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Does ANYONE have an easy, trauma-free life?

 
 
sozobe
 
Reply Tue 30 Sep, 2003 08:30 pm
I was thinking about the poor little toddler who was left on her own for almost 3 weeks, and what the effects on her will be. As I was thinking about it, I realized that while it seems that everyone who does something terrible has a sob story ("I was left completely by myself for 3 weeks when I was 2 years old, and I never recovered, and have been insecure and anti-social since so of course I [insert crime here]"), I know plenty of perfectly normal, nice, productive people who have sob stories, too. In fact, pretty much everyone I know well enough to talk to in depth has had something truly awful happen to them at some point in their formative years.

Is it the people I tend to befriend? Is it that nobody, ever, has a truly easy life? Is it back to happiness set points... that the person with a high happiness set point will shrug off horrible trauma, while a person with a low happiness set point will be deeply traumatized by perceived social ostracization, for example?

What do you think?
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littlek
 
  1  
Reply Tue 30 Sep, 2003 08:49 pm
happiness set points.... is that a phrase you devised? I like it. People are all different and react differently to stimuli. I guess there can be made generalizations, but I dunno if I'd ever buy anyone attributing their entire existence (good or bad) to their upbringing.
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fishin
 
  1  
Reply Tue 30 Sep, 2003 09:04 pm
I'd guess a single isolated trauma would be a lot easier to get past than a trauma compounded by a complete childhood of abuse and minor instances.

In the case you mention the mother is in jail for shoplifting and writing bad checks and apparently has a pretty lengthy juvenille record. Just a guess on my part but I'd wager that this that kid has already seen a lot of other crap in her 2 years - probbaly more than most of the people you mention have seen in their entire lives.

An "easy" or "hard" life is one of those things that's hard to put into perspective until you see the entire spectrum.
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sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Tue 30 Sep, 2003 09:41 pm
Actually not fishin'. I know lots of people with incredibly horrible lives. Not all of them are incredibly horrible, of course. And I agree with the basic premise, that almost drowning once when you were 4 is different from having a drug addict mother and a revolving door of "fathers", a few of whom were sexually inappropriate.

littlek, "Happiness set points" was a phrase that came up in that big long article about happiness that I started a thread on a bit ago. (I probably should have just added that there. Hm.) I'm finding myself really interested in the concept and how the set points are set. And when. I think it's a combination of genetics and circumstances, but that it then "gels" at some point. Kind of similar to language capability.

I have nothing concrete to base this on, but I find the subject interesting, so I speculate.
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Noddy24
 
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Reply Wed 1 Oct, 2003 05:40 am
These days we have both the leisure and an audience to talk about our troubles and traumas--with our friends and our shrinks and on daytime t.v. and radio talk shows....

Many people also feel that they are such elegant people (in spite of the troubles they survived which molded them) that they are entitled retroactively to a perfectly happy childhood--or at least to the right to bitch about the flawed childhood they actually had.

Notice, most of the "trauma survivors" aren't saying, "My trials strengthened me." They are hollering, "Look! Look! I'm unjustly wounded."
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dupre
 
  1  
Reply Wed 1 Oct, 2003 06:43 am
Good point, Noddy.

Interesting topic.

"Yes, yes, go on . . ."
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fishin
 
  1  
Reply Wed 1 Oct, 2003 07:39 am
I hear ya Soz. I know plenty of people that didn't have great childhoods but I also know a lot of them that "extend" their traumas too.

I do like the idea of "set points" but I can't even begion to see how they'd ever be determined.

noddy wrote:
Notice, most of the "trauma survivors" aren't saying, "My trials strengthened me." They are hollering, "Look! Look! I'm unjustly wounded."


I almost choked on my coffee when I read this. I may have to steal this line from ya Noddy! lol With proper attribution of course. Wink
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littlek
 
  1  
Reply Wed 1 Oct, 2003 08:53 am
Noddy's quoted line explains my sister's attitude. The old chip on the shoulder.

Set points would be like healthy diets - a different definition for each person. I'd guess.
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fishin
 
  1  
Reply Wed 1 Oct, 2003 09:42 am
littlek wrote:
Set points would be like healthy diets - a different definition for each person. I'd guess.


Yup yup yup. I'd go along wid dat! Smile
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Noddy24
 
  1  
Reply Wed 1 Oct, 2003 02:01 pm
Thanks for the kind words, all.

Growing up I had an aunt who would listen to childish woes two or three times. More than three time, she'd mutter, "My goodness! Don't dwell on it!"

We all know a lot of people who pick miserable parts of their pasts, set up very elaborate tents--virtual pavilions--and camp out on the miserable ground for the rest of their lives.

They don't have conversation about what happened this morning--or yesterday--or last week. They want to talk about parental shortcomings. They want to peel off bandages and do a Tom Sawyer show-off bending my ear about the festering parts of their souls.

Obviously the shortcomings, the injustices, the hardships are the most important things that every happened to them. They choose to be incomplete--and then they want special treatment because they are both psychically handicapped and supersensitive.

These people suffer more from the heat, from the cold, from traffic jams, from bureaucratic indifference and from the common cold than the rest of us do. They are special.

Personally, I try to avoid such exalted company.
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sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Wed 1 Oct, 2003 02:07 pm
Heh!

From a parenting perspective, how do you avoid making one? I have two parents like that, but I don't think I am (maybe I'm fooling myself.) Why not?

