Are we defined by our circumstances?
From the moment we are born we are shaped and taught how we need to be in order to live our best life. It all starts with our loving parents who teach us everything they know and believe in to prepare us for life… as they understand it.
Whilst we are all born with the same inherent potential as a soul, we all incarnate with different life goals and purposes. We are subjected to different influences and living circumstances and thus we do not all start out with the same opportunities. We may not all get to experience an idealistic, loving, nurturing family growing up, often our start in life is governed instead by rather challenging circumstances. All of these factors help to explain the enormous diversity of the human experience. If we have different goals and desired outcomes and our formative influences and circumstances are different, how could we possibly all have the same outcome? I think we can agree that we do not. Let us explore this further to understand a little deeper since understanding is a key factor when desiring to make changes.
I will begin with conception since it seems the most logical place to start. The circumstances surrounding our conception can have a powerful influence over our start in life. As you read on, you may see that I have chosen to use fairly extreme examples to demonstrate my point. There are of course more variations of the life experience than could ever be documented successfully, and so in the interests of brevity, I have opted for more obvious examples. A child, for example, conceived as a result of a violent act has the odds stacked against them from the very start. That unwanted pregnancy may well result in a child who is rejected and put up for adoption. Or depending largely on the life experience and supports of the mother, she may be able to separate the horror of the conception act from the innocent child. She may attempt to neutralise the emotional charge from her violent experience, and or any guilt she may be feeling, by overcompensating with her love. Alternatively, the child might end up being unloved because they serve as a constant reminder of the violence and degradation surrounding the act of their unwelcome conception. Another child may be conceived by in vitro fertilisation. Distraught people who find they cannot conceive, embrace science and medicine to help them create a life. These children are born out of a powerful desire, and they are much wanted and cherished. This too can have a powerful knock-on effect on the child’s life, depending on the parent’s experience and how they relate to their child. Conception circumstances cannot be influenced by the child however it is clear to see that the shaping has begun.
The parent’s life experiences and history will exert a powerful influence over the child. Everything that helped to form the parent’s psyche may well be played out again in the child’s life, as a way to recreate the parent’s experience. Alternatively, the complete opposite could be true place based on a desire to ensure that their child has a different experience. Children who experienced abuse and violence, or who grew up with addicted or alcoholic parents often become abusers and addicts themselves, they repeat what they know. Alternatively, those parents who have overcome these obstacles may break the cycles of abuse and addiction. This too can have a knock-on effect for their children as they live fairly rigid, structured lives in support of their sobriety. Behaviour is tightly controlled and managed and many rules are in play to ensure a clean-living sober life. On the other end of this spectrum, you will find the children born with silver spoons in their mouths. Their every whim and desire are catered for almost before they express themselves and they want for nothing. They can be cherished to the point of entitlement and this too, has a powerful effect on their life experience as they never learn to strive and achieve for themselves. The stage is set and the conditioning inherent.
The community into which we are born exerts a powerful influence over our life’s experience. A child born into abject poverty with little to no resources available, in a community with little societal structure, will have a vastly different life experience than the child born into affluence. The child born into high society lives with clearly defined rules that are strictly adhered to and they have access to all and anything that they could possibly desire. Certain communities are focused on upliftment and growth, while others are more focused on survival and the individual, with little concern for the larger group dynamic. Some communities freely act out their anger and frustration and for children born into those circumstances, life can be incredibly challenging indeed. It is not difficult to see how all of this could influence a child’s life and also, how the child has no influence over their own conditioning.
Living in a deeply religious community will be a vastly different experience to life in a community/family without spiritual guidance. One is governed by predetermined rules with strong guidance and structure. That may lead to feelings of security and assuredness, unless the overseeing governing bodies tend toward punishment and shaming for transgressions, then the child may learn to feel less than, or perhaps fearful. A child who grows up with no religious or spiritual guidance is missing out on an important part of their upbringing. Freewheeling through life without accessing our spiritual side can have a devastating knock-on effect in later life. The child has no say in the religious choices of their family and may well be significantly shaped by the consequences of those choices.
