In college, I studied western psychology, and much of what I learned was about the influence of childhood, and how past traumatic experiences can lead to problematic behaviors and thought patterns later on in life.
I thought that perhaps I could uncover something by looking at my past, particularly by looking at my relationship with my father. My dad has a strong personality. I wanted to see how this may have influenced my sense of self, and to discover how to move past it. I decided to use a practice of retrospection that I learned from Belsebuub’s courses.
I sat down to do a retrospection practice, relaxing my body and turning my attention back to my childhood. I watched scenes of my life in a small small carriage house surrounded by trees, and scenes of… incredible happiness!
I was somewhat taken aback, as in place of the trauma I expected to find I found a father creating cardboard archery targets, building a three-story treehouse (complete with dungeon), playing exciting games, having home-made shields and swords for me and my friends to play with, building intricate snow castles, building model rockets, exciting bedtime stories…
Yes, instead of trauma, I found a lot of love.
The revelation from the practice turned my understanding on its head.
I began to notice that times that I had thought I was a victim were, in reality, passive-aggressive reactions to anger, and the ‘hurt’ that I was supposedly feeling was blocking love and appreciation.
This is very beautiful to me. Lately, I’ve been looking more closely at my family, which was a very loving one. But of course, there were issues like with every family out there. But I can see now that my parents were doing the best they could, also from how they had been raised. And that the love was always there. I feel love is so important, the most important thing given to a child. I feel we have that love inside of us as we grow up, something to always carry with us.
When I was reflecting on my childhood recently I came to the same conclusions Anne Linn. That there was so much love there. And even though we weren’t rich or didn’t have certain privileges that might’ve been useful etc. there was the power of love there which is most important and provided a solid base.
Yes, I agree Anne Linn and Karim. Love is one of the most important things to give to a child.
Thanks for sharing Julian,
A good retro to see thing correctly a truly great practice and it all comes down to the eyes of the beholder.
What a great short and sweet experience Julian! I can relate to the love and care received by my parents. It’s a real blessing to grow up in a family with no major issues. Even though I had my moments of “Why are you not on my side!”, in retrospect, it was often for my own good. I am curious though to revisit that period and see more.
I can also see similar blocks within myself. I do not have a problem being grateful for what my parents gave. Many of the blocks are related to what they could have given, or a hurt that I perceived.
Recently I’ve been reflecting on what I give in return. By noticing the thoughts in my mind in relation to my family I can see so many of them are self-centered. I felt happy to notice some of these thoughts, and questioning them brings me a sense of freedom.
I’ve had a dream some time ago that is one which that stuck in my memory. In that dream I spent a bit of time with my parents and then saw them interacting from a distance. It was a simple and positive interaction. Seeing it gave me a such a strong feeling of love for them. I think I somehow saw them as real people separate from my expectations.
There is so much happiness in our families that is lost because of our poor psychology!
What a really lovely and unexpected outcome to your practice Julian.
I recall doing a similar practice exploring my ‘people pleaser’ side. My experience was also quite different to what I expected. I came to see that I really only pleased certain people in my life – and at certain times – and that this was actually a strength rather than the weakness I had previously perceived.
Love the treehouse – your dad must have really loved you to go to such efforts.
That’s a great reflection Sue, thanks. It’s a shame that our egos block expressions of love and care for others, and twist the good that exists. I can see in myself that at times I have become upset that I’m ‘giving too much’ (as though that was a problem), without return, whereas really I’m selfishly demanding conditions on my love, care and time.
My dad and I built the treehouse together. He said that by the time he finished most of the floor, I had pounded in a single nail, but in the end I had the same level of accomplishment as he had. For him it was a powerful lesson on empowering people and helping them feel ownership for projects, regardless of how much they can contribute.
Thank you, Julian, for your honest reflections. That must have been quite the discovery, given what you originally expected to see!
It is quite a beautiful thing, for many people (sadly not all), to be able to reflect and discover, if we did not already see, just how much love we received from our family growing up. It reminds me of something Belsebuub said once, I think in a talk, that a family is an opportunity for an essence to give and receive love.