And by the way, for anyone reading, I'm really interested in whether anyone will say, "I have had a really easy life. Walk in the park."
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Phoenix32890
 
  1  
Reply Wed 1 Oct, 2003 02:12 pm
I think that every person has a different way of coping with trauma, based both on their genetic makeup, and the way that they perceive the world and themselves.

I think it was Lincoln (can anyone verify this?) who said, "A man is as happy as he makes up his mind to be".

I think that two people, given the same traumas, can have completely different outcomes, based on how he evaluates the world around him.
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Noddy24
 
  1  
Reply Wed 1 Oct, 2003 02:15 pm
Sozobe--

You've noticed that bright, articulate children complain?

I used to look at my dear little boys with myopic and cynical eyes and say, "Because I said so. Now, remember this moment so you can tell your shrink when you grow up."

A terrific response to, "Why can't I...(fly to the moon, stay up until midnight, have six pieces of chocolate) is:

Because you have a mean mother.

As adults both boys eschewed whining and yammering and fruitless, bootless moaning and groaning. This made them pleasant company.

You don't have to be perfect--just imperfect with a sense of humor and a dash of humility.
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patiodog
 
  1  
Reply Wed 1 Oct, 2003 02:23 pm
Quote:
I have two parents like that, but I don't think I am (maybe I'm fooling myself.) Why not?


Here's a quick guess for you. Probably won't hold up under scrutiny (but follows in a train of thought I had walking home yesterday).

Behavioral patterns -- or personality, if you prefer -- might be formed largely by what garners notice as a child. Since your parents were busy with their own complaints, you probably got more notice (and hence more secretions of happy juice into your synapses) for listening to their complaints than for forming your own -- so now you're more inclined to try and solve other people's problems than dwell on your own.

Or not. Dunno. I'd generally rather analyze things, even incorrectly, than feel them. (There's probably someone I could blame for that. Hmmm. My mother worked long hours when I was a toddler. That'd probably work. Wink )

Also amused by noddy's quip...


Mulling some more... I can think of two types of people who dwell on their long-past injustices: people who are still angry about them (really, truly angry, and every time they happen to think about them, the anger wells up again) and those who bring them up as a subject of conversation, mainly because they don't have anything else to talk about.
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patiodog
 
  1  
Reply Wed 1 Oct, 2003 02:24 pm
Oh, for the record, I have had an easy and trauma-free life, and I resent it.
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husker
 
  1  
Reply Wed 1 Oct, 2003 02:32 pm
Is this like being optimistic or pessimistic? And how these additudes can influence your life?
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fishin
 
  1  
Reply Wed 1 Oct, 2003 02:44 pm
sozobe wrote:
And by the way, for anyone reading, I'm really interested in whether anyone will say, "I have had a really easy life. Walk in the park."


I don't know that I'd say my life was a walk in the park but I've had it pretty damn easy for the most part. I've always had food and shelter, never had any serious medical problems of my own, had the financial ability to take care of the one child I did have and while she has had some medical problems they haven't been immediately life threatening. I could have easily ended up a whole lot worse off then I have.

I suppose I still resent not getting that red wagon at Christmas when I was 4 though. My parents were soooo MEAN! Twisted Evil
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sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Wed 1 Oct, 2003 02:51 pm
husker, kinda, but I think there is a more genetic/ biological basis to it than just "deciding" to take one attitude or the other. I really like littlek's analogy to weight/ diet... one person can "decide" to be thin, and they have the genetics to make that a very realistic decision, and someone else can "decide" to be thin, and have the genetics to make that nigh-on impossible. Not COMPLETELY impossible, mind you, but a much mightier struggle than the first person.

lol pd.

I'm with you on the analyzing thing.

Lesse if I can say more clearly what I think happens:

I think there is a brain chemistry thing that affects your general level of happiness. When I have PMS, I don't make up ludicrous complaints, but legitimate complaints that previously were as water off a duck's back suddenly really bother me. It's really irritating that I have this whole well-thought-out, perfectly valid argument for why something is not tolerable, and E.G. looks at his watch (he has a calendar thingie on it) and says, "Ah. Well, we can talk about it more in about 3 days." Evil or Very Mad

But, the thing is, in 3 days it no longer bothers me. When I look back on it, my arguments are sound, there is nothing WRONG, if I was listening to someone else I would say oh, that makes a lot of sense, but it doesn't actually bother me any more.

This could go either way... I'm WAY too easy-going normally, and that's my little window of toughness, or that's a little window of Jerry Springerish unreasonableness. (Yes, I know I'm making up nonsense words that are not even particularly apt, bear with me.)

At any rate, I think that people who have a certain brain chemistry are actually legitimately bothered by things to a greater extent than others. It may just be that in 2nd grade, Christina Albertson didn't invite you to her birthday party, but MAN, that rankles. (Hi nimh!)

So I'm wondering about the brain chemistry thing. I don't think it's just genetics. So what else contributes? (I think littlek's analogy works here, too, but I'm gonna quit for a bit.)
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Phoenix32890
 
  1  
Reply Wed 1 Oct, 2003 02:51 pm
husker- Exactly. It's the old story. If there is an 8oz glass which contains 4oz of water, is it half full, or half empty?
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fishin
 
  1  
Reply Wed 1 Oct, 2003 02:53 pm
Soz, your question leads to the same basic concept that a lot of other subjects are wrestling with. It's all part of the "Nature/Nurture" discussion.
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