The older you get the more you realise just how much your earlier childhood experiences color, modify, and even direct the most mundane events in your life. This presents quite a challenge for, as we all know only too well, it is extremely difficult to challenge or resolve those deep emotional conflicts which were installed within you whilst you were both young and impressionable.
Indeed, sometimes the voice of that inner child controls and dominates our lives to such a degree that it causes us to fail to realise our true potential as evolving souls.
So how, one might reasonably ask, does a young ego develop with a warped perspective of itself and role in the world?
A Call to Authenticity
In his book How to Survive Your ChildhoodNow That You’re an Adult psychotherapist Ira Israel asks his readers to face the true reality of their lives. In the opening chapter to his book he poses the all-important question, “What does it mean to be truly authentic?”
The road towards personal honesty that he recommends taking is challenging, for it requires a stripping down of social mores – those somewhat nebulously defined rules by which we are corralled into acting in quite specific and predefined ways. Israel reveals the sources of these control mechanisms as science, capitalism, and religion – social constructs that force us to act with a false persona throughout most of our lives.
The author identifies the period of those earliest years as an infant and the way in which a parent interacts with them as the primary influence – one that establishes the basic parameters for psychological patterning later on. For example, one of the most powerful responses mechanisms learnt at that age is resentment and Israel believes that this is the root cause of all self-destructive behaviour.
He observes “If you look closely at all the behaviour modification that goes on in America so that people can participate in society and not end up in prison or dispatched, you may agree that our society is resentment factory.”
This aspect of resentment possibly forms one of the deepest and darkest patterns of behaviour that is likely to trip us up time and again in all our adult actions.
Maybe it’s time for us all to address resentment on a personal level for, as the author states “We cannot go back and change our childhoods, so why do we waste time viewing them negatively or complaining about them?”
This is a strange book with an utterly beguiling title but with a strange twist towards its end that sets it off on a completely unexpected trajectory.
How to Survive Your Childhood Now That You’re an Adult opens as a powerful commentary on the poor state of psychological health that both society and individuals currently appear to be suffering from. If there is a universal social malaise then the author is probably correct in his assertion that the false values initiated within us by materialism are the fundamental reasons for these psychological and sociological problems.
The early part of this book establishes this groundwork in a clear, engaging, but at the same time, somewhat disturbing way. One is rather left wondering just where the resolution to these internal and external conflicts will come from.
When they do arrive, the reader may be left with a sense of confusion for, amongst all the sociological pressures of conformity that are forced upon us religion and structured spiritual indoctrination are quite easily up there with politics and materialism as one of the most destructive forces on this planet. It is, therefore, something of a shock to then to find that the author allocates the second part of his work to promoting Buddhism as a panacea of all social and personal ills.
It is at this point that the book loses its previous cutting-edge dynamism for which it is so enjoyable in the early chapters.
So, the usefulness or otherwise of Israel’s advice on childhood conflict resolution, is really determined by whether you feel Buddhism and its somewhat archaic spiritual principles are really up to the task of dealing with modern childhood traumas and warped Western values based around material consumption. That is not to say that Buddhism is not an extremely valid and powerful spiritual doctrine – its just that to my mind it fails in the sort of context initially presented by the author.
On a positive note this is an enjoyable work from which a great deal of personal guidance can be gleaned: which leaves me with a final evaluation of it which is to give it three stars if, like me you are skeptical of the skin plaster offered to deep social issues by established religion, but four stars if you feel comfortable with the positive role you feel Buddhism can play in halting our social decline.