I was sitting in a cafe In Brighton the other day, drinking a skinny decaff soy latte and pondering on the nature of existence, when I suddenly realised why things go so terribly wrong in our lives. It’s because of all those heavy negative trips that our parents lay on us when we’re young… Do these words ring any bells?.“You’ll poke your eye out with that stick!”…“We’re not made of money, you know”…“Don’t expect too much, then you won’t be disappointed.” This stuff can shape your whole outlook on life. HNTs, I call them. Thanks, Mum and Dad; I know you meant well.
We all get such subtle messages about life and how it should be lived from our parents, don’t we?. Some are fairly explicit – “Big boys don’t cry”; “Nobody will like you when you grow up.” Others are sneaked into commands: “Put that down, you don’t know where it’s been!” – or complaints, “Everything I say to you goes in one ear and out the other”. Not to mention the frighteners…”Stop doing that, it’ll make you go blind”.. and “just wait till your father gets home!”
There are a number of favorite weapons that our parents use in this highly specialised form of torture. First and foremost is the power of repetition. Things that get repeated quickly become acceptable, and before long acquire the status of self-evident truth. They get passed down through the generations; your parents got theirs from their own parent. More insidious still is that it’s our parents that they’re coming from – so they must be right. Our parents are always right… “Your mother knows best/ It’s for your own good/ Don’t say I didn’t warn you”. My favorites are those blatantly self-fulfilling prophecies: “ I said this would happen/ There’ll be tears before bed-time/You see, I knew you’d fall off that ladder!” Furthermore, “we’re only doing this because we love you” And “this is going to hurt me more than it hurts you!” -yeah, right. Yet they really do love us; It’s just that they’ve a funny way of showing it. Later in life, this will cost you a fortune in therapy bills.
Another tool in the armoury is seeing danger everywhere: this activity is very dangerous…that activity is very dangerous… life is very dangerous… assume that everything is dangerous. “You’ll cut your finger/ you’ll break your neck/ tragedy lurks around every corner/ something really terrible is going to happen, any moment now!”
But then it occurred to me – now that I’m a parent , I do the same with my child, although I swore I wouldn’t…“ Get out from under my feet/ I’m sick and tired of telling you/ don’t come running to me when you get your legs chopped off in that combine harvester!” Maybe my folks weren’t so bad after all…