[I wrote this essay in July of 2011.]
For several years I have been studying people in deep, long-term friendships and couples in happy, long-term, committed relationships, in order to determine what makes the relationship function. What keeps them together? What keeps them “happy” in their relationship? The general answer I have found is simple, and is neither a good nor a bad thing: it is common values. The reason I say it is not necessarily good is that I have seen many happy, functioning couples or friends who share values I find disturbed or offensive, such as fundamentalist religiosity, mutual denial of their abusiveness toward their children, xenophobia, hypochondria, overlapping areas of sexual acting out, shared love of the same drug, and love of living in a bubble of comfort, to name but a few.
My reason for writing this essay, however, arose when I got down to brass tacks and asked myself about my own values, and thus, in turn, about the types of people I am most likely to gravitate toward.
What do I value most in this world?
- Exploring one’s inner self.
- Building a strong, conscious, honest relationship with oneself.
- Being willing to look at painful or ugly sides of oneself.
- Having courage; that is, taking action in spite of one’s own fears.
- Being willing to admit errors and then struggling to change them.
- Exercising one’s ability to view things from different perspectives.
- Taking radical distance from one’s family of origin.
- Being financially independent.
- Respecting others’ true selves.
- Experimenting, including engaging in healthy risk-taking.
- Being confident enough to live in the flux of insecurity.
- Having strong sexual boundaries.
- Loving nature, wilderness, wildlife, and the non-human natural world.
- Having broad-ranging intellectual curiosity.
- Making sacrifices to achieve an important goal.
- Taking a public stand.
- Living a healthy physical life, including eating well, keeping appropriately active, and getting a good night’s sleep.
- Loving children.
- Recognizing the insanity in people having children before they have healed their own traumas.
- Having fun.
And now I will repeat the items on my list, and follow each with an exploration of the corresponding opposite value, that is, the things I do not value:
- Exploring one’s inner self. [Opposite value: Fear of looking within, living externally.]
- Building a strong, conscious, honest relationship with oneself. [Opposite value: Avoiding a relationship with oneself; being dissociated.]
- Being willing to look at painful or ugly sides of oneself. [Opposite value: Shying away from one’s unhealed sides, which often includes nurturing a delusion of being already healthy.]
- Having courage; that is, taking action in spite of one’s own fears. [Opposite value: Living crippled by fear.]
- Being willing to admit errors and then struggling to change them. [Opposite value: Always having to be right, or being a compulsive apologizer who never changes negative behavior.]
- Exercising one’s ability to view things from different perspectives. [Opposite value: Steadfastly viewing things from one, rigid perspective.]
- Taking radical distance from one’s family of origin. [Opposite value: Being unable to evolve beyond one’s family of origin, which signifies remaining an emotional child forever.]
- Being financially independent. [Opposite value: Being financially dependent — and lacking a freedom because of it.]
- Respecting others’ true selves. [Opposite value: Being a boundary-crosser — and not even knowing it.]
- Experimenting, including engaging in healthy risk-taking. [Opposite value: Taking no risks, and always sticking to the tried and true.]
- Being confident enough to live in the flux of insecurity. [Opposite value: Being so deeply insecure that one has to surround oneself in the delusion of safety.]
- Having strong sexual boundaries. [Opposite value: Acting out sexually, using sex as a vehicle to express one’s unconscious thoughts and feelings; that is, in our modern world, being somewhere on the continuum of sexually normal to extremely sexually perverted.]
- Loving nature, wilderness, wildlife, and the non-human natural world. [Opposite value: Having little consideration for nature, the wilderness, wildlife, and the non-human natural world; living an utterly human-centered existence.]
- Having broad-ranging intellectual curiosity. [Opposite value: Being intellectually disinterested or limited.]
- Making sacrifices to achieve an important goal. [Opposite value: Being unable to make sacrifices to achieve important goals; being stuck.]
- Taking a public stand. [Opposite value: Being afraid to be out of the closet, in any sense of the metaphor; living in terror of public rejection.]
- Living a healthy physical life, including eating well, keeping appropriately active, and getting a good night’s sleep. [Opposite value: Living an unhealthy physical lifestyle, including eating poorly, exercising too much or too little, and having poor sleeping habits.]
- Loving children. [Opposite value: Being disinterested in or bored by children — a clear sign of psychic deadness.]
- Recognizing the insanity in people having children before they have healed their own traumas. [Opposite value: Having children or thinking it’s okay to have children before one has healed one’s own child within; in essence, turning a blind eye to the perpetuation of child abuse, which is the root of human destructiveness.]
- Having fun. [Opposite value: Being a stick-in-the-mud.]
It is a incident that I saw your movie when I was trying to find some answer about mental disease and trauma. I did not study in this area but for my personal experience, it calls me lots of attention and interest. I try to observe, think, learn, get information I could for many years, of course something definitely necessary and important is that to be honest completely and to be courage to face the reality, then in the process found that we still need to be more honest than we were.I am so agree with most things you mentioned in your website and believe that I understand them very well.
