I was working as an editor of a digital magazine, when I was approached to review a book called Life Happens to Us. Sat on my book pile for a number of weeks, I eventually picked up and struggled to put back down. What resulted in reading the most powerful and emotional story I’ve ever known, has ended with me becoming friends with the author. Really I should say mentor. Discussing childhood, Guru Ashta-deb is a trained hypnotherapist who integrates Eastern wisdom with Western knowledge.
Though hard to summarise her wealth of experience and understanding, she is an inspirational woman who has changed my life simply through one session of her online self-development courses.
I hope you enjoy reading and take the time to process her article below.
Many adults still deny that their childhood has anything to do with how they feel as an adult. Many ignore the blatant signs like suffering and conflict in relationships with the perception, “I can handle it, this time will be different,” and a host of other excuses always pointing fingers to the other. It is always someone else’s fault.
Unaware adults dealing with children are the worse. Children are too young to defend and express themselves therefore they are forced to go along with the Adult view of the world. A view that is clouded by programmed beliefs.
What is childhood programming? It is exactly like feeding code into a computer but instead you are feeding the code into a human. You must clean your room, you must help out, you must have good manners, it is my house my rules, eat your vegetables, roses are red, that is not a chicken it is a rooster, trust your teachers, parents are always right, if you eat that you will get fat…. The list goes on and on.
As the child grows these programmed beliefs become conditioned habits. The way these habits play out depends if the child has rebelled against the rules or becomes a pleaser to the rules i.e. pleasing the parent.
Every rebel child is a child who feels helpless and fears surrendering to parental rules. They directly oppose rules due to feelings of oppression and they feel more in control following their own rules. Every child that is a pleaser is a child who feels helpless and fears the consequences if they don’t surrender to parental rules. They please the parent to avoid the wrath of the parent if the rules are not followed. Observe the similarities; fear, helplessness and oppression. Most importantly both Rebel and Pleaser feel unloved and unlovable.
The fear of being unloved is in many adults. Why? Many parents and caregivers subconsciously use love as a tool to bait the child into what they deem good behaviour. The waves of stress and violence all stem from people feeling unloved. Can you recognize the program here? Baiting a child with love? If you behave well I will love you, but, if you behave badly I will hate you. I challenge you to close your eyes now and feel this programing within yourself. How does it play out in your life?
Adult beliefs about how a child should be and not the nature of the child itself actually hampers a child’s growth.
Childhood is a crucial time in our development. It is a time when children by nature trust the adults responsible for with their wellbeing. Ironically we are asking them to trust the Adults around them who themselves have forgotten how to be a child. How do you guide a child when you yourself have forgotten what it is like to be a child? It is impossible.
Many adults subconsciously force adult rules and adult thinking onto children. Examples: you should do this, don’t do that, you should listen to me, bad boy/girl, don’t do that, shut up, I love you do you love me? You look like daddy/mommy, this is the way it is done, the sky is blue. These statements and more program children.
As a society we should not try to force our opinions on children. Instead, we should allow ourselves to see what these children can teach us.
We wonder in awe about famous people like Einstein. His wisdom was a natural to him. He taught himself algebra. However, he suffered greatly in personal relationships. His own children had mental health challenges. What would his life have been had he been left to play and explore? He once said, “If I were not a physicist, I would probably be a musician. I often think in music. I live my daydreams in music.” The wisdom which was natural to him worked for him. The programming from his parents devastated him. His personal life was in continuous suffering while his professional life transformed our world.
A programmed child becomes a conditioned child. A conditioned child is one that habitually acts out the programmed behaviour. Example: A child that was corrected all the time will inadvertently tend to judge and correct others. A child replays the adult behaviour. Observe how you replay learned childhood behaviour.
On social media many children are displayed like dolls and mini adult entertainers. Many parents live vicariously and dysfunctionally through their children. I have even seen parents dressing themselves and child alike. If you want a robot and a mini-me of yourself then continue to selfishly do this. But if you can allow yourself to see what your child has brought to you, this is the ultimate in love.
The underlying truth is we have many unhealthy adults. The need to dress and decorate yourself and your child and have your child be just like you is a need to validate yourself. A need to make yourself feel comfortable. What is cute today is contentious in adulthood.
Humans go through several stages of growth. Babyhood, childhood, teenage years, adult and senior.
The stages from babyhood to teenage years, at least 17, should be playtime. This is why it is called childhood. The late A.S. Neil deemed it playhood. So many young children are forced to go to school and sit for hours in classrooms (like an adult) when they should be playing.
Play helps children to understand their environment. Forcing a child out of this stage breeds discontent. A child should be able to play out their fantasies, curiosities and adventurous soul tendencies. Children who are given this opportunity grow up to be well-balanced adults.
Play develops confidence, independence, intuition, understanding, creativity. These and more are things you cannot teach a human. It is developed internally. A child’s nature is to be free. Adult nature is to be secure, imprisoned by rules and judgements.
Many mental health professionals spend years trying to analyze children. I say observe and understand them. Nature does not impose rules and judgements. But instead allows all of existence to evolve at its own pace.
