Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Tough Neighborhood- Fear of . . .

Once I read a book about about the fear of success. I read it and still didn't get it. I mean, how could people not want to succeed, not want to meet potential, not want to use talent? Talent isn't an everyday thing, you know?

It's special. Yet most of us have a talent for something. Latent sometimes.

The book* said that if your parents put you down, then you don't think you've got what it takes to be someone. Having a gift at something doesn't change your mind. Knowing you have certain strengths means nothing. You develop this irrational fear of exposure from the constant put downs. We've talked about the fear of exposure in relationships. Abuse is one of the germs.

If you've been abused then you might develop the fear that if you try to do something fabulous you'll be PROVEN the idiot you think you are. You're sure you'll fail and everyone will KNOW you're a loser as opposed to just guessing.

So you don't try to succeed because you think that if you do, for sure you'll fail. And that's too embarrassing for words.

Makes sense, and this dynamic makes sense, too, although it's a little different. Title the essay,
Kids Who Live in Tough Neighborhoods
(I know, I know, some of you are going to say that this can happen anywhere, that the socioeconomic bias infuriates you, and it's not necessary, and you're right. But be patient, okay? Don't spleen me I'm just trying to illustrate a point.)

Maybe you were the kid who grew up in the tough neighborhood. The windows in your home were always open and people, your parents, could be heard screaming from your house all the way down the block. Screaming about what? Anything.

Others in this neighborhood didn't care much because they had their own problems, mainly poverty or another sociological ill. Or they did care, but boy, they didn't say anything to anyone, didn't call the police, afflicted or not.

The kids in the schools in neighborhoods like these tend to be tougher and angrier than most. (See posts on angry kids, The Columbine Kid in particular). When kids are tough and angry they look for another kid to pick on. This feels good, displacing anger, giving someone else your aggravation. Misery loves company. The grown up version is dad Kicking the Dog after work or mom or anyone screaming in general.

So angry kids (and there are many and they tend to be suckers for group think) are prone to bullying other kids, usually the vulnerable kids. Why pick on a kid who will beat you up? The angry ones look for the vulnerable ones, children who may have already been beaten up at home, in one way or another, or who have other problems.

A vulnerable kid will nervously make an appearance that first day of school. He's a little overweight, a little too smart for his own good. He starts out innocently enough making good grades. The teacher shows his paper to the rest of the class, the one with the big 100% or Smiley Face in marker.

Time for recess.

Whack! Crunch go the glasses. It sounds so cliche but it's true!

You know victim profiles, right? The fat kid, the shy kid, the tall kid, the short kid. The dark kid, the light kid. The black kid the white kid.

Boy, I'm a regular Dr. Seuss.

So the LAST thing a vulnerable kid wants to do is to draw attention to himself. Attention is bad, blending in is good. Be like everyone else. Be normal. Not special. If you stick out, it'll hurt.

And the kid is fabulous, sensitive, a very normal kid at that. And he or she comes to me as an adult and I see the fabulousness but he asks, Why do I fear success? Why do I worry so much that people WON'T like me if I'm a success, if I succeed where others, basically, fail? I don't want to be the one who succeeds where others fail.

Always threw the game, lost the homework, dressed badly even when he could have looked so good.

Blend in. Someone else with less to lose will take your place, someone with more drive, more confidence.

It's not so hard to understand, really, when you think of it that way.

*It's true, I didn't read any book. But if I had, that's what it would have said. If I wrote that book, I suppose, that's what I would have said.

copyright 2007, therapydoc


Patricia Singleton said...

Great words of wisdom. So true. I was the shy kid and blessed that no bully ever thought I was worth the effort. Today, I definitely don't blend in. Fear of success was something I had to face before starting my blog.

therapydoc said...

Glad you did.

Anonymous said...

Interesting veiwpoint and true. I believe another reason people self sabotage their success is that they truly do not want the responsibility that success brings with it.

therapydoc said...

Right, and the more interesting question is, Why is that?

clairem said...

how much these few words click... managed to blend so well that I went all the way to get a successful PhD when all I ever wanted was to write. Have a long way to go yet but the most important thing is that I have sown the seeds...

therapydoc said...

CLAIREM, Well, you write well, so it's win, win.

Guilty Secret said...

He he he loved the Dr. Seuss bit!

Fallen said...

I always love reading your blog and usually find myself nodding along with it. I am always amazed when people say they remember me from high school since I was doing my best ghost impersonation. All I wanted to do was blend in and not be noticed. I felt like if I was noticed then people would be able to spot my flaws, as well as the neglect found in my home life.

therapydoc said...

FALLEN, thanks. What's crazy is that they knew NOTHING! This stuff should be taught in elementary schools, seriously.

Common Sense Jew said...

Everyone feels somewhat awkward when they are kids. The put down thing would generally be the MOST awkward person in the room according to popular opinion. It's sort of like a waterfall or trickle down effect. However the kids who were somewhat self confident anf friendly did not need to put anyone else down. Those were my little buddies. Like the blog Pysch guy- shabbat shalom

therapydoc said...

Great, Common Sense.

Anonymous said...

Great. Thanks. This helps so much.
So what do you do if you've made it to adulthood and are still terrified of stepping outside the status quo... but work harder than anyone around you to reach it in the first place. Besides setting your sites on communities with extremely high level status quos...
How do you get past it? Like what are some positive steps? Because "just snapping out of it" doesn't work for that feeling in your stomach that you're about to get your glasses broken. :)
Thanks so much,

therapydoc said...

I know it's corny, but it is a baby step thing, asking for more responsibility so you can show your stuff, taking the promotion if it's offered. It's not snapping out of anything, it's more like saying Yes instead of blending into the wall-paper, especially in spots that are difficult to assess, where you think, well, Maybe I can't DO that. You probably can.

kabbage said...

I just started exploring your blog based on a comment you left at author mom with dogs.

You asked Mark, who responded that some people do not want the responsibility of success, "why is that?" The answer is that because if one succeeds, then the bar goes that much higher, thus making the chance of failure the next time higher, too. It's an ugly position, to be afraid of both success and failure, because it doesn't leave a whole lot of room to try or do things.

therapydoc said...

Great point, Kabbage. Thanks.

kabbage said...

You are welcome. Count it as the voice of experience. Lots of experience, regrettably. Still not past it, but someday!

Anonymous said...

In some abusive situations, parents will actually inform the child that the child's success HURTS the parent... (I guess by comparison?) and actually humiliate a child who DARES to achieve anything and expect praise... or even a pat on the head. Until the child shrinks their world down so small... that they exist and that's about it. Learned helplessness, victimhood, powerlessness... are the legacy of those kinds of relationships... and no amount of social status, occupational or financial success "cures" this.

The only cure is knowing that other people won't - don't treat you that way, unless you teach them to... so stop it, already! (easier said than done - just starting, 40 years too late.)

therapydoc said...

Anon, you're totally right, and it's impossible for a child to comprehend what's going on. And growing up doesn't change the pathway in the brain, it only paves it.

This would be a good thing to post more about. I'll try to get to it.

What's Going to Be with Our Kids?