Wednesday, May 16, 2012
What doesn't kill you make you stronger? FALSE!
We've all been ingrained that instances of stress or anything that's taxing on us would make us 'stronger'; like those resilient movie and book characters. For the life of me I cannot think of a particular example; but you know what I'm talking about. These characters grew up in a bad neighbourhood with dismissive parents, and barely sheltered by a shattered school system. And somehow miraculously they converted all the neglect and abuse into a defense mechanism of displacement and thus "WOW" the world with their skills.
Yes, I know, it happens in real life too. Oprah is an example. But realistically speaking, how often does it happen among real citizens?
Take any homeless person and ask them about their family. Interview any convict about their upbringing. You will be surprised to hear all that they had to endure. The trauma of poverty, abuse and lack of sound parental models laden most, if not all, of their past stories. Many times, their way of life is what they are used to as a child. They are the real underdogs.
The more unexpected, stressful events occur to a young child without a good parental figure to support her; the more 'damaged' she will become. When paired with a diathesis (genetic predispostion, i.e. Less-responsive HPA-axis), she is highly susceptible to develop PTSD, anxiety disorders and depression.
The human psyche is fragile when young; but it can survive the toughest of times when there's a warm, supportive parental figure. A young girl in a family of 7, who grew up in post-WWII Japan with neglectful parents would develop just fine; when she had the love and support of an older sister; while an only-child in a modern family of 3 would suffer severe anxiety and depression, because both of his parents are punitive and abusive. One cannot blame the younger generation of being 'weak' with the argument of a 'richer' generation, smaller families and thus assume children get treated better. The opposite is often true because nowadays because both parents are too busy working, and children without an older sibling to care for them is left to derive their morals from their peers and media; both of which are often disappointing role models.
In my opinion, traumatic events are not scars; but chronic conditions. It not only leaves a mark, it also renders the being weaker and more vulnerable to other diseases and illnesses. Protective factors such as good parental figures are like vaccines. They provide an unbelievable amount of support and generate so much resilience that we so strongly believe every child needs one.
And yet, we undervalue the importance of mental well-being in our society; when it is clear that our mental states directly influence our health through means of diet, exercise, immune system and hormones.
I wish parents everyone would be more informed about the different parenting styles and the effect on the child. There are currently four types of parenting styles: (1) Authoritative, (2) Authoritarian, (3) Indulgent, and (4) Neglectful. Authoritative parenting has proven time and time again to be the best parenting style; with love and acceptance towards the child, but also with clearly set rules, boundaries and appropriate non-hostile discipline. When administering discipline (taking away advantages is best), it is crucial for the child to understand completely of WHY he or she is being punished.
Authoritarian parenting is one that is restrictive, punitive with high expectations on the child. Glorified by Amy Chua, the classic tiger mom. I'll reserve my research on this for another post; but for now, think about why China has such a high suicide rate, especially in High School and University students.
On a more personal note, I wish my parents had access to this information when I was young. Perhaps I would be less neurotic today. :) I would agree with Betty and her article of why Tiger Moms are the reason why Asian-Americans like us are in therapy today. But my mom has changed completely since she became ill with cancer. Now, her main concerns are, "Are you eating healthy? or "Are your courses too stressful?" I would have never dreamed of her being so caring of my psychological well-being two years ago.
Now, I enjoy a townhouse with a loved one and puppy. I try hard for school but I never let it compromise my health. If I fail a class, I fail a class. The universe keeps moving, my neurotransmitters keep on firing, I just need to focus harder next time.