I happened to be looking through some my old family photos yesterday and it made me feel the same vibe as your insight Julian. So much love there at the core. And also so much work by my parents to give us what we needed, this is something I didn’t realise back then at all, like why we moved houses for example. Now it’s obvious, but only because took some time to look into it (through photos this time.) Looking forward to delving deeper with a renewed look into my childhood, armed with the understanding of things I’ve learned in my adult life.
Also I was a bit quick to read your experience. That last line is very insightful. We may be hurt by others, true. But allowing and keeping up the reaction within ourselves when that is blocking our love, that’s a huge cost!
A nice twist to this story, and a lot of interesting insights.
It seems like there can be a pleasure in perceiving oneself as a victim, which allows for self-pity and gaining empathy from others.
It’s really refreshing that instead of dwelling on any mistakes he may have made, you were able to perceive all the good your dad did and the love he had for you.
The tree house is amazing.
Following on Justin’s comment on the pleasure in seeing oneself as a victim, I know growing up, I devoted considerable energy to feeling that I was a victim and justifying in my mind how my sadness and difficulties were all the fault of others. I had a whole life of misery planned out!
It was only years later that I learned to see through this deception, and to better understand others and be more accepting of how they behave, and even seeing more of the love and goodwill they possess. Although it shouldn’t be the case, I’ve found seeing this love has sometimes been the hardest with family.
Thanks Justin for that notion about acting like a victim. When I read it I thought it was interesting. When thinking about it a few times today and yesterday I could see how I could easily fall into being the person who bends to the will and tries to appease such a self-victimised person. Then I was thinking am I ever like that? surely not 🙂 But when I gave it a bit more thought I could see a string of situations where I was like that very clearly. And with one dream in particular where this was highlighted in an extreme way. The energy I was putting onto others with that ego was very unpleasant.
Hi Mike. I’m glad you were able to uncover such things within yourself so as to avoid that ‘whole life of misery’ 🙂
lol Mike, “I had a whole life of misery planned out!”, classic. It’s a good point of reflection.
Fabulous treehouse and a great testimony, Julian, thank you for sharing. While I was reading it, I was feeling that behind the words I could feel some answers at the same time concerning my childhood. Maybe that’s because most of them are responding to common preoccupations about our parents and the strong reason for our coexistence.
These days I was also reflecting on a parallel which can be drawn between our physical and divine parents and some Mark’s writings pushed me to ponder over these things. As he says ”just as a child is born from the union of its mother and father, sharing half the chromosomes of each, so too is the spiritual son the child the spiritual mother and father”.
It sounds you really needed to look at your childhood with the different sets of eyes. I also think that there are too many assumptions that we all have in relation to our and other’s childhoods. There seems to be this assumption that if someone grew up in particular circumstances that they must have had a horrible time and therefore that is the reason why they are the person that they are today. For example, as you said in psychological studies there is a lot of weight put on the early childhood and adolescence and how it shapes our lives but I have seen some very bad cases of people who came from very loving families and who committed horrific crimes and those that came from a very unstable families and who made a huge positive impact in the world. I came to this understanding that the way we are today is a lot deeper than what happened in our childhood and that shifts things to our own responsibility of who we are and who we are becoming.
Hey Tina, that’s definitely true. Especially with the ability to change our own psychologies, our past is something that doesn’t have to define who we are. Our childhood does have a really strong influence on our personality, though, and you live with that your whole life, which can be unfortunate in some cases.
Waw this is so unexpectedly nice to read too Julian, it really turns the usual ‘disfunctional family complexes’ on their head. What kid doesn’t get effected by their parents? Ones who were brought up by angels perhaps … though I guess if they don’t have the same ‘level’ all kinds of comparison-anxiety and blame would kick in!
I really like how you saw that there was a lot of blocked love and affection on your part. I can relate to that, with my dad too, with my mum it’s easy to find! It’s so easy to blame our parents as they’re the ones in ‘control’ for our formative years, so more responsibility is on them for shaping our relationship, but once we’re adults, well there comes a point when that blame has to go and we have to decide how to treat them as other human beings.
