Raising Mentally Healthy Children…….

children

and Changing the World

I offer my story as an example of what not to do when choosing a life-partner. I emphasize how critical it is for people to know themselves and heal old wounds, before choosing a mate. I discuss how the traditional concept of two parents, committed to each other and instilling life lessons through their own modeling, will make a huge difference in the quality of the human beings being raised and ultimately their own relationships. I also posit that with such a population of healthy people, our civilization has the potential to continue to survive.
Since I was a young girl – even before puberty – I couldn’t wait to get my period. Then I would be old enough to dream about having children. I was so envious of pregnant women. I thought everyone was having nightly sex and that life’s greatest joys would be to carry babies in my belly, and to love and guide them into adulthood. As it turned out, carrying my two babies was one of my greatest joys. And raising them was another!
Mothering was a wonderful experience for me. I read all the books such as, “How to Raise a Human Being,” and made wise choices as a mom, loving my role and my children. However, there were lots of things I didn’t know about relationships – and even more important – about myself.
From Friedrich Nietzsche’s book “On the Genealogy of Morals,” I quote, “We are unknown to ourselves, we men of knowledge – and with good reason. We have never sought ourselves – how could it happen that we should ever find ourselves?”

I didn’t realize I was carrying the scars from a critical and perfectionistic mother. She didn’t beat me, we didn’t starve, she did nice things for and with us, however, she had no idea how much her cold criticism shaped my early sense that I was flawed. She was unaware of her impact on my psyche. I read books and listened to music that touched me and that she didn’t understand.
So, believing I was not “good enough” I married someone my mother liked, to please her. He didn’t fit me in any way. We had nothing to talk about – nothing to share. I was deeply lonely just as I had been in my childhood.
It never occurred to me that I had a choice and should have waited until I met someone who matched my love of philosophy and music. It never occurred to me that I could find someone who would understand me, and would love and value me for who I am. My mother didn’t. My father emotionally abandoned my sister and me when they divorced. I felt invisible. I had no experience of being appreciated for my mind and my heart. So, I married the man who became my children’s father and after years of trying to tell myself I should be happy (after all – that’s what my mother told me) I ended the marriage in despair.
Many others naively go from their parents homes to a relationship under the influence of their hormones and unrealistic fantasies, or just as an escape. Then when that doesn’t work out as imagined, they move on to another and then another. We don’t even know ourselves before we find ourselves “in love.” And, are we at all aware that every experience, big ones and little ones affect who we are and what we will bring to our relationships – how we will behave, how we will think and feel about things – our ability to be close, and to trust?
As a relationship and trauma specialist since 1982, I am acutely aware of the value and importance of “knowing” and respecting yourself. This is critical if you are going to choose a partner who is capable of loving and respecting you. My mission is to deeply heal the wounds from all kinds of abuse, neglect, and negative messages that have contaminated people’s personal reality. I help them perceive and plan for a different, more fulfilling life. I help them change their “hard wiring” to open their horizons. It is my privilege and my responsibility to guide them to a higher level of emotional and psychological health.
When we feel good about who we are and how we live in the world, we are not afraid of trusting ourselves. We are comfortable speaking our truths and living authentically with others. We are capable of joining in an intimate, loving relationship with a healthy partner. This is what it takes for a union to last through time. These are the parents who will raise self-assured and loving people. These are the people who will honor their commitment as a validation of their own integrity. And, these are the mothers and fathers who will know how to love and support a young life to adulthood.
Let’s look at the condition of our country and beyond. Unrest, divorces, re-couplings and un-couplings, murder, suicide, wars, climate warming and the devastation that is causing our planet to change its face in so many ugly ways. It seems that just about everyone is angry or scared, which creates an atmosphere of unrelenting pessimism. Unrest mightily describes the inhabitants of this – our nation – as we wait to see, holding our breath, who will be taking the lead as President. Even other countries are aghast at the possibilities.
In my younger, idealistic days, I saw this country as a paragon of virtue. Now I see the flaws and the hypocrisy. Think about the icons our children, even our neighbors and friends hold in high esteem. Our memories are short when it comes to choosing leaders. Many of the people aspiring to leadership do so for self-aggrandizement, for the power, for the money. Regardless of their lack of moral character, charismatic egocentrics take over and the rest of us must follow their lead if we are to be part of society. Where else can we go?
With social media gaining such immeasurable and frightening power, with our children growing up in a world with less to offer and a planet that may not survive at this rate, what are we to do?
I am glad I won’t live forever, I do not want to die in a horrible disaster, or a war energized by unmanageable hate. And, I do not want the sun to stop rising and the moon to lose its glow. I want to see beauty and kindness flowing from one human being to another. We need to live aware of how quickly our lifetime passes us and that all of us want our share of happiness.
I want to live in a world where character matters and difference is welcome. Certainly there are some wonderful human beings who want a loving peace; however, the world I envision is not possible in my lifetime. Too many people are filled with hate, and lust for achievement and the money it affords. They are missing the fulfillment of loving and being loved – of striving to be the best human beings they can be. How do we make a difference?

Had I healed the wounds inflicted by my unknowing parents, I might have been quite confident and comfortable with myself. I might have made many different decisions and would have known to choose a partner who was also loved and raised well. (Or, in the least, had healed through good therapy.) Then we would have had the tools to create the bond of true intimacy. Two people, loving each other, having healed from those early wounds, have a real chance at a lasting commitment. Their children would grow up infused with what is necessary to be mentally healthy adults. Being raised by parents who demonstrate their affection and respect for each other, and who know how to communicate and to negotiate the issues which come up in all families, set the bar for their offspring.
Good parenting begins at the breast or the other end of the bottle. It means taking the time to be present with this tiny adult-to-be. (I actually watched a woman nursing her baby, and rather than gazing in the baby’s eyes, making that deep limbic connection, she was on her cell phone!) Being an involved parent means truly being present with them as they explore their world. It means coaching them about how to make good choices.
It means, as their role model, knowing how to resolve problems and to communicate in a way that allows for deep listening to the other. It means loving and supporting the young people and their unique nature so they grow up with self-esteem – not narcissism or low self-esteem. Words matter, the way one behaves with their partner matters, the choices one makes in life matter, because our children are watching and listening, and because our choices add to our own self-respect or lack thereof.
Raising children in that healthy atmosphere would give us a future to hope for. From that kind of pool, we would have presidential candidates and leaders of the world meet other leaders with respect for difference and peaceful resolutions to issues.
In the meantime, let us know and heal ourselves, and learn that giving love and being the example is the very best any parent can do. It is our sacred privilege and our most important responsibility.

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About Paula Susan

Paula Susan, MSW, LCSW, Masters in Clinical Social Work & Psychology; specialist in Trauma and Relationships since 1982. In 1991, I integrated the powerfully transformative process of EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing). Research demonstrates that it facilitates life-altering changes more efficiently and effectively than talk therapy alone. I teach skills such as communication and anxiety relief to improve connection with others. Over the decades, I’ve come to respect how much damage even small traumatic experiences inflict on our core beliefs about ourselves and the world around us. I consider it a privilege to help my clients understand and change what has undermined their happiness and their relationships. I do it with warmth, integrity, humor, and profound respect for those who care about the quality of this small piece of time we have on earth.www.paulasusan.com

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