When he was a child, his mother often scolded and beat him for wrong-doings big and small. Once, she hit him so hard that his nose bled. She would pick up a stick or broom and hit any part of his body with it. As a result, he developed a habit of smartly justifying his actions to escape beatings from his mother. He became “allergic” or over-sensitive to blame — real or imagined — from anyone, quickly jumping to justifications whenever he thinks someone is blaming him. Any negative or seemingly-negative feedback is interpreted as blame and triggers his automatic justification and defensive mechanism. It is so difficult for him to accept — and learn from — negative feedback. Inability to acknowledge his own mistakes had led to failures in learning.
He is now past middle age. His mother had died many years ago, but he still remembers the pain of those beatings. Mixed feelings of love and hate, warmth and coldness, fill his heart whenever he thinks of her. It was a good thing that later in life he became aware of this “programming” from his past, and he tries hard to be aware each time his “blame issue” tries to automatically kick in so that he can catch it and prevent it from controlling his behavior.
That is a real story. Here is a second story.
She was an unwanted child. Her mother, resentful of her arranged marriage, heaped her anger on her daughter. She beat her often. Stripped her naked and left her in the garage. She destroyed her self-esteem. She grew up assertive and fighting for her rights and needing to be treated as a special person, and to be listened to and heard. Interestingly, she developed to be a person who treats her close friends as special people, and she developed the skill of listening and trying to understand other people. In other words, what she craved for herself, she gave to other people. As a result of her excellent listening and empathetic abilities, she has learned and knows so much about the complexities of human behavior. Close friends and colleagues go to her for advice on life matters or simply to imbibe her healthy and freeing perspectives.
Here is a third true story, which influenced me very much.
Life, the saying goes, begins at 40. But when he reached the age of 40, he experienced a life-threatening illness. This illness stayed with him for about four years. Contemplating the prospect of dying, he began to ask questions about life that he never asked or thought before. He saw the value of life and living in a way he never saw before. He had to struggle to inwardly accept his situation. After four troubling but learningful years, he learned to let go. He learned to face and look at death with less and less fear. He embraced death as he would embrace life. Then something happened: he was healed! He has a new lease to life! After coming to terms with death, he now saw himself embracing life and living life more fully. Now, he looks at the world with the eyes of a child absorbing most everything! He entered an excellent personal learning mode!
Gandhi-ji said, “live as if you will die tomorrow; learn as if you will live forever.”
Thanks to Wikimedia Commons for the use of the image above.