The Legacy of Child Abuse

The degree to which values and ideals are handed down from parents to children is well accepted, even in popular culture. Thus the phrase "ego-children" emerges to describe children that are raised so that they satisfy the ego of their parents, affirming the values and ideals that the parents consider to be part of their self-image. Though parental imprinting of children is widespread and even encouraged, it will only be until later in this century that certain aspects of imprinting will be correctly understood as constituting child abuse.

A child is naturally accepting of the world. Generally anything said or done by parents is considered sane, normal, and correct to the child. Thus parents who crusade to brainwash their children into clones of themselves will generally receive no resistance in their quest to impose religious, political, or cultural values upon an open and impressionable mind. A child is typically given these ideas by their parents and as an adult will defend them as truth -- not for rational reasons, but because that is what they were told to believe as children.

When confronted by this, most people will quickly assert that this does not apply to them because they have a few different ideas than their parents, though they seem unable to recognize or understand that on the whole they are a result of their genetic and environmental conditioning even if some superficial differences exist. It is only the rare cases where a child has a strong independent spirit and is raised with respect for its autonomy that something new can emerge. Even then, the child will inevitably be colored in some ways as a result of its parents.

The serious problems begin emerging when parents do not honor that a child is a blank slate of new possibilities but instead want to create clones of themselves to serve a static order. A child saddled with their parents' political dogma, delusional reality (e.g. an anthropomorphized god, heaven, resurrection, holiness, sin), and general misconceptions about life may be led so far astray that they will never be able to taste truth as an adult. Whether not knowing any better or being arrogantly self-congratulatory about their perceived independence, they are likely to perpetuate the abuse they suffered as they indoctrinate their own children in the same erroneous beliefs.

Nature generates new life and kills old life so that new possibilities always have a chance of coming into the world. Adults are the stagnant form of children, proven best by how adults rarely have new ideas, sustained inspiration, or demonstrate any significant capacity for growth or creativity while children have these qualities in abundance. Though an adult's envy and lost hope account for much of the praise of a child's infinite potential and persistently fresh outlook, many adults take pride in mentioning the distinction that they are steady in character and routine. Somehow they take credit for this as if it was a deliberate choice on their part rather than a spiritual defect that grew over time into a cancerous existential inertia that keeps them entrapped.

At a certain age, a child discovers that monsters in the closet, Santa Claus, and the Tooth Fairy are only imaginary beings. Though these may be socially popular and commercially represented, eventually children will intuitively sense that adults do not take these things seriously and their existence will be questioned. We all have memories of when we discovered these lies and we know that children reflect on what they know of the world and consider whether these beings are real or merely socially accepted lies that serve some other purpose.

Children are much smarter than they are given credit for. A child eventually recognizes that he has never actually seen a monster in his closet, not been harmed by or even spoken to one, and though all of these are theoretically possible, it is more likely that the idea of monsters is a popular fabrication. Likewise, the story of Santa Claus seems not only improbable, but also nonsensical. The idea of elves toiling in a far away workshop that has never been witnessed and can never be visited seems suspect. Similarly, a sleigh supposedly led through the air by flying reindeer and an omniscient but benevolent jolly man in a red suit appears absurd on its face and lacks any credible counterpart in reality. Yet, every year there are millions of children who have been raised to believe the lies and eagerly seek their affirmation, a role which adults are all too happy to play out with costumes, rituals, events, and tall tales so they can keep the illusion alive.

Monsters and Santa Claus are hardly the worst lies that parents teach their children, but they are an example of how a child's trust and innocence are manipulated without consideration for the effects. If the preservation of a child's autonomy is not achieved by breaking the pattern of imprinted dogma, the cycle of abuse will continue unabated. It is essential that parents become aware of the cycle and pledge to not force their children into the role of ego clones.

Nature prospers when it is allowed a fresh start. Consequently it rewards those who are not crippled by fraudulent misconceptions while penalizing the deluded who are forced to suffer for the errors they have chosen or inherited. Humans are the remarkable in that they are the only animals that invent illusions to distance themselves from nature and then take these illusions as truth despite the consequences. Parents owe it to their children and their belief in the potential of the future to not spread more lies disguised as the generous gifts of adult wisdom.

June 25, 2001