Website owner: James Miller
Nature gives each one of us a certain set of personality traits --- a certain set of inclinations and tendencies of the mind. In general, these traits show up in early childhood. Whether they are innate or not, or which ones are innate, is an open question. However many tend to stay with a person all his life and at least act as if they were innate. For example, I was abnormally slow as a child, am still abnormally slow and "abnormal slowness" would seem to be a pronounced personality trait of mine. When we observe children we observe that each child is different with his own set of personality traits. We also observe that when nature hands out the traits it marks some children with some very pronounced ones. And some very pronounced traits predispose a child to problems of shyness, lack of confidence, insecurity, low self-esteem, dislike and distrust of people and an Inferiority Complex. They are seeds already in the child, put there by nature, ready to germinate and cause these problems. What kind of traits or personal idiosyncrasies am I talking about? I will name some problems that afflicted me as a child: 1. Abnormal slowness (mechanical and mental) 2. Inability to "think on your feet" 3. Tendency to panic under pressure (tendency to get rattled easily, fluster easily, inability to think under pressure) 4. Tendency to panic and get confused and rattled when someone is watching you or looking over your shoulder 5. Tendency to panic and get confused when someone is trying to explain something to you (especially something complicated) 6. Poor memory (in some ways, at least) Now why do such traits or personal idiosyncrasies predispose a child to shyness, lack of confidence, low self-esteem, etc.? How does it happen? 1. The individual becomes aware of his shortcomings, weaknesses and inabilities through incidents that occur as he grows up. And he becomes self-conscious about them. For example, he may be picking raspberries along with a number of other people and find out that he picks berries much slower than anyone else. He may listen to other people reminisce about their experiences of years past and realize that they recall things in far greater detail than he does. In general he sees his performance as compared with others in a particular situation and senses that he falls far short of the average person in a particular ability and he becomes self-conscious about it. And if it happens more than once the impression is reinforced. Depending on the situation, the incidents may be cause for great embarrassment --- he may be humiliated before others. All this results in a put-down to his ego, a put-down to his self-esteem. We all have pride. We need to have it. It is healthy. A blow to our pride, our self-esteem, our self-regard is a blow to the most central part of ourselves. It is a blow to our basic spirit --- it is the most devastating blow of all. We live in a competitive world. He who realizes he has weaknesses also realizes that we live in a world which has little patience with weakness --- a cruel world that just coldly walks over the weak --- a world whose basic law is the law of the jungle where the strong live and the weak die. He realizes he is highly vulnerable and in real danger. 2. Society regards alert, active, quick-to-learn children as intelligent and slow-to-learn children as dull or stupid. Society praises the alert, lively child who learns quickly and makes a lot of him while it looks down on the slow child and regards him with contempt, scorn and shame. The slow child senses all this, senses this social stigma. No matter how much pride he may have he knows he is an object of shame; a pariah, an outcast. Even if he attempts to defend himself against society's assessment of him, even if he has the spirit to defy society in its beliefs and outlooks, he is still on the defensive. And the simple fact of being an object of contempt, be it justified or not, is a blow to his ego, a blow to his self-esteem. Just as physical handicaps (such as being a hunchback) cause a reaction of repulsion in people so also do mental handicaps. Society regards the slow child as inferior and the slow child senses it. The IQ concept that modern society mades so much of heightens all of this. One's intelligence is so important to a person that it becomes almost a measure of your worth and consequently your IQ score represents a "scientifically derived" measure of you (if you are gullible enough to believe in the IQ concept). Thus society's beliefs, attitudes and values are part of the mechanism that gives a person an inferiority complex. What is the effect of having weaknesses on a person? The person tries to avoid exposing his weaknesses. Exposure means embarrassment, humiliation and mortification. So he tries to keep people at a distance. He doesn't want people to see him too clearly, know him too well. He becomes a "closed" personality (in contrast to the "open" personality that is open to people, invites examination, confides in people, trusts them). He becomes angry and antisocial. He becomes defensive and inclined toward self-doubt and lack of confidence. He becomes cautious of people and insecure. He becomes negative towards himself. He becomes obsessed with his weaknesses, exaggerates them, sees only them, and loses sight of any strong points he may have. He develops a habit of continuous negative thinking in regard to himself. He is continually seeing and noting evidence that would substantiate the hypothesis that he is inferior. He is always comparing himself to others in one way or another and coming up short. He becomes very sensitive about certain things. It is all a vicious circle that gets worse and worse. No matter how much he achieves he can't get that monkey of self-doubt off his back. He is always on the defensive, always feeling a need to "prove himself". He is driven by a need to prove himself. His mind is hung up in his personal problems. He is forever trying to think his way out of his problems. His preoccupation with his personal problems prevent him from relaxing and enjoying life and acheiving that healthy perspective on himself and life that is so vital to good mental health. What could be done to prevent all this? If such a child could develop the right outlook and philosophies towards these "inabilities", "handicaps", or "weaknesses" of his, if he could get the right perspective on them, realize that everyone is intelligent in different ways, that these "inabilities" aren't really that important, that he ought not worry about them or make a big thing of them, then possibly he might be saved from this kind of tragedy. One last important comment. I had this monkey on my back from childhood until sometime in my mid-thirties. Then in an instant of time that monkey was lifted, never to return. It didn't happen over a period of time. It happened at a particular instant. When it happened, I knew a really momentous thing had just happened to me. I knew I had just walked out the door to my freedom, out that door I had been looking for so long, out into the light of day. What happened? Well, I can say it was just some reflective thoughts and a personal decision. A decision involving a change in outlook and attitude. As much as I was accustomed to writing up such things, I delayed trying to write up the experience, trying to describe just what had happened. I knew I should but didn't. Part of the reason I procrastinated was because I wasn't just sure how to explain it. I felt writing it up would be a sizable project that would require a bit of thought. So I put it off. In addition, I was afraid it might be bad luck to write it up. Then I forgot about it. When I later wished to write about it, it had faded from memory. But the only thing that happened was a shift in outlook and attitude towards people and life. Through all those years of suffering, the way out of that trap was within me. I was held in the trap only by my own mind, by outlook and attitude. Oct 1977 More from SolitaryRoad.com:
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