maanantai 29. huhtikuuta 2013

Days 217-219: Childhood poverty – Learned passiveness


lol - maybe 1-2 years old here

I quote my last post:

My poverty was not extreme poverty from which one can die, but a cultural and societal poverty of being denied the possibility to explore the world. I was alive but in terms of society my movements were restricted.
I can see that growing up believing that some things were “out of my reach” has passivated me: I have had little to no regard for how the society functions and how one is able to influence it. I simply believed it to be impossible or at least very difficult and troublesome, and so I became a limp and drowsy child (and an adult) with little interest to do anything at all but things that brought me instant pleasure. I learned helplessness and powerlessness from being “tied down”.”

Today I decided to have a look at this point when I was thinking about another that mingled with this one. I realized that I have been clinging onto people through relationships of dependency to mend for my passiveness. When I have come across people that are active, moving, dynamic, going forward, doing stuff, hard-working and self-directed I have been attracted towards this quality and held onto these people so that I could be motivated to be active myself in their presence. However, I have not been supporting myself to be active and build a foundation of self-induced activeness – I have been relying on the presence of others to “get me going”. It is necessary that I transform myself within these relationships so that they will no longer be abusive (of me and the other) but will instead function as mutual support to all participants.

So I return to looking at my childhood and the passivating effects being somewhat poor had on me. Right now two different perspectives open up: looking at how my siblings have displayed passiveness/activeness, as we shared the same environment as children and this comparison may offer some perspective; and a paradigm of developmental psychology according to which it is important to offer a baby/toddler plenty of experiences of succeeding in “effortful control” (affecting one's environment through one's actions and thus directing one's own experience), because if this success is not experienced the child will stop trying to influence it's environment and become passive.

When I read about effortful control (also referred to as self-regulation and sometimes willpower) I remember being surprised. “Is it possible for a child that young to just give up?” And I realized I had not really considered what the life experience of an infant really is. In a physical space where everything is new – everything from one's own physical body to the entire environment surrounding it – things may get really confusing. So learning how your environment works and realizing ways to affect it's movements is really crucial to a child, and even such a small thing as learning that by smiling to your caretaker he/she will smile back will have a gigantic effect on the child building up a foundation of an active self.

So keeping this in mind it is interesting to look at how being “restricted” or “denied access” affects one's activeness. When I look at my (now adult) siblings I see different survival mechanisms at play. I see giving up, introversion and focusing on a very narrow circle of life; I see aggressive rebellion and a “fuck you world, I didn't want access anyway”; and I see decisive ambition to be successful and thus avoid poverty and “falling” by any means. So where do I fall into in this social grid?

First I think I'm going to have to clarify what I mean by my passiveness. Ever since I was a child I've thought of politics and everything related to the structure and mechanisms of the society as “dull” and “boring”. This was mainly because I didn't understand what they were about and I was reluctant to find out because I perceived them to be things that were “too complicated” for me to understand – I feared failure, simply put. I was able to justify this reluctance by saying “not everyone has to like everything; I have my own interests and politics isn't one of them”. This reluctance then became passiveness as I did nothing – inaction is passiveness, nothing moving is passiveness – the fact that I did not move was the act of passiveness, and the reluctance to face my fear of failure was what led me there. So passiveness itself is not a quality of the mind but a consequence in the physical reality.

My passiveness in terms of society led me to indecisiveness about how to direct my life, what to study, which profession to choose. I did a lot of arts in high school and for years I applied to different art schools, not being sure which form of art was “my thing” yet being certain that I was “destined” to be doing arts. So I lingered in this passive state of being where I spent years not really putting enough effort into any form of art to be accepted into a school, worked within a (mostly) useless trade and spent my free time on entertainment and not much else. Arts as a profession has been an attempt for me to influence the world through inspiring others: serving as a whistle-blower, as someone to “wake up” others, because all are needed to “wake up” if this world is to change – or so I said to justify my position. What I actually wanted was for others to come and change the world for me because I saw myself as disqualified to do it myself.

