Children & Belief
Every day over the course of her childhood, Lisa remembers her mother telling her about everything she did wrong. She was a "bad kid," incapable of doing anything right in her mother’s eyes. If she applied herself well the best that could be hoped for was that she "wouldn't screw things up too bad." As an adult, that belief is so well engrained into her personality it's become a part of who she is. Yet this belief isn't the least bit true. She was never a bad kid. In fact, Lisa could have been considered a very bright and capable child. The problem wasn't that she was a screwed up kid. The problem was she had a stressed out mother who unloaded her anger and frustrations on her child.
The most harmful threat to human beings is not something that can be touched or easily measured. It’s belief – and misguided belief can wreak havoc in our lives. As the basic creed in social science goes: Something is real if it is real in its consequences. Reality matters not when it comes to the world of harmful beliefs. Make-believe causes just as much damage as actual events do.
Take, for instance, a child who drags her parents out of bed at night, begging their help in performing an exorcism on the monster under her bed. She's quite convinced that it's under there, and she's also quite convinced that as soon as she closes an eye, falls drowsy, or lets her guard down, that it will leap out to gobble her alive. This imaginary beast can be a source of enormous torment to a small child, which is why she calls upon her parents for assistance.
But before you begin the search for an old priest, a young priest, and some fairly potent holy water, you usually walk the child into their room, turn on the lights, and show them that no monster inhabits their resting place. Does that work? Sometimes, until the lights go off and the monster suddenly reappears, emerged from whatever hiding spot it had found. Back again to torment your little girl, waiting for the opportune time to snatch her from the night without leaving so much as a trace. Now what?
Are such monsters under the bed real? Of course not. The beast is little more than a figment of her overactive childhood imagination. To fill the void left by the absense of sensory imput in the dark, her mind dreams up an imagined nightmare. How about the fear, the stress, the tears, the pleas for help, the cries of pain, and the torment...are those real? Absolutely. They are every bit as real and powerful to a child as an actual trauma would be. A false belief is creating very real pain for your child, and is also leading to turmoil in your own life. A false belief can have very real consequences.
As adults, we'd like to believe that we've grown out of such foolishness. We certainly pretend that we aren't such slaves to imaginary thoughts. But in fact, as people grow, their imaginary monsters don't go away, they only become more sophisticated than ever, and masquerade themselves as truth more cleverly than before. Whether or not they have any merit, our beliefs are our reality and can become every bit as deadly and destructive as actual threats.