Memories, are they sound? I don’t think so. I have just finished reading a novel written as if in the mind of a young adolescent male living in the early 1940’s. He has great insight into his own behaviour and that of other teenagers. I wondered did I have such insight into my own and others attitudes and behaviours at fifteen? Of course in this instant the insight was that of the adult who had written it retrospectively. Personal history is subjective, only each individual has the evidence to support it and that evidence is based upon personal interpretation.
How we live our life is influenced by our family dynamics which in turn affects thinking, feeling and the way we behave. Always the psychological question of are we formed by nature or nurture. We have all heard the saying ‘give me a child until he is seven and I will show you the man” It was the Jesuit motto, alleged to be attributed to Francis Xavier.
We are, without a doubt a product of our past influences my own being from working class roots and very confused and dysfunctional parenting. I believe insight is subconscious and born from intuition rather than ability and for some the more dysfunctional the background the more instinctive our life decisions will be. As a child I had deep enough insight to recognize who I could trust, however I could not language that as a child. There were many hard lessons learned in those early years of school and for some of us we are glad it’s over. Having left school at fifteen I started work in a factory in the north of England. This taught me an inner strength perhaps not accessible if my background had consisted of more attentive parenting, more focused teaching in my back street, small catholic school? I know my mother had ideas considered above her station in 1950’s, verbalizing how much I needed to succeed but didn’t really understand what or how she could encourage me towards that goal. Perhaps the word succeed was enough to drive the message home so for a while I was blundering around in the work market. A late starter on this path I did quickly recognize that the path to success was hard work and dedication.
We all fear bullying of our children but being bullied as a young child had a twofold influence upon me, one was, learn to cope with a high level of angst, the other, eventually, was to stand up to bullies even though sometimes consumed in fear. An important experience albeit not always positive was to keep it secret but by doing so my memories may be distorted. However even more significant, I chose not to tell any of the adults around me? I remember that life as a child was chaotic and my place in it miniscule. However in the late forties bullying was just a way of life and no one was interested. Now so much can be done where teachers and parents cooperate in confronting the bully. We can identify the needs of both the bully and the bullied and I too can look back at my tormenter and think that she was a mixed up kid like me but lashed out at the world taking back some of her power. I didn’t though have the luxury of insight into my intimidator but I did feel helpless and hopeless and did my best to stay away from school in order to avoid contact losing out on what little education they offered. Perhaps my memories of that time are distorted I did recognise trouble and how to go push through it. I decided that other people were not to be trusted and thus I expected them to hurt me and sometimes in that I would set myself up for hurt. Now I see that over the years I have changed that view in the realisation that folks have their own personal struggles and their own expectations of themselves and others each one of us is fighting a personal battle to do the best we can with what we know.
Memories play a big part in the decisions we make, when we reflect upon the past are we seeing it in a true light or are we viewing through a kaleidoscope? Maybe my reflective images aren’t quite the truth of the matter. In any family each family member will remember daily incidents as particular to them and different from the others. Three children in the same family will see certain events and relationships another way. My mother used to say that I would be Jack of all trades and master of none. I took that as a bad thing but now recognise myself as having ago at anything in order to widen my world and make my life more interesting.
What decisions do we make as children in order to get through the trials of life, what rites of passage do we have to make in order to become who we are? Children react and respond to the many and varied issues they are confronted with based upon what they have seen at home, when a parent shows interest in the day’s events then a child has the opportunity to spill the beans, where no interest is shown where does that child go to find answers to their problems? Indeed, how do they decide which way is best.
If we are honest we can look back and pinpoint certain people, places and events that have influenced us in some of the directions we take in life. Think back in time to who or what has influenced you most in about what direction you would take in life, who you would be with and what you have decided about self, others and the world at large?