I read an article a while back that said in effect that what happens in our early childhood has no affect on later life. Really….I learned to walk and talk quite young and I am still walking and talking. Saying that early life experiences is neglecting oceans of facts studies and life experience that shows that happens as children does effect us all of our lives. Cool thing is as an adult I can change the impact of that learning/training/experiences. Many hours of counseling we discussed my early childhood experiences then put those experiences in a new perspective as an adult. We explored what I could do now that I was helpless to do then. I questioned long held beliefs to see if they still apply with my new found knowledge. Many parts of my life were examined and reframed into new scenarios with different out comes. I am still influenced by my past but I no longer feel controlled by my past. I found another article that I believe is more reflective of my experience with lasting memories and how counseling helped me change my view of my world.
This article also addresses the issue of learned helplessness. I remember my counselor first introducing me to this concept. I struggled wrapping my head around the idea that I learned to be helpless. Who would teach a person that they are helpless? Oh yes, abusers most certainly would. If a person feels powerless, they are easier to control. I better understood this when I read articles about training a baby elephant to hold still with a rope tied around his ankle.
There is a story about elephants and their owners in Africa. Look at an adult elephant; it can easily uproot huge trees with its trunk; it can knock down a house without much trouble.
When an elephant living in captivity is still a baby, it is tied to a tree with a strong rope or a chain every night. Because it is the nature of elephants to roam free, the baby elephant instinctively tries with all its might to break the rope. But it isn’t yet strong enough to do so. Realizing its efforts are of no use, it finally gives up and stops struggling. The baby elephant tries and fails many times, it will never try again for the rest of its life.
Later, when the elephant is fully grown, it can be tied to a small tree with a thin rope. It could then easily free itself by uprooting the tree or breaking the rope. But because its mind has been conditioned by its prior experiences, it doesn’t make the slightest attempt to break free. The powerfully gigantic elephant has limited its present abilities by the limitations of the past—-hence, the Baby Elephant Syndrome.
Human beings are exactly like the elephant except for one thing—We can CHOOSE not to accept the false boundaries and limitations created by the past…
” Don’t let your past dictate who you are, but let it be part of who you become.”
Part of the process in what I consider good counseling is teaching me I have power and my past does not define me. Learning that I am not helpless. The “have-tos” and “must-dos” in life are more suggestions that I can ponder the consequences and make choices unleashed me from my past. At first, it was a bit scary. There is a certain false feeling of security when someone else dictates to me what I need to do. Slowly I started grasping the concepts of choice and accountability. I kept learning. I am still in situations that I follow someone else’s instructions but now it is a conscious choice with thoughts to what the consequences are. Quick example I have to clock in and out at work. I think it is ridiculous and counter productive but I would lose my job if I don’t. I choose to clock in and out because I want to keep my job. Learning I have power and I can choose differently is a bit scary but awesome. I am continuing to learn and thankful for a great counselor that coached me through this process.