Thinking What You Went Through Was “No Big Deal”…. Doesn’t Help You Heal

If you walked into a home near you and saw a father whipping his very young daughter with a belt, how would you feel?

No big deal?

Would it make you uncomfortable?

How do you think the young child might be feeling?

I was speaking with a friend this week who’s been contemplating why she might be so scared of “getting things wrong.”

As she mulled over her childhood, she shared how she remembered getting spanked…and how she remembered getting “the belt”…but that she just couldn’t think of anything at all in her childhood that might have caused her any fear about messing up or not being perfect.

I’d say spanking and the belt count as solid reasons for a child to feel nervous about messing up.

If you are a young, helpless child unable to fight back against physical pain inflicted by the people upon whom your survival depends…what strategies might you begin to develop to avoid further pain — even if the punishments weren’t common?

You might decide to yourself that…

  • “I’ll just be perfect, then I won’t be hurt.”
  • “I’ll just do what I’m told, then I won’t be hurt.”
  • “I’ll just make sure they’re always okay with me, then bad things won’t happen.”
  • “I’ll just be a quiet, good kid, and nothing bad will happen.”
  • “I’ll just keep being me, but will hide and won’t let anyone know what I’m doing.”

We see these strategies show up as problematic programming, limiting beliefs, frustrating ways of being, and self-sabotage in adults.

These strategies keep amazing humans locked into patterns of perfectionism, people-pleasing, and fear about having to get everything right — because when they were young, the consequences of getting it wrong felt massive.

What we forget is just how scary, how terrifying, and literally how life-threatening certain experiences can be for children, who are essentially powerless to protect themselves.

Having everything taken away from us (grounding), being hit or whipped or spanked, being yelled at, being ignored…these would be unpleasant to us adults…yet can leave long-lasting imprints on us when received as children.

Acknowledging + honoring the fears we experienced as children (which is unrelated to parent-blaming) instead of saying “my childhood was fine, no big deal…” often helps us finally make sense of areas where we feel stuck as adults.

Few of us had perfect childhoods, and this isn’t about blame.

It’s simply about honoring what’s actually scary for us as children and how that fear can get locked in and impact us years later as stuck programming.

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