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Thursday, February 21, 2013

Bruce's Lecture

Three year old Ben stands at the gate and cries. Barely able to see over the top of the wooden child gate locked in place, he can see his working in the backyard. His anxious cries become louder as he shakes and pulls on the gate. Ben's mother ignores him. He throws this body down on the wooden floor. Ben kicks at the gate and cries, gasping for air. His mother throws down the towel she had been using to tend her flower bed and sighs. By the time she reaches the doorway and is towering over him. Ben has stopped crying. Her stare is stern as she narrows her eyes and purses her lips. "You are a selfish, selfish boy!" she says. The words pierce Ben's heart like arrows. "A selfish boy," she repeats. Ben lies on the floor looking up at his mother. He sees the displeasure in her eyes as she leaves him behind.

His cries turn to whimpers. Defeated, he makes his way over to the couch, lying face down. Unable to articulate his pain, he deliberately drools on the expensive fabric.

"If I can't have her, I will destroy her couch," he thinks. Ben cannot put his revenge into so many words, but his actions speak for his three-year-old feelings.

Of all the instinctual drives of childhood, I believe the one most often left unidentified (perhaps because it is so obvious) is the obsession for the familiar. Children have an instinctual need to belong to a life sustaining family system, but this survival trait has a design flaw. Children continue to obsess for the familiar, even when the familiar harms rather than nurtures. Even if parenting becomes abusive, children choose to fit and adjust rather than protest and risk ostracism. They are hardwired to believe that abandonment must be avoided, no matter the cost. Ben will passively and aggressively express his anger at his mother, disguising it enough so that she will not leave him totally unprotected.

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