I am a big believer in The Four Agreements by don Miguel Ruiz and his recent book The Fifth Agreement. In summary, don Miguel teaches us to get over the seemingly innocent agreements we entered into and made (often unconsciously) in early life. We accepted these in childhood as a done deal imposed by parents with the noble intent of “domesticating” us into submission and assimilation into a civil society.
Our parents typically raised us in the same way they were, without consideration that such ways might not prepare us to deal with the disappointments and realities of adult life. Case in point: life is not fair, and there are no guarantees of respectful treatment, yet many of us learned to follow the Golden Rule. Others were taught (especially females) to take care of others first and foremost (see my previous post Put on Your Own Mask First for more about this…) These concepts don’t hold in adult world where others are focused on self-interests (as well they should.)
The Four Agreements and The Fifth Agreement are worthwhile investments for anyone seeking to understand relationships – especially because both books explain how to work with others and ourselves in daily life. I love the writings and the works!
In spite of studying and practicing The Four Agreements (1. Live with Integrity; 2. Don’t take anything personally; 3. Never assume (ask questions instead); and 4. Always do your best) – I face challenges to overcome “childhood teachings”- even though decades separate me from those years. Moreover, in talking to friends both older and younger, I am not alone!
Why is it that we spend the first 15-20 years learning how to live (childhood) and the rest of our life overcoming the same?
Some people do not have childhood baggage. I know people whose childhoods abounded with unconditional love and acceptance, and their parents treated them as the apple(s) of their eyes. As a result, one friend has so much self-esteem that co-workers tire of her incredibly healthy self-image! Unfortunately, I think that this situation is more the exception than the rule.
Is there ever a point when our parents can no longer get under our skin, or when they are no longer the voices in our heads?
Even though I am middle-aged, I routinely get emails from my father chiding me for not calling enough (I call every week), emailing enough (I respond and send emails all the time), thanking enough for gifts (no matter that I have). These emails bother me, and it bothers me that they bother me! I should be used to the treatment by now… and one would think I would stop hoping for acceptance!
As an accomplished professional, I know that I am a great person – so why would I still hold out hope that my father will someday notice this? As a child, I learned that 97% was never good enough – it was always 3% short of the perfection that meant acceptance.
Why do we keep hoping for change in others even when we know that we can only change ourselves? Why do grown women seek approval from judgmental fathers (and often marry similar men)? Why do grown men keep hoping they will buy that perfect gift for an unapproving mother? Why do we strive to make our parents proud long after it shouldn’t matter?
I know that parental love is expressed by pointing out shortfalls and faults, yet I still hold onto the dream that someday just being ME will be enough. I’m not alone in the lifetime journey of recovering from childhood and some people have it much worse. I read about similar struggles on blogs, in discussions, and in listening to friends and colleagues worldwide!
I am optimistic as I watch my son and daughter-in-law raising two daughters in a loving, accepting and supportive home, and it warms my heart as they show their princesses unconditional love. Even so, I wonder if anyone has a childhood from which they do not seek to recover.
Wishing you a peaceful week where you experience self-love and an ongoing recovery as you move forward in your life!