“The wanting of a thing is far better than the having of that thing. The Delight that never fades, the bliss that is eternal, is yours only so long as that which you most desire is just beyond reach.” ~C. S. Lewis.
People from very different cultures and backgrounds, religions, and philosophies, have sought for thousands of years a method to live a more peaceful, happier life. They wish to discover this method on their terms. In the United States, many people to turn to psychologist, psychiatrist, religion, and even psychopharmaceuticals, in what for many must be a desperate search for relief from the anxiety, depression, fear, and the myriad personal and cultural demons, both real and imagined that they face daily.
As a community health expert, I once practiced in the field of community psychology. During the time I worked closely with families, the overall positive outlook of children astonished me. Children, at least young children anyway, can see the good in others, even those who may have been unkind to them. I found them nonjudgmental and accepting of others regardless of race, religion, color or creed. At least until they were taught to be judgmental (and self-judgmental) by their caregivers.
It would seem the adage by Christopher Marlowe, “Solamen miseris socios habuisse doloris”, roughly translated Misery loves company, is sadly true. Why parents feel the need to inflict upon their children the very same burdens of hatred and fear I cannot say. Perhaps it is simply because their parents instilled these same afflictions upon them. The worst possible excuse for horrible things is the statement “that is the way we have always done it.” These same fears, hatreds, and the resulting conditioning this instills in children results in the sexism, racism, ageism, and other irrational fears (homophobia and xenophobia) that we face as adults. These “isms” are among the most clinically destructive handicaps parents can inflict on their children. I find it strange that so many parents seek happiness and contentment for their children, yet they saddle them with the same fear and hatred that robbed them of their joy.
We can understand that when a parent strikes a child with a closed fist or a strap that this is abuse. When parents inflict their psychological and emotional baggage upon their children, destroying the child’s ability to be happy, our society pays little if any attention. With very few exceptions, happiness and contentment are purely internal, psychological conditions.
We may remember as children the joy and excitement of an empty cardboard box or a new friend. As adults our imaginations have been blunted, our joy of the simple things taken away extinguished. As adults many of us are suspicious of new people; we guard our hearts carefully. In the last 1960’s, musical artist Glenn Campbell released a song titles “The Eyes of a Child” that he had co-written with Jerry Capeheart. The ballad is a haunting one, speaking of the innocence and acceptance. The world is a dreamland, or so the song goes. It is not difficult to understand that the loss of our imaginations and our ability to be happy in virtually any situation were critical aspects of our childhood selves, and we all mourn the loss of these things, even if we don’t acknowledge it. And while it is impossible for us to become children again, we do have the option to return to that state of clarity and acceptance we once possessed. But it will require patience. And practice. A great deal of practice.