I am a Taiwanese, by the way.So I am afraid that I can’t use your language so well. I didn’t read all information here, but its impress me enough and makes me feel really curious about you, your thought and all ideas you spread.I think that they will be very useful and can help lots of people in my culture.Also, in whole my life, I feel difficult to explain what I observe and believe with people but now I see them in your web page. It is really amazing for me.
Now one thing I really feel that it is important to share. I was a loved and abused child of my parents(but it is totally normal for the society, even that they are ideal parents for most people), its a very long travel to get free from the past, but I also understand that there are two reality very important in this story. First, they do love me, and they do hurt me. Second, they were abused children, too, and failed to recover o correct from their trauma. But I found the process from hate to forget then if it is possible love, is very valuable for my mental heath. It is a personal experience of mine, and I understand that there are other cases that the only way is to be as far as possible with their parents.In my case I think that I am lucky , with a long tern struggle and fight, the change arrive my home and now I am really feel happy.
I recovered from a emotional crisis that be determined as Schizophrenia when I was studying movie overseas. A very rude and cruel process almost drives me really crazy, that experience makes me start to notice the illness of the medical system and not only medical system but also the structure of the society.And I wonder what can I do about this.
En reality there is no point of what I wrote to you, because even my self do not know what could happen o would be your reaction. I just feel that I should contact you and maybe my history can be interesting for you.
Thank you for read so long a message, Have a nice day
cool — thanks for sharing this amanda!! daniel
I get that your childhood sets the stage for the kind of life you will have, but why do say that ‘every child’ was abused?
that’s what i’ve observed. some get abused in extreme ways, others less so (the norm).
I am interested in what you are writing and movies you make from YouTube.
What is your opinion of using EMDR treatment for childhood trauma? What is your opinion of emotional trauma caused not only from the parents but from other children, for example’ at school?
greetings from NYC.
hmm. EMDR — i’m not a big fan. i think it can help some people, but i’ve also known some who have been hurt by it. basically, i think a good, sensitive therapist who is comfortable working with trauma and has dealt with a good deal of his or her own can do as well as any EMDR therapist without using EMDR. i see EMDR as a bit of a gimmick — one that can be good or bad depending on the practitioner. the danger is that it potentially lulls both EMDR practitioners and clients into thinking they’ve found the magic bullet for trauma.
about your second question: sure, kids at school, etc., can cause trauma (i’ve had it happen to me) but i still think by far the primary traumatizers are parents. they set the stage for trauma and to me fail at their job if they place their kids in positions to be traumatized by others…..
all the best!
Hey Daniel, thanks for a detailed answer. I have another question: Are my parents really had a choice, considering they grew up after World War 2, in the former Soviet Union, and were Jews? Thanks a lot.
personally i think everyone has a choice at some level…even if they had horrible upbringings and grew up in horrible circumstances. people are responsible for the things they did to their children. (similarly, hitler was terribly abused and traumatized as a child but he was responsible for the horrible things he did. alice miller writes about that beautifully in “for your own good.”) but it is our responsibility (as grown-up children) to heal ourselves….our parents cannot heal us. i know you didn’t actually bring this up, but that was the thought that came to my mind.
i guess my thought is that everyone was abused as kids, everyone had a tough upbringing, and we all have choice in terms of repeating what was done to us or to change. maybe that is what it means to be an adult…..to have some…if only a little…..choice.
best to you—–daniel
I’m not sure mentioned conditions tell you something ….
How true you said about choice, how few people in the world understand this … . I continue watch your movies .thanks
What you’ve shared here and in your videos-I have so many various reflections on those that I’m having difficulty how should I start-what to bring up first?
I’m glad to see and know that there IS another human fellow who’s so much more authentic that almost anybody I met so far while being alive in this world.It gives me….hmm… something good (I’m searching for a right word here ) to see you the way you are with yourself and others ,it gives me courage and it gives me hope-though not the easy one,based on self-deluding.
There are things that I agree with you on and those about which I don’t.One of issues that I disagree with you about is the scope of parental responsibility. Take your above post,for example. The way I understand your words in the above comment (correct me if I am wrong) is that you hold parents responsible even if what happened was beyond their influence and,thus,control.Yes,parents have the duty to do whatever they can to ensure their child’s safety in an environment like e.g.school, but they are not omnipotenet god-like beings and don’t have control over every single aspect and event that may happen there and,so, how you can write that :”..to me fail at their job if they place their kids in positions to be traumatized by others…”.
I’m curious and happy to read your reply and-as we talk about being honest-I also have fears: that I’ve offened you by my last sentence in the previous paragraph,so you’ll be angry with me (probably only my projection-I know it but,still,want to voice it) and won’t answer me.
It’s good that you made those videos and created this website-they give me strength and-I have just discovered not so nice part of myself that want to tell you: ”and I want you to keep them up because I need them”. … It’s not nice and pleasant but I guess you talked precisely about such discoveries as mine right here so as to be able,at the end, embrace our fully connected true self.