So as I have been a child and seen the world around me, eager to go and explore it, and then been told not to – even when other kids, my equals and mirrors, were allowed to – it has felt incomprehensive because the boundaries according to which another child could have a toy and I couldn't were invisible to me as they were contextual and cultural agreements that do not actually exist – only their physical consequences do. And so I found ways to adapt to my circumstances: for example, when I was forbidden from buying the clothes I wanted to be able to express myself, I adapted to the limitations of my social class and figured out ways to express myself through clothing that didn't require much money. I would still always long for the things that I had originally wanted, and as I never got a valid reason to why I was the one not getting what everyone else was getting, I created a desire to someday have these expensive clothes (or to even decide for myself what I can buy) and thus assigned them a high value and made them “important” and “worth fighting for”.

The desire to have what others have has been the reason I work. I learned that with money I could upgrade my standard of living, and so I've enjoyed my working years because I have finally been able to afford stuff myself. I have thus been neglecting my wish to work for something that is important to me, that I actually see to have concrete value and substance, because I have been focusing on maintaining my living standard. I have not really realized how much of my time and resources it takes to work even a part-time job, and how much effort it takes to for example study while I also work. So I have not realized that to actually be able to work for something I have a passion and an interest for and which I could create a career in is not going to come without sacrifices: studying is going to take so much time that my living standards are certain to drop.

To bring this together: my working years have been a manifestation of passiveness justified with money. The restrictions of the social class of the family I was born and raised in affected how I perceived myself to be able to influence my surroundings and direct my life. Thus I adapted to moving myself according to the limited amount of resources (intellect, wealth, social relations) I had within the limitations of the “working class persona”.

I forgive myself that I have accepted and allowed myself as a child to believe and perceive, because my superiors told me so, that some things in this world were “out of my reach”, “restricted” and “denied”.

I forgive myself that I have accepted and allowed myself to not realize that all concepts of ownership when considering the physical reality are imaginary, as they do not exist in this physical reality even though their consequences do.

I forgive myself that I have accepted and allowed myself as a child to not trust my “gut feeling” that something was wrong with the fact that I couldn't have what others had when I was not given a valid reason for this.

I forgive myself that I have accepted and allowed myself to not realize that there in fact is no valid reason for financial segregation where others have more “rights” to claim the resources of the physical reality simply because of their level of education, respectability of profession or status of bloodline, because everyone on this planet does not have an equal possibility to attain these “rights” because of the place, family and conditions one was born into; things that one has no choice over.

I forgive myself that I have accepted and allowed myself to believe and perceive that the level of one's education gives one the “right” to claim more physical resources via money because the refinement of skill makes one's work “more valuable” than the work of an untrained person – not realizing that the amount of time and effort an uneducated worker and an educated worker spend within i.e. one hour of working time is the exact same – it is one hour less in both of their lives – and that this reasoning is thus not valid as the physical resources of an individual's life are used equally by both, not “more” by the educated one.

[Here, I do not mean to disregard the years one has spent educating oneself, which is a big task in itself, but to state that educating oneself should be about wanting to learn for yourself, for the sake of the passion for learning – not so you could get more money in the future with a heightened status. I see this a lot with kids who want to become doctors because of the pay and position, not because they have a passion for medicine – and even those who do it for the passion think of the pay as a justifiable “bonus”.]

I forgive myself that I have accepted and allowed myself to believe and perceive that some professions have the “right” for more pay because of the “big” responsibility they have to carry – i.e. doctors, managers, politicians, lawyers, police – not realizing that the status of these professions of “high responsibility” has been created so that a few could carry the responsibility that ought to be carried by all, the responsibility to take care of this society and make sure it functions, this then “made ok” by compensating for their “sacrifice” with more money – for example, the direction of the society should not be decided by politicians but by all, the well-being of others and the prevention of illness should be a concern of all, the functions of society should not be a mystery that has to be decoded by lawyers but one that everyone understands – and that to give other professions more “respect” because of the “heavy responsibility” they carry is thus nothing but hypocrisy and abdication of one's responsibility as a participant of the society one lives in.

