Mother Trauma, Father Stress

Lent. Day 4.

How do we teach our children?

IMG_2656A woman is the accidental and unwanted child of a blended and re-forged family. Perhaps she suffers an acute deficit of affirmation and validation. She becomes angry. Her oldest child, then, becomes her emotional punching bag as she is obliged to navigate life and family with zero coping skills. Her trauma is never resolved; she is a perpetually bitter and shallow woman.

A woman grows up emotionally abused by her mother. She lacks confidence in her ability to do anything but plant an herb garden. She becomes a mother around when she starts to follow Jesus and is resolved to make changes. She loves and cares for her kids and wants to protect them so much that eventually she will come close to smothering them in her almost frantic efforts to shelter them, even from their own uncomfortable feelings.

A man grows up in multiple cultures on multiple continents. His family system is driven by core values of laughter, comfort, magical moments of happiness and hard work. The only coping skill he is taught is to stuff it. Stuff it like his father who stuffed it all the time and was perpetually easy going and relaxed, except for the times he was an angry volcano. Cheerful mild-mannered-ness was probably actually emotional detachment. This man would grow up to teach his sons that being happy is more important than standing up for a position in a fight.

A man grows up the product of emotional detachment masquerading as easy-going-ness and traumatized fear and insecurity endeavoring to be nurturing. He absorbed his mother’s anxiety and his father’s habits of escapism through media and much work. Tasked with raising a family, he wants to succeed and establish a legacy but is frequently overwhelmed and constantly afraid of enacting destruction through his best intentions. He wonders if he is up to the task.

As children, our worldview is dominated by a choice few central figures. Often they are our parents; sometimes they are others. These figures shape us, color us, and quite often break us.

These central formative figures have an uncanny way of passing along their fears to us. We grow up in their orbit, their rhythm, their perspectives, and are only allowed to see the world through their worst fears.

Fear of abandonment.

Fear of unhappiness.

Fear of confrontation.

Fear of responsibility.

Fear of intimacy.

Fear of physical injury.

Fear of driving too fast.

Other unspecified existential fears.

Left un-checked, fear becomes the legacy. Hurts, angers, bitterness and escapism become the nurtured gifts passed down generation to generation.

The wise one, or perhaps the one who is desperate and discontent enough to try anything, will examine the generational patterns, see them for what they are, and make changes.

Those who cannot, or will not, reflect on the family patterns that have created them are doomed to perpetuate them by inflicting them on their children.

Building awareness of these patterns does not mean getting lost in the past, nor does it mean blaming ancestors for everything. No one gets to blame their parents for their own choices.

However, building awareness of past patterns is useful. This practice is learning your blueprints, mapping out the mine-field of emotional triggers that is your subconscious and conscious mind. You need to know who you are if you are going to do work on yourself and grow.IMG_1345

In ancient Bible times, the Lord commanded His people to erect altars where significant things happened. Where He spoke. Where He parted the waters. Where He judged the people. Where He saved the people. He commanded that the people’s stories be written down and rigorously taught to the next generation and the next. The people needed to always remember from whence they had come. They needed to be able to look back and see how God was working so that they could then look forward and trust that He would continue to work.

So it is with us. Reflecting in order to blame is damaging. But searching your past for evidence of God’s redemption is vital to being able to recognize His movement in your life now.

Therefore, in the words of St. Mufasa, “Remember.”

Then move on in a better way than you arrived where you are.

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