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syz's avatar

Do we ever truly overcome our childhood?

Asked by syz (33023 points ) February 17th, 2010

While answering another question, I made a reference to a very unhappy period in my childhood. I am now a happy, healthy adult with a much improved relationship with all of the members of my family, but all it took was thinking about that time in my life to bring a wave of resentment and ire. Do we ever truly overcome our past? Do we just bury it and manage to avoid the topic? Am I just a grudge holder or is everyone this way?

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40 Answers

jbfletcherfan's avatar

I always hate to see someone post about an unhappy childhood as many of you have. My whole family, from starting with my parents, both sets of grandparents, down to my aunts, uncles & cousins, provided me with love & good times. I carry that through to today, of course. It greatly saddens me that others have lived a bumpy road there. Hugs to all.

MissAnthrope's avatar

It’s very difficult and takes a lot of self-examination and work. I think it also depends a lot on one’s innate personality; some people are more resilient and positive-thinking than others.

It’s really tough to shake off a bad childhood, especially since your experiences and the things you learn during your formative years totally shape you as an adult.

ucme's avatar

Flip that,I hope the child in me lives for as long as I do.It’s what maintains my vigour for life & shapes who I am & what I stand for.

wundayatta's avatar

It depends on what you mean by “overcome.” I’m pretty sure we can get to a point where the feelings from childhood no longer dominate our behavior now. I’m sure we can come to forgive our parents. But if you mean can you ever come to forget the feelings that remain from that time, I don’t think that is possible.

SuperMouse's avatar

I go through long stretches of not giving my childhood traumas any thought at all. Then there are times when those old feelings, patterns, and beliefs come back with so much force it almost literally knocks me to the ground. In the course of trying to forge a new – and hopefully healthy – relationship, I often find my reactions to things stem directly from those experiences. I think we can cope day to day in a way that signals a rising above, I also think those things are always there. My challenge is not to let that stuff define my life now.

YoH's avatar

Ultimately don’t we all come to terms with our childhood rather than overcome. We take IT into adulthood and have to do something with it – pass it on – change it. Our childhood is ours to drag along or carry in comfort.

Grisson's avatar

Wordsworth said “The child is father of the man.”
We grow to be the adult we are based on the events in our childhood.
No, we never outgrow the child, though some of us do grow up.
(whether we want to or not)

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

It’s an individual thing.Like many people,I have had some thngs happen that I would rather overlook.I like to deal with thngs head-on and have for the most part.I do occasionally think of some of the bad things ,but in a more objective way as an adult.You just “deal with it”.

BoBo1946's avatar

Seen bad kids come from good home and vise versa….some suck it up and some don’t! Getting over your childhood is about taking responsibilty for your actions! Personally, had a very difficult childhood, but my mistakes as an adult are mine!

Arisztid's avatar

We are, at this time, a combination of our basic genetic code (which I believe also carries the foundation for our temperament) and our life experiences.

I think that all significant events in our lives change us in one way or another. How much and in what way is up to the individual.

One way we can be changed by a negative event is to learn from it and improve our lot in life based on this knowledge. Another way we can be changed by a negative event is to allow it to negatively impact and change our lives.

I am not one of those people who believes that I need to forgive. Forgiveness is for the benefit of the person doing the forgiving, not the person receiving the forgiveness. Many people are negatively impacted by not forgiving. I happen to not be one of them. If I do not forgive, I am not eaten up by it… it just is.

Now usually I forgive including things even if they are severe. For instance, someone tried to kill me in 2005, doing severe damage to me. He apologized which I did not accept at the time. Instead, I told him that if he went into the military and made a man of himself, I would forgive. He did that and years later I forgave him because he is now not the same person as the one who attacked me which is what I required.

If someone does the same thing repeatedly, asking and receiving forgiveness from me, after a couple of times I do not forgive.

susanc's avatar

Rilke: “You must change your life” – whatever isn’t functioning. If the brain in your head was wired badly during your childhood, you can work (and it’s hard work) to restructure it. Not generate pretend-memories; not lie to yourself; just rely on the perspective of a person with more wisdom than kids have had time to build. No one else can do this for you.
But most of us can’t do it without a helper.
(my usual plug for psychotherapy)

skfinkel's avatar

Sholom Ausslander, author, talked about trying to over his bad/difficult childhood. He went to a therapist who told him he needed to come every day. Ausslander said he couldn’t afford it, and the therapist told him to move into a smaller apartment. He did, went intensively for ten years, and now is better—better enough to feel that he could have a child. Quite an impressive story. But it obviously took lots of hard work and lots of money. His stories are great, by the way.

AstroChuck's avatar

I’ll let you know when I have left it behind. Don’t hold your breath.

liminal's avatar

I like what @Grisson said. For me, my adult self is continually learning how to integrate my life experiences. I hold both the traumas and the joys of my childhood loosely. I understand that in this lifetime I may never fully understand what, as a child, I thought I so clearly perceived. Today if something occurs that stirs something from years gone by I look for the message it is offering me and seek out ways to integrate it into the present.

Sophief's avatar

Good question. I think we learn to live with it, but I don’t think we can truly get over it. Depending on circumstances of course.

