How Your Words Affect Your Actions
I’m currently working through a Nathaniel Branden book called The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem. I’ve been working through this book for a while because it is very intense work and I’m a busy mom. For those of you who don’t know, Nathaniel Branden was a prominent psychotherapist in the 1960’s. He promoted the philosophy of Ayn Rand and is known for his work on self-esteem.1 After you read Branden (and I highly suggest that you do) try reading a Rand novel, such as Atlas Shrugged. It’s almost as if her characters follow Branden’s self-esteem advice. It’s beautiful. Anyway, I reached a point where I was supposed to do sentence completion. This is where you start with half a sentence and as fast as you can, without filtering yourself, you give the sentence six to ten endings. The purpose of this is to become more aware of how you deal with and respond to everyday situations. This also helps you to see where you need to put more mental focus to try and avoid bad habits that you have buried in your unconscious. It was during this exercise that I noticed how certain words affected certain actions.
During this self-work you will notice that there are areas in your life that you are clearly denying or disowning. Certain excuses, words, thoughts, etc., can help your brain to ignore the fact that this area of your life needs attention.
Naturally, I started thinking about how these ideas line up with our behavior as parents.
The first parallel I noticed was actually pointed out to me by Stefan Molyneux, host of Free Domain Radio. I was listening to one of his podcasts titled, Excuses are a Promise of Repetition. He made a compelling case for the idea that excusing the mistakes our parents made with us sets a path in our mind to excuse similar, if not identical, mistakes with our own children. It also guarantees that we will allow these harms to be recommitted against us; either by our parents or our peers. When I tried to mentally argue this idea I quickly ran into a wall, a point that I couldn’t get past. The conclusion one comes to is that when we speak about the harms committed against us as children we should speak about them as such. Too often we rush to the defense of our parents when someone, including ourselves, tries to hold them accountable. We say or think things like: “They weren’t really abusive.” Or “It could have been worse.” Or “At least they didn’t do (fill in the blank.)” Or “Even though they hurt me I know they loved me because (fill in the blank.)” The other thing we tend to do is to invite others to laugh with us when we speak about trauma or pain. I have noticed that this process happens mentally, not just in conversations with others. The laughter and excuses become a mask we wear to disown the truth.
Universality is one of the main components in the moral philosophy that I believe in, so my thought process continued with, “If we have to hold our parents accountable for the harms they commit against us, then we must be honest with ourselves and hold ourselves accountable for the wrongs we have committed against our children.” If we have wronged our children, then we must acknowledge that we have done something morally wrong. We have to stop accepting it and trying to excuse it with things like: “I was having a bad day.” Or “They weren’t listening to me.” Or “They just made me so mad.” Or “This is what all moms do.” All of these excuses only show a lack of self-mastery. It guarantees a lack of effort the next time a similar situation occurs. To reiterate Stefan Molyneux’s point, “excuses are a promise of repetition.”
Then I started thinking that when the majority of parents are doing something it is less likely to be examined. Take spanking for example. Various individuals, and groups, have been chiseling away at the giant group of people that find spanking to be an acceptable form of parenting. The number keeps going down but it’s not a common topic you see being discussed because most people assume that since most people do it that it’s the right way. This logic is obviously flawed but we all think this way at one point or another. This doesn’t mean that we will think this way about everything but it does mean that we should be aware of our human instincts to simply follow the heard. Just because a mom that you are good friends with lets her child do something, doesn’t automatically make it a good idea. Just because the parents that live next door, that you like, send their child to public school, doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t consider homeschooling. Just because your best friend from high school thinks women shouldn’t put their career on hold to take care of their babies, doesn’t mean that childcare is a good place for children.
I thought back and realized in the past I had accepted things simply because I had heard other mothers, who I thought I respected, talking so surly about them. Sometimes I wasn’t sure if I agreed with them but to avoid an argument I nodded along and sure enough I ended up engaging in poor behavior; of course, this was my own fault. I was unaware how things I was saying, or things I was not standing up against, had quickly led to my denying the truth and following some very lost sheep.
Your words and your thoughts are the building blocks of your choices. My mother used to say, “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t; you’re right.” She was teaching me that I needed to think positively to have a positive outcome. This saying makes even more sense to me after seeing how much our thoughts and words affect our actions. If you want to stop the cycle of abuse you must start with what you think and what you say about your abuse and the abuse of others.
1) Nathaniel Branden From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nathaniel_Branden