only be accomplished by giving them hope through encouraging them and cheering them on to actively work at changing their world into their vision of peace and prosperity and of not burdening them with our belief that they can do no better than we have. Overprotecting them and buying them off of putting in the effort is the worst thing that we can do. We have to let them scrape their knees and fall down a few times while we still cheer them on and urge them on with the confidence we have in them. If we believe in them, they will come to believe in themselves. Then they will see life as a challenge not as a fated dead end as many of us have allowed ourselves to accept.