The child then heads off to school where teachers exert their influence as well; not only in terms of learning and subject matter, but their beliefs and preferences about how their charges should behave, and what is and is not acceptable to them and to the school. Often because of the size of classes, teachers have to focus on the collective need of the class and may not be able to cater for the individual needs of a specific child. Some children, certainly in South Africa, and probably across the globe in poorer or more rural communities, attend schools where there are no toilet facilities or running water, let alone books and resources. They sit in class, fifty plus children to one harassed teacher. How can that experience be the same as the child in a private school, working on their laptop, twenty to a class with teacher assistants and access to remedial teaching and every support necessary to help them realise their potential. Not to mention fully stocked tuck shops as opposed to their poorer counterparts who maybe receive a sandwich courtesy of a feeding scheme that they often take home to share with their whole family as the only meal they will see in a day. The child has virtually no ability to influence their experience at school, and yet it will play a large role in shaping the child’s life.
The values and priorities of the family will have a massive impact on a child as well. I recall visiting India and being so touched by the poorest of the poor people I met there. Beggars sitting on the side of the road, hoping for a handout or some help from tourists and passers-by. Each of these mothers was cuddling, or massaging, or rocking their children. They were tactile and loving and you could see how much they cherished their little ones. They had little to nothing in material terms, but they were filled with love and the energy they radiated was peaceful and resigned. Conversely you have the big house on the hill where the children are raised by nannies and maids. Parents are off working, socialising, or travelling extensively, and these pampered children who have everything they could ever desire in material terms, are often lonely and grow up feeling unloved and not prioritised by their well-meaning, if absent parents. How can a child influence their home circumstances? They cannot.
I could continue, but I think the point is glaringly obvious. Our early influences in life (good or bad), over which we had absolutely no control, shaped who we were taught to be as adults. This has a direct influence over how we perceive ourselves and our inherent worth. These powerful influences can oftentimes direct our entire life. They either serve to cement us into a perpetual cycle of repeating what we have been taught, or they serve as the springboards from which we can propel ourselves into a different reality. Anyone feeling unhappy, frustrated, or lost in their life would do well to begin to review their earlier life experiences. It can be illuminating to realise that we may be living unconsciously, following what we were taught to believe and be, living out the expectations placed on us by others, even though in our hearts we do not really subscribe to those beliefs. This is often the beginning of our personal journey quest where we start to work out for ourselves what we genuinely believe in and want to create for our lives.
Infinite possibility is available to everyone. Accessing it begins with a desire to have a different experience. The wonderful thing about the free will that humans are blessed with, is that we do get to choose. There comes a point in life when we realise that we get to take responsibility for our own experiences. We get to choose to stay where we have been positioned or taught to be and keep having the same experience, or we get to choose a different way of being. All change comes with consequences and the change process can be challenging indeed, but one thing is certain, until we own our part in the creation of our future, we will not change. As long as we hold ourselves hostage to our formative influences we will remain where we are in life. However, if we really want to, we can redirect our lives and take ourselves to an experience that fills our hearts and souls with purpose, peace, and joy.
Once I reached that realisation in my own life, I was perfectly positioned to begin the change process. I was no longer under the influence of my mentally ill mother, and my beaten down father, who taught me that “people like us don’t/can’t/mustn’t…” or that “I had no right to expect anything more from life than what I was given”. “I was lucky to have anything given that I had no worth at all”. “I had no right to choose”. “I must always/should never…”. I am not certain whether that change process in my life will ever be entirely completed, but with every adjustment I make, more horizons open up to me and I keep learning and growing. I think the most important line I wrote in my book Weird Shit is this:
Nothing is a problem, until it becomes a problem for you, and then change is inevitable.
As always, I offer you my understanding of things. I encourage you at all times to question and decide for yourself what you want to accept and onboard. I am always interested to hear your opinions and I encourage feedback. However, it is essential to understand this vital truth as we journey together:
We don’t have to agree on a single thing to be kind to one another.
So, disagree with me by all means, own your different perspective, but please remain respectful of other’s beliefs and journeys.
Treat yourself with EMpathy and EMbolden yourself to dream. EMerge from your learned way of being, allowing yourself to celebrate life as you EMbrace your full potential. EMancipate yourself from your limitations, EMpowering yourself to live with greater clarity and joy!
Until next time when I shall discuss life in balance, be kind to one another and honour yourself as the unique and incredibly special soul that you are.
© Copyright 2020 – Janice Melmed