I forgive myself that I have accepted and allowed myself to not realize that if everyone had equal possibilities to educate themselves and explore the things they have a passion for with no inequality of pay or limitations set by money, we would have a world of motivated action instead of a world of passive compliance.

I forgive myself that I have accepted and allowed myself as a child to feel “tied down” because I was restricted from exploring the world and expressing myself within it, not realizing the reasons we were poor because I was yet unable to comprehend and did not receive an explanation I would have been able to understand.

I forgive myself that I have accepted and allowed myself as a child to feel frustrated whenever I heard the reason “we can't afford it”, feeling like there was a wall between me and whatever it is that I wanted.

I forgive myself that I have accepted and allowed myself as a child to believe and perceive myself to be separate from the things we could not afford, visualizing them to be “distant” as if “behind a wall”, thus not realizing that the items (or services) I wanted are of this same physical matter I am built from and that I am in fact one with and equal to them and in terms of the physical reality have as much right to explore them as anyone else, and not realizing the separation is a social agreement based on imagined values which are in fact not real.

I forgive myself that I have accepted and allowed myself as a child to believe and perceive that I have “no right” to explore things I had no money for, as if they were “reserved” for those who had money.

[Not to say I should've gone and broken the social agreements by for example stealing something – that would have served no purpose either, unless the reality of things would have been explained to me as a consequence.]

A memory of me stealing candy from a store. I was perhaps 6-7 years old and I really wanted candy but my mother would not buy me any. I grabbed a couple of candies from the shelf and ate them really fast in secret. I felt guilty about this for years and finally confessed to my parents crying and ashamed during a much bigger family crisis. I had thought of myself having committed a horrible crime by stealing a couple of candies and my parents thought nothing of it especially compared to the other crisis we were dealing with. This shows how I had adopted the belief that the candy was “restricted” from those with no money and that it was “punishable” if one took it without “the right” (money). I actually feared that police would someday come knocking on our door with shots from a security camera as evidence of my crime.

I forgive myself that I have accepted and allowed myself to imagine this “wall of restriction” to be one that I cannot influence unless I have money and play according to the rules of the society.

I forgive myself that I have accepted and allowed myself to feel powerless in front of this visualized “wall” that separated me from the resources of the world.

I forgive myself that I have accepted and allowed myself to believe that these walls, boundaries, limitations and restrictions are a natural part of the world and that I cannot influence them, thus complying to the rules of the society without questioning them and manifesting passiveness.

I forgive myself that I have accepted and allowed myself to perceive and believe that the only way I can influence my access to the resources of the world is by attaining money.

I forgive myself that I have accepted and allowed myself as a child to place emphasis on getting money so that I could afford the resources of the world and therefore to start working at a young age (9 years old), thinking that working is important and developing a high “work morale”, yet never realizing that my motivation for working was always money and not self-expression.

I forgive myself that I have accepted and allowed myself to believe the dogma of my family environment which stated that “it is important to work”, not realizing that this was motivated by fear of survival and was not to encourage us to express ourselves through work.

I forgive myself that I have accepted and allowed myself to be overridden by the fear of survival so that during my adult age most of my resources have gone to finding work and working so that I would survive, not realizing that living according to this fear has taken up so much resources that I have made myself unable to explore myself and the world and what I would actually like to do with my life.

I forgive myself that I have accepted and allowed myself to believe and perceive that the only resource I had in this game of survival and success were my creativity and artistic skills, because they were (mostly) not dependent on money and were thus accessible to my social class – and I forgive myself that I have accepted and allowed myself to thus believe that my creativity is my only asset and “trump card” in life and that I should thus strive to use it and make it a profession in which I can “shine” – never stopping to realize that I have not really considered developing any other assets because I have perceived them to be “out of my reach” or “too much trouble” - and that clinging onto arts has been an act of passiveness, a “safe choice”.

