I had an epiphany last night. And it has just blown my mind. It hit me last night just what an ungrateful child I was and how much it hurt me! In fact, up until this point, I was still ungrateful about my childhood. Let me explain.
I have relatives (whom I now consider my immediate family) who are very well off. I spent a lot of weekends with their family growing up and I also lived with them for a few years as a teenager. So let me explain why my lack of gratitude hurt me so much.
First of all, they liked to take their kids and me on trips. Well, I felt like I was their little servant, since I felt like I was expected to do more than their own kids at helping with the luggage and younger kids (they have seven children themselves). So, instead of being grateful that I get to go places that a lot of other kids don't get to go to, I felt picked on! LOL. This resulted in me not being happy about going on these trips and in fact, turning down offers of going on some trips later on in my teenage years!
Next, when I turned sixteen, I wanted a motorcycle. Well, they said I couldn't have one. So I bought one and went back and lived with my mother, and commuted to high school every day from her house. Instead of being grateful to my relatives for being able to live there, where I could live in a good neighborhood, be with a big family, and close to school where I knew a lot of people, I went and lived in a trailer park far away from school so I had to get up a lot earlier to go to school!
Lastly, when I was 21 I went back to live with my relatives while going to college. Well, they imposed a midnight curfew on me. The horror! So, instead of being grateful to them for letting me live in their large, beautiful home, rent free, with free food, where I could be with my family, I left. This meant I had to get a part time job to pay for my living expenses!
The point is, being ungrateful will probably result in you making bad choices, and pretty much just hurts yourself!
Your world includes a lot of shame, doesn't it? Can you take yourself off the hook for that stuff and leave it in the past?
Not shame, unhappiness. It is really easy for me to compare my life to those that have it better than I do. It is really difficult for me to compare my life to those that don't have it as good as I do. And when I compare my life to those that have it better than I do, it makes me angry and unhappy.
Very interesting points SGB!
You could do a pruning shears of revision exercise for this. This is where you rewrite certain negative things from past in a way which has a positive ending, but you can do this a bit differently. Instead of just rewriting what happened, you could use gratitude instead. So write out what you think was the bad thing, and then underneath, write if there was anything about it which you are now grateful for (as you have started doing above). What this will do is change the vibration you have around these events (and your childhood) to something more positive. It will also help to release any resentments you may have about those events, and the energy which would have been given over to resentment, moves into the present moment to be available for positives.
Thank you for the suggestion.
Ah! I didn't know that there is term for what I did mentally with everything that happened to me in my childhood. Thanks Sir Neil!! You are the treasure box of wisdom.
I don't see anything wrong with the way you felt as a teenager. Not wanting to be stuck with a disproportionate share of Sherpa and kid-wrangling duties on what were supposed to be fun vacations, and chafing at being expected to do more of those things than the little kids' older siblings, was legit. So was wanting a motorcycle. So was feeling restricted by a curfew.
They had every right to want certain things from you while you lived under their roof, and I can understand their point of view, and why they would impose such limitations. But it's clear you had strong desires of your own--to be treated as an equally valued member within the family; enjoying freedom and mobility; and being able to call your own shots and choose your own schedule like a responsible adult. And there's nothing wrong with any of those desires; in fact, they're healthy things to want. You probably still want all of them, just in different packages.
Being a teenager is all about expanding your horizons, breaking free from the dependency of childhood, defining your own desires, deciding what is meaningful to you--and pursuing it. And you did that. You looked at your circumstances, saw that they weren't what you wanted, and made decisions in favor of what you did want. Yeah, you had to get up earlier in the morning, and live in a trailer--but I'll bet you loved that bike, and that being able to ride it made the longer commute to school worth it. Sure, you had to work your way through college and support yourself, but I'll bet you made friends and had experiences that made a deep impression on you, and made you a more interesting, complex human than you would have been had you taken the "easy" route. You may even have felt proud of your ability to take care of yourself. There are lessons you probably learned from that experience that have helped you to this day, if you choose to look for them.
Your teenage self didn't want to take the "easy" route, because to him it wasn't easy at all. It was all about restriction and obligation, and it felt wrong. It felt like being held down, smothered, burdened, and treated like a child, when he was ready and eager to savor the new freedom of being an adult.