My parents separated when I was four, but there was such an effort made by both of them to make sure my sister and I knew we were loved, and they did a good job at not exposing us to arguments, etc. I don’t know what’s better, to have lived in a little hell of a house as some kids I knew did, with parents always arguing, or that they separated. So I grew up unfazed by it. It was interesting to me to see that it was actually as I got older and towards the age that they were when they had me that much more judgement came in. And also after enough people saying things like, “oh that must have been hard for you”, I started to think, ” maybe I’m more damaged than I think by it”, and I started to kind of look for these wounds. Anyway, I felt like I created a bunch of problems that didn’t exist. I was happy and loved as a kid, and that’s a huge thing to be grateful for. In retrospection/analysis of my childhood, I’m often left with the understanding that my parents did the best they could. And that though I would do things differently, their intention was to give us the best they knew how to. That’s enough to warrant respect and compassion.
And yes, that tree-house does look like testimony to an awesome dad!
Hope you find a wellspring of love for your parents!
Thanks for sharing that Ella. I think your parents made the right choice in separating when you and your sister were still very young. In my opinion, if there are irreconcilable differences in a relationship, it can often be better for parents to make a clean break at an age when children are more accepting of change and adaptable, rather than trying to grit their teeth and stay together, only to create a family environment full of tension and discord. Despite the upheaval, I can imagine that your family life became more harmonious in the long run, as a result of your parents’ separation.
It’s funny how accepting of adverse circumstances young children can be. I think partly it’s due to not yet having a full understanding of what’s going on, but also because when we are so young, we don’t know any different, as we spend so much time with our families, so there is little to compare our own home lives to.
Although my parents stayed together, I had a lot of other upheavals as a child, but didn’t really question my circumstances at the time. I think those early experiences had a profound effect upon my development though, including in relation to my health, as I can trace back various difficulties I still have currently to stressful periods in childhood.
It’s impossible to say what is right and wrong in such an important relationship as bringing children into the world with someone. Perhaps they could have got through their differences and created something even better for the whole family? But it is a sad thing when a household is in the shadow of arguments and children grow up constantly subjected to that.
So interesting to read Julian. I’ve seen in myself how the negative nature of egos stop me from seeing the good in others. I really got that sense of love and care that you’re father had really tried to make your childhood enjoyable and really helped you to set the scenes of your childhood imagination, which sounds very sweet.
How precious is conscious perception then, that allows us to see reality and experience love and understanding?
I’ve found the egos are completely divisive and they like us to see the world from a victim view or from a ‘one-upmanship’ view because it gives cause for division, and in that state we never look to understand, but always want to be understood.
It kind of reminded me of the importance of the Prayer of Saint Francis, how it opposes this ‘oppositional’ duality way of thinking and behaving, by asking to seek peace, understanding and forgiveness with all. It’s a prayer that seems to invite us to learn to seek the divine way of viewing the world and how to be part of it from their perspective.
Thank you for such an inspiring short and sweet experience share. That cubby house was amazing, it seemed like you’re dad enjoyed it as much as you did 🙂
I think you made some good points there Layla. The St Francis prayer is very applicable to all kinds of social relationships and is definitely worth aspiring to.
Thanks for your comment Layla. People would always say how lucky I was to have a cool adventuresome dad, but I didn’t really appreciate it until I could see it more objectively.
What a nice surprise indeed Julian :-), very heartwarming.
Your mention of retrospection practices into childhood (along with that nice image of you) also makes me want to delve back into time and ‘visit’ old places and circumstances. There are so many treasures of knowledge and understanding about ourselves there for sure. The times when I’ve been able to activate my memory enough, through concentration during a retrospection practice, and remember and relive so many situations and gain insights from them, it had a very special quality to it.
I have to say all the things your dad came up with for you to be engaged in the interesting things of life are very cool!
That is one epic treehouse.
