How to think about childhood


I’m on week 2 of the How to Enjoy Being Your Course. It’s the section where Brooke has us work through something we regret, are embarrassed by, was painful, or we wish we hadn’t done.

As I did the work today, I realized that my procrastination pattern is based on beliefs I formed when I was 6-8 years old in response to choices my mom made. Whether I adopted what she believed or made her actions mean these things on my own, is unclear, but they are there in my brain.

I was homeschooled, and my mom basically gave up between when I was 6-8. Everything I learned after she taught me to read was self-taught, with the exception of about 3 different classes she paid for in high school that we’re basically electives. She also paid for me to do choir, and speech and debate in high school. I had to start with remedial classes at community college—at 19 I learned how to add and subtract fractions for the first time in my life. There’s all sorts of thoughts and emotions I’ve worked through about this over the years. Right now I want to zero in on a few.

Thoughts:
I can’t do this on my own, I need help
People won’t help me
I need to be more disciplined and do this myself
I can’t do this by myself because I need help

I realized I formed these beliefs around age 6-8 years old based on my mom giving up on my education. I can’t know her models, but I interpreted her choices as frustration with me, which I internalized and believed wouldn’t have happened if I had been “better.”

20 year old belief: If I had been different, maybe she wouldn’t have given up. If my behavior had been different, maybe she would have made different choices.

But here are my more current beliefs I started forming from 12 years old to now:
-I was a child. My behavior shouldn’t have dictated an adult woman’s choices
-She was my parent; she should have done better!
-I developed these belief patterns because of her
-My struggles with procrastination and getting stuck on projects are her fault

The feelings these thoughts generate are anger and powerlessness.

I think the anger is an emotion I want to feel, and I believe I can love her and have compassion while still being angry at her. Anger is an emotion that ebbs and flows. I’ve processed and released a lot of anger towards her, and I’ve learned to accept it when it pops up because it means there’s more to process.

But the powerlessness is just proving the “I can’t” and “I could if my mom had been different” thoughts true over and over again.

I don’t want to be a victim, but I also think my mom made bad choices that hurt me as an innocent child.

How can I relate to my child self, understand that all of that was not my fault and had nothing to do with me, without getting stuck in a victim mindset in my present?

My mom also played the helpless victim role when I was a child. If her kids were different, if her husband was different, if her childhood hadn’t been so abusive, she would be a better mom.

But the time I was 12, I started making my anger known to her, and asked her to change, telling her how much I needed an education. She would break down in tears and apologize whenever we had these conversations, but she never changed or attempted to actually educate her children or admit she couldn’t do it and have someone else educate them. I decided to stop having these conversations when I was 16, because I saw they went nowhere, and I hated how I walked away feeling guilted into feeling sorry for how hard her childhood was.

I spent most of my life believing my mom and dad’s narrative that they were victims of each other and their parents and their children. So I have this weird belief that blames them, but feels guilty about blaming them because they’re the victims, and then is angry that I’m feeling guilty for expecting my parents to be good parents.