Haunted by the Ghosts of Childhood

istock_000005764767xsmall.jpgIt is nice to assume everyone had a happy childhood filled with joy and laughter. Nurturing parents doted over every little accomplishment, offering words of praise and encouragement.

In a perfect world this is exactly how things would be. Unfortunately our world is far from perfect as are the people in it. Each of us has our own strengths and weaknesses, our proud moments and the ones we are ashamed of.

When you really consider how childhood unfolds, even under the best of circumstances, it is amazing we emerge from it as productive adults at all. Too much doting and we are incapable of coping with adversity. Too much abuse and we learn to be guarded and distrustful. How do parents find the happy medium that teaches us resolve and determination balanced with love and compassion? And how do we manage to function in a world where just growing up can be far more challenging that it would initially seem?

1. Revisit Your Inner Child

Take a step back in time and remember yourself as a child. If you wish, paint, color, draw, or make a collage from photographs that represents you when you were young. Take note of the feelings it evokes – both good and bad. Remember back to the things that gave you happiness, such as hobbies, games, sports, and such.

Compare your life now. Look for any remnants of the child you used to be. Can you find any similarities between your present-day self and your childhood image? What has changed since then?

Now ask yourself what you would most desire if you were a child again. Is this something you can give yourself as an adult? If so, what is stopping you? Allow yourself to have that one special gift if it is something you can attain.

2. Write Your Childhood Story

Give each year or each major life experience a separate page. Write a brief summary of each, and give each page its own title. What themes do you find running throughout your story? Pay attention to the feelings it evokes in you – sadness, yearning, joy, anger, sorrow, fear, elation.

Look at the interactions you had with the adults in your life, such as teachers, parents of friends, and so on. Review how you were treated by these people, and how they made you feel. Were they supportive and kind? Or were they judgmental and full of criticism? Your experiences as a child have a profound effect on your confidence as an adult, and if you found yourself constantly belittled or criticized early in life, you very well may have confidence issues as an adult.

3. Don’t Become a Demon to Your own Children

Once you have realized how profoundly your interactions with adults have affected you in life, do not become a burden to your own kids. Look at the way you were treated by adults when you were little, and take a moment to remember how it made you feel. Remember those behaviors that robbed you of your confidence and self-worth, then make a promise to yourself that you will not behave in such a manner towards your own children.

Even though you may not realize it at the time, the experiences of your childhood can come back and haunt you throughout adulthood. There are some who spend their entire lives trying to earn the approval of someone who belittled them in the past. That approval may be sought from a spouse, a boss, a colleague, or someone else who holds a position of importance in your life. The craving for acceptance is a subconscious effort to finally win the praise of someone you admired as a child, but were either ignored or treated badly by.

You can overcome your childhood demons by recognizing them when they appear, and knowing how and when they were created. Acknowledge their existence, but follow that up immediately with a mental list of all of your accomplishments, and all of the reasons you are a capable and worthy adult. Exorcise those demons on the spot so they do not rob you of your happiness or enjoyment in life. Slay them so they do not interfere with your adult relationships. Yet remember them to the extent that they prevent you from creating the same cycle with your own children.

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