Thanks for sharing your insights from that retrospection Julian. I also majored in psychology, although found its scope to be limited, as it didn’t really give me the tools I needed in order to study myself in depth. By contrast, the exercises suggested by Belsebuub gave me much greater insights into the workings of my psyche, as you also found out.
I’ve also spent many years (the better part of my life actually) looking into a difficult father-son relationship. I’ve gained some understanding over the years, but feel I still have a lot more to learn. I found that trying to bear in mind someone’s attributes can lessen the temptation to dwell solely on the negative, although it’s not always easy to implement this during a strong interaction of egos. It’s clear that lessening my own negativity can help to diffuse negative behaviours in others though.
Great tree house, by the way! I hope the dungeon wasn’t added on as a punishment to naughty kids! 🙂
Hey Julian, thanks for sharing that. It’s so interesting how our perception of our childhood can be so different from reality sometimes. I played outside a lot and my hair was often a mess. When my mom would brush it out I used to think she was so mean since it hurt sometimes because of the knots (and maybe some burs too 😉 ) .
Then, years later, as I was brushing my own daughter’s hair and listening to her complain about how ‘mean’ I am for it, it really hit me that my memory of my mother being mean was so totally wrong. 🙂 She was just doing as any good mother would, and it made me wonder what other childhood memories I held on to with such conviction that were possibly way off due to my strong child-like feelings at the time. 🙂
P.S. That treehouse is so cool.
Sounds like your father was very involved in your childhood and gave you so much (how cool is a tree house with a dungeon : ) ). Glad you were able to gain insight into how it was your own egos and reactions that gave rise to the ‘trauma’. It’s empowering to stop being a victim and take responsibility for our difficulties instead.
This prompts me to retrospect to my childhood in similar ways. There are emotional hurts and patterns in me I don’t understand and resentment towards my parents. Yes, the feeling of being a victim and imagining how I would have been a different, more capable person if my parents had been better in such and such a way and given me this or that… But this is all in the past and I have my egos and patterns to deal with now and move past them. There was no intentional damage or evil in my childhood and my parents took care of me the best they could with the personalities, weaknesses and strengths they had. It’s painful to see these egos still influencing our interactions harmfully because I don’t understand them and so they have control over me. But my parents may not be in this world for that much longer and I need to use the opportunities I have now to correct myself.
Just to add something… I live in a different country than my mum and so I see her in person very rarely. One such opportunity came about six months ago, where my mum and me spent about a week together with my sister, who again lives in a different country. Oh the mess of egos that came up… and I wasn’t handling it very well. Then the week was up and I was at the airport, just having seen my mum and sister the last time. I could feel the soup of egos sinking back into my subconscious and vanishing as that event came to an end, and I thought Oh no! What an opportunity missed! I just hope I will be given new opportunities to do better.
Me too >_>!
Sometimes in interactions with a certain family member it can seem like it’s exactly back to how it used to be. Didn’t I do all this ‘work on myself’ in the meantime?! Detachment where are you? More to be studied for sure.
At other times I am able to not slip into certain reactions where in the past I would’ve and deal with things while staying the real me, much more calmly and with the consciousness. That can feel so nice, to just stay detached and try to help the person to reach an understanding.
Oh dear, I know what you mean. I feel like I’m taken to my parent’s house every time I need a little reality check on how well I’m doing!
I think I know what you mean Laura. Being around family can be so overwhelming. It’s like they just pull you into something old, like an old pattern of doing things, feeling, interacting that can be very strong. I always feel a bit of a mess, being around family 😛
Family and ‘old friends’ for me. But often I am amazed at the way the meetings with these ‘characters’ in our lives, that bring up so much, feel orchestrated by something higher for our own learning. It’s times when I’m right back face-to-face with people who hold expectations of my ego-patterns, certain ways of behaving, etc., that I can really see I have been given another precious chance to change, and how life shifts and bends to bring up the situations we need to learn and move forward!
I can relate to what you’ve expressed here Laura. Sometimes it can seem as if others want to deliberately hurt us, but I think when we realise that they are often just doing their best with the level of understanding they have, it can help to take away some of the resentment that has built up over the years in response to their actions.