Arisztid's avatar

Both off topic and sort of on topic quip coming:

Oh I know people who have been horrendously abused in their childhood and they keep contact with their abusers and believe that they “have” to forgive them because they are blood family.

That just does not make sense to me. Now, I was raised by a great father (my mother died birthing me) but, if my father had been a rotter, I would not feel the urge to forgive.

marinelife's avatar

It sounds as though although you have grown up and gone on with your life, you have not really dealt with ther unhappy period and the feelings that it has caused you.

That is work that you could do in therapy. I particularly found movement therapy helpful in dealing with feelings left over in my body from childhood wounds.

janbb's avatar

I think we carry it with us and it is always part of who we are. Nevertheless, as you begin to undestand it and the impact it had on your development, you can integrate it into a more postive sense of yourself and perhaps what you have gone through. I have never believed you have to forgive those who abused you or not feel sad about the fact that your needs as child were not met.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

I think that the older I get, the more removed I feel from those experiences – almost as if I am just writing a book and the character is not me.

downtide's avatar

I had an unhappy childhood too (though none of it was my parents’ fault, I must stress). And I do find it hard to let go, even decades later. I don’t feel angry about it but I do feel resentful, and regretful. But I try to focus more on the present, now. It’s been a difficult lesson to learn.

CyanoticWasp's avatar

Nothing from my childhood dominates any of my thinking today. Absolutely nothing. Except turnips and parsnips. How anyone can eat those vile weeds is beyond me. You people must be sick in the head. And squash, carrots (cooked, especially with that revolting brown sugar glaze) or rutabagas. Putrid, all of it. Don’t even start me on zucchini. Barf to the bone.

Um. As I was saying, I have pretty much processed the bad feelings from my childhood into funny stories. Right now I’m working on the events of my 40s, and I’ll get back to you on that. (Okay, I’m working on the “funny”, too. Do not be holding your breath.)

Plums. Oh, for god’s sake; gag me with a fucking spoon.

For the life of me, I can’t understand why others can’t get over this stuff, just like I can. What the hell are you looking at, anyway? I’m telling! Keep your hand on your side of the car seat if you want to keep it.

snowberry's avatar

Dr Laura Schlessinger wrote a book called Bad Childhood, Good Life. That should cover all of it.

I had a horrible childhood. Physically I carry scars from that time, which may still heal, and may not. But I’m over it, and I’m happy.

tinyfaery's avatar

Not yet.

lloydbird's avatar

You may have distilled the hazards of your childhood into representatively ( hazardous) entities, in order to try and tame the distresses of your early years. I hope not but am worried by the dangerous avatars that you have adopted.
Either way, I thought that you might like to know about the afore mentioned chap.
And might put safe distances between you and your feline muses in future.

Captain_Fantasy's avatar

What’s to overcome? Our childhood is at the core of our development. It’s hard to escape that.

YARNLADY's avatar

Overcome? No, probably not, but grow away from, yes. It reminds me of a flower growing out of a pot of manure.

majorrich's avatar

I believe childhood is the crucible from which the adult is molded. of the nature/nurture schools, I am firmly in the nurture camp I too come from a difficult childhood, but I believe that childhood gave me the character to persevere in what is proving to be a difficult adulthood. I will let you know if I ever really grow up.

Just_Justine's avatar

I don’t hold grudges and I hardly think about the past (my very traumatic childhood) but I get saddened when I acquire “issues” or “illnesses” that are said to have been brought on by my childhood.

Lately I have started to wonder what kind of person I would have been, if I had experienced love and support from a family even from one member of it. Only later in life have I had to admit that it did impair my functioning.

I have been told I function very well considering my past. It’s a hard question to answer this one. For me anyhow.

Just_Justine's avatar

@YARNLADY yes it is like that, but the manure tends to stick to your feet.

YARNLADY's avatar

@Just_Justine staying with the example – that’s a matter of choice a good rug or garden hose solves it.

wundayatta's avatar

I’m not sure you want to be wiping manure off your feet with a good rug. Just saying.

Just_Justine's avatar

@YARNLADY would you mind expanding on that? it’s very interesting.

BoBo1946's avatar

I did and i didn’t…still have scars to prove it!

YARNLADY's avatar

Many people believe their lives are ‘ruined’ or adversely affected by their past. I say that you can learn from the past, and leave it where it belongs – behind you. There is no need to let anything that happened long ago ‘stick’ to you now.

In my life, I visualize the memories of the past are placed into a locked drawer, and once in a great while, I allow myself time to re-examine them, feel them, see what lessons they have for me, and then put back where they belong.

majorrich's avatar

“You gotta put your behind in your past”
– Pumbaa -

thriftymaid's avatar

It can’t be erased, but yes.

Just_Justine's avatar

@YARNLADY I agree with you so much. It’s just I keep getting these crazy illnesses and they are saying it is because of my past. Which pisses me off no end.

YARNLADY's avatar

@Just_Justine Overcoming your childhood isn’t the same thing as avoiding the effects of your childhood. It means working to reverse or mitigate them.

If you ate an unhealthy diet as a child, it might take a long time to reverse it. If you had a severe illness, such as scarlet fever, there are lasting effects, but they can be treated.

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