I forgive myself that I have accepted and allowed myself to cling onto arts as my “only way” of “making it” within the competition to succeed within society and life as I believed and perceived my skills in arts to be the only resource I had.

I forgive myself that I have accepted and allowed myself to define myself based on a limited set of skills and assets, thus believing and perceiving myself to be less than I am and to be capable of less than I actually am.

I forgive myself that I have accepted and allowed myself to diminish myself by believing myself to be limited to the skills and assets I happen to have at a certain age because the rules of societal conduct - “the rules of life”, the guidelines according to which one can attain a functioning position within the system – dictate that around this age I have to choose a profession and focus my energy on refining myself in this profession.

I forgive myself that I have accepted and allowed myself to not realize that when I was at the age when I “was supposed to” choose a profession I had no idea who I was and what I was capable of and that I thus attempted to define myself according to the little I knew of myself – resulting with a very limited self-definition and “plan for life”.

I forgive myself that I have accepted and allowed myself to direct myself according to this “plan for life” that I created at a young age based on the little knowledge I had of myself and upon what I believed the society and life to be (a competition).

I forgive myself that I have accepted and allowed myself to live according to the self-definition that I was good at arts/creativity and not much else, directing myself towards the things I was “good at” and felt comfortable with and away from the things I was “bad at” and felt uncomfortable with – not realizing that expansion only happens outside our comfort zones and that I was avoiding discomfort because I feared failure, not realizing that expansion and learning often comes with trial and error and that making mistakes is nothing to fear.

I forgive myself that I have accepted and allowed myself to become passive in my life because of the conditions I was born into within which I learned that it is “my place” to “settle” for the assets I had been “given” - not realizing that these assets were not “who I am” but the consequence of how I had lived my life so far.

I commit myself to direct my life from the starting point of expansion and exploration as I now see, realize and understand that the only thing that limits me from reaching out to all of existence and my full potential is my own self-definition; and I commit myself to do this by taking myself to the edge of my comfort zone and beyond. I realize that life is too short to get stuck with and be defined by the things I have found comfortable during the first two decades of my life.

I commit myself to study from the starting point of learning for myself – not because studying will reward me with a place in the university and a possibility for a career, but because I realize that what I learn affects who I am and how I move myself as life. Thus, I also commit myself to always aim to apply what I study and learn to practical reality so that I would not study for the sake of studying but for the sake of living.

I commit myself to build trust in myself as a self-supported and self-directed being, and I commit myself to investigate my fears and doubts about my ability/disability to support and direct myself.

I commit myself to live out the realization that I am not who I have defined myself to be by being here with and within myself in each and every breath and allowing myself to create myself in the moment of breath, thus opening myself up to the windows of opportunities I have passed by before.

I commit myself to practice the principle of taking what I need and unconditionally giving away what I do not by not asking for more pay or other privileges for my work based on experience, education or other status upgrade unless I actually need it to survive.

I commit myself to work from the starting point of carrying full responsibility for the position I am in and the task I am assigned to do, as I see, realize and understand that no matter the type of work I am spending just as much time on it as everyone else does on their work and that it is my responsibility to do my absolute best with the resources I have; unless downright abusive, all work has it's purpose and function in the society.

I commit myself to no longer work for companies, employers and/or forms of business that I find abusive, and I commit myself to rather try to find work that I see to have constructive value, no matter how “basic” a job or “low” a position – and I commit myself to investigate my prejudice towards certain jobs that I resent doing even though I see them to hold constructive value.

I commit myself to direct myself within my life in such a way that will assist in bringing about a world in which there is no poverty, segregation, inequality and scarcity of necessities – where a child would be born with limitations only from the physical reality itself and none of those that are imaginary, arbitrary and not real.

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