Raised with fear

In the foreword to Doreen Virtue’s The Lightworker’s Way, Louise Hay writes that we are born knowing we are perfect, whole, and complete, but forget as we grow up. She cites one of the possible reasons for this forgetting: being “raised by parents who had learned to see life through fearful eyes” (p. ix). In reflecting on my childhood, I think that this is a somewhat accurate description of the way in which my parents saw life, saw me, and raised me.

I love my parents very much. I accept them for who and where they are in their personal evolution and recognize that they have acted and continue to act in what they think is the best way. They are conservative Christians and tend to see the world in black and white. Their faith is the core of who they are and they rebel against and condemn most things that conflict with it or that they see as not fitting in with it. I think that what they identified as my “sensuality” at an early age scared them, and consequently, they didn’t know quite what to do with me. As a result, sensuality and sexuality were repressed in the name of religion. I remember being in the church parish hall when I was a young adolescent and my mother telling me that I had this aura (kind of surprising that she used this word as she was very anti anything occult) that attracted men 15-50 yrs old. I don’t think that she intended to make me feel badly or different, but that was what happened. I felt like some sort of freak and like I was dangerous. I picked up on her fear and became afraid of myself and terrified of losing control of myself. The solution was easy – keep going to church.

Eventually, enough space developed between me and the oppressive religion that was restricting me and convincing me to be afraid of myself. I had been taught that I could not control myself – not that I shouldn’t because that would imply possessing the capability of doing so. Ironically, the power that the Church had over me was only that which I gave it. I knew this enough to take it back, but having been raised to see in black and white, if the Church wasn’t controlling me then I thought nothing could. As a result, I gave in to my primal urges that had been confined for so long and began a downward spiral laced with a curious and exploratory free-love motif reminiscent of the 60s and 70s.

While my parents might have raised me to be afraid of and distrusting of myself, they instilled in me some very positive values and capabilities, one of which was practicality. This practicality has stepped in and helped me numerous times, of which this was one. I knew I was out of control and knew I needed to separate myself from my situation in order to change. My salvation came in the form of my first professional job. In another country. A bit extreme, maybe, but I honestly think I needed it at the time. I was to begin working at a church where I would be in charge of a youth group. Not exactly fitting given the way in which I’d been living my life, but my plan was to reform and give my power back to the Church. When I arrived, though, and began to pick up where I’d left off years before, the landscape with which I found myself surrounded seemed out of proportion and nonsensical. Answer-less questions I had been taught to accept as faith now needed desperately to have real answers. Pockets of blaring hypocrisy and contradiction stood out like vibrant neon against the black and white background. I clutched the reins of my life in my confused and nervous hands and wondered at the change in scenery. Had it been like this before? Where I looked for peace and solace, I found politics and bureaucracy. where I looked for Spirit, I found doctrine and dogma.

Thankfully, I came to find the peace and solace for which I was so desperately searching in the face of a spirituality I had been taught was akin to the most egregious practice in the eyes of “god” – Paganism. Suddenly, I was now fully capable of being responsible for…myself. Sexuality was no longer something of which to be afraid or controlled. It just was. Thinking back on how my parents had treated me, I think things would have been very different if they just hadn’t made such a big deal of it.

Fear leaves an impression that fades slowly. Learning to live without being afraid of myself, or of that which I am capable is very much a work in progress. I have come a long way, and yet, I continue to notice little thoughts that come into my head that catch me off guard. This deprogramming, like many changes we consciously make to our lives, seems like something that I will need to continue to do for a while to come.

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