C'mon--think back--remember how you really felt, and why you chose to act as you did. And accept that you were right to do so. That you are currently living a life that is a disappointment to you, and are unhappy with your circumstances, isn't that teenage kid's fault, and going back in time to rail at him for being an ungrateful little shit is unfair (and ungrateful!) to him, and will not help you create a better present for yourself. In fact, you could probably stand to learn a few things from him.
And I say all this having had similar opportunities as a teenager that I turned down. I had a couple of clear "easy" ways to business and financial success that I could have taken, and I, too, rejected them, because at the time I knew that they were not easy and not what I wanted.
Had I wanted a career in business or commercial real estate, there were people who would have brought me under their wing--but that wasn't what I wanted. Had I stayed in my hometown, there were all kinds of connections I could have used to "get ahead" in a variety of fields--but that wasn't what I wanted. Had I taken school seriously, I could have gone to an excellent university, got a degree on the first try, and had an actual career--but that wasn't what I wanted. And, looking back, I was surrounded by people who were willing to help me in various ways, who liked and cared about me, who thought I was bright and promising, and would have been happy to help me succeed--but the kind of help they had to offer me wasn't what I wanted.
And no, I didn't feel grateful for any of those opportunities at the time. They all felt like being buried alive. They were exactly the opposite of anything I wanted to do; they were what I was trying to get the hell away from. I had a childhood dominated by people (mostly men) "in business," whose wants always took precedence over others' needs. There was an ongoing covert battle for status between all of them, and their wives, and that was the warzone I grew up in. From the outside, it all looked great, but from my perspective it was absolutely soul-crushing. So all of the "opportunities" at my disposal were actually worthless, when every instinct was telling me to get the fuck out and never go back. So, at 18, that's what I did--I ran off to another city in search of the life I wanted to lead, and despite taking some very hard knocks in the years that followed (including ending up homeless), I never went back.
These days, I'm profoundly grateful for my upbringing, and everybody involved, because they gave me so many things to reject! They held up so many things for me to look at and say "No!" to. At a very early age, I had to start giving serious thought to what I actually wanted, and what kind of place and subculture I would want to live in as an adult, because day after day I kept smashing face-first into so many things I acutely didn't want.
And yeah, these days I'm grateful for all those rejected opportunities that were available to me back then, that I refused to take, because they helped me focus on what I did want, and who I wanted to be, and how I wanted to spend my days, and on what terms. My teenage self was right to reject those things, and I'm grateful to her that she did.
In my 30s, when I was chasing after some sort of "respectability" I did a lot of measuring myself against other people, and always coming up short. Money, stuff, travel, career, love--nothing I wanted seemed to be working out as well as it should have, and I blamed my younger self for being a fuckup. I kept telling myself that if she had maybe done better in school, or taken certain opportunities, or been more responsible, I would be in a better position. I'd measure up. And I just kept hobbling along like that until I was in my early 40s, and first getting into LoA stuff in a big way.
One early lesson I got was to look at all the stories you tell about yourself, and how you have framed your past to support the story you're telling about yourself in the present. I was still telling a very negative story about past decisions that were continuing to screw things up for me in the present--and my present, at that time, sucked. But I took that exercise seriously, and started looking at all the "negative" stuff in my past, and trying to find new ways to interpret it so that it would support a better story about me in the present. That's how I eventually got around to seeing my miserable, stressful childhood as a positive experience because it forced me to clarify what I actually wanted at an early age. I also saw how dogged I could be in sticking to my desires, rather than caving in to others. I discovered a tremendous amount of strength and resilience and determination when I started looking at my childhood as a testing ground for self-discovery, rather than as a story of constant victimization leading to youthful stupid mistakes.
And my teenage years weren't such a mess, seen in that light. I had a powerful desire to be more fully myself, and to act on my desires--and I did that, despite opposition from others. I can see now where fear, or a limited sense of what was possible, made things much more messy and difficult, but what stands out is that I was really on fire back then, making things happen, and having some tremendous experiences. It was very exciting! So now I'm in my 50s, and trying to be more like my teenage self--not to be a teenager again, but to experience that same excitement and drive, and act from it.
tl;dr: Your teenage self is not the cause of your current unhappiness, and does not deserve blame for it. He actually has a lot to teach you about following your excitement and acting fully on your own behalf.