This is not to say you should ignore the child. You must provide all the necessary safeties but you must also allow the child to develop at their own pace. Many adults assume children are not smart and need to be guided and told what to do every step of the way. An adult who does this is an adult who is unsure about themselves.
Children should not be told what to do but in fact be given space to explore, use their intuitive nature and be creative. Children have a natural innocence towards life. They naturally want to learn. And we must give them that space to learn without imposing our beliefs and childhood insecurities on them. Adults have a sense of morality, of right and wrong and a host of other judgments that are not within a child’s nature. The child’s nature comes from a place of loving curiosity.
Here is a story:
On a hot summers day a group of children aged five to nine were playing tag. As the heat intensified one child declared “let’s play tag in the pool.” They deduced it would be cooler in the water and what fun it would be to splash each other.
They stripped naked leaving their clothing on the deck. Jumping into the pool they continued their game. They splashed, they yelled, they laughed. Hearing the noise, the gardener ran over to see what all the laughter and yelling was about. Seeing the children naked he was mortified. “Get out of this pool instantly!” “You ought to be ashamed of yourselves!” “All of you get out of there now!” “You nasty hooligans are not supposed to see each other naked.”
The terrified children hastily came out of the water afraid to look at each other. In that moment they were programmed and their innocence was changed to shame. Tag was never played again by any of them and the body shame they felt resulted in adult intimacy challenges.
Forbidden fruit for an adult is simply curiosity for the child. Noise for an adult is simply play for a child.
Adults program the child’s behaviour to suit what makes them comfortable.
When left on their own, with the freedom to express themselves, children will amaze you. In some schools of thought it is said children have come to teach the adult, the adult does not teach the child. I believe wholeheartedly in this.
Children are here to teach us not us them. What can we learn? In many scriptures and in Christianity in particular it teaches: “Unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” What does this mean? It means become childlike not childish.
Childlike – the natural state of humans. It is usually only expressed in childhood before any programming has taken place. It is joyful, creative, adventurous, brave, forgiving, and curious. Childlike attitudes vibrate unconditional love.
Childish – the unnatural state of humans. It is expressed as suffering, pain, judgements, violence, and depression. Childish vibrates self-hate. Childish is filled with resentments and attitudes of pleasing and rebelling but never being your authentic self.
The key to being a joyful and enlightened being is to strip yourself of ALL programming:
1. Observe Yourself: Observe yourself and all your actions. How do you move your hands, bathe, eat, and dress? What are your thoughts? This is only about observation not changing yourself. We must first observe who we became in order to find out who we are. Who does your actions remind you of? Reflect back to childhood; from ages zero to ten, from whom did you learn these patterns of behaviour? From where did you learn the sky is blue? If someone didn’t tell you that the sky is blue what would you think? Why do you like certain foods, clothing? Observe who the behaviour reminds you of (Mom/Dad/Caregiver). Ask, “Who would do this?” Once you have the answer ask yourself “What would I do?”
2. Change your daily routine: Feel the discomfort of changing your daily routine. Observe the voice in your head. What is it telling you? Why do you feel comfortable or uncomfortable with a routine?
3. Incorporate Daily Play: When you feel bored is when your body is telling you it wants to play. Incorporate play into your life. Something that doesn’t involve outside stimulants e.g. alcohol, marijuana, coffee. Try to play from a natural state. Reflect on the games you played as a child. What attracted you to this game? Incorporate that feeling into a game that suits your current life style.
4. Understand your childhood: Cultivate understanding of your childhood. This is not about hating your parents, but it is understanding how experiences impacted you. When you are aware of how your programmed behaviour is playing out in your life consider what you would like. If you weren’t programmed how would you dress? What would you eat? How would you live your life?
5. Know your tricks: how do you get people to like you? Stay away from you? Do you act the same for all or reserve certain behaviors for some? From whom did you learn these traits?
6. Know your beliefs: Beliefs are that which you are for or against. Faith is to surrender and trust. Anything you are against will be dominant in your life. Example: to say someone is rude means you believe being rude is bad and being polite is good. Never get caught in the duality, instead understand both sides. Find the similarities in differences.
7. Speak in the “I”: Own everything that comes out of your mouth. Speak in the first person as much as possible. Example: Johnny looks tired today really means “I” look tired today. We only see in others that which we are hiding within our self, hence the reason we have the compulsion to point it out in others.
In order to understand the core nature of your true being, you must understand the nature of the child that has been untarnished by adult influence. If you truly want to get back to that untouched nature of yourself then you have to deprogram all outside influences and see the world with fresh eyes. See the ever-changing beauty of nature as you accept the ever-changing beauty of yourself.
To be free of childhood programming is to be free from an imprisoned mind of suffering. Each and every one of us should investigate the part of our life that molded us to be what we are today. We are entitled and deserving of knowing who we are. Our authentic state is nothing to be feared but something to be loved.
Ashta-deb is the Author of Life Happens To Us, A True Story (I highly recommend reading!)
Please let me know how you found this piece and your thoughts on childhood programming.