Thursday, September 28, 2017

What Fear Does to Children

A child who is afraid of his parent(s) suffers lasting emotional damage.

The reason is not too complex: a child, being unable to navigate and confront the world, seeks its parent when experiencing fear and anxiety.

If the parent is itself a source of fear and anxiety, the child will form internal, and likely unnatural, defenses against those feelings.  It will either become reckless, or become insecure and develop feelings of inferiority.

If you are a parent, you might wonder if you cause fear or anxiety, or whether you are a protective presence in your child's life.  Sometimes, due to lack of awareness and sensitivity, we may not be aware of the effect we are having on others' emotional states.

The way to resolve this uncertainty is very simple:

Ask yourself if your child feels happy at seeing you, or does it appear anxious.

Ask yourself if your child comes to you for help when it is feeling uncertain or afraid of something.

Ask yourself if when your child was faced with some trouble or confrontation with others, whether you joined the "world" in condemning and punishing the child, or whether you allowed the child to see you as a bulwark of strength, kindness and guidance.

Ask yourself if your child, if it has done something wrong, finds it easy to admit its mistake to you, knowing that you will treat it with kindness and not with cruelty.


This supposedly trivial scene from "The Seventh Continent" (Haneke, 1989) has haunted me for a long time.  A child is acting "blind" in school.  That itself is a cry for attention.  The mother is concerned (for what?) and asks the child to speak the truth (whether the child is really blind) without fear.  And then, something.

A relevant fact is that the mother has been earlier shown as an eye-doctor of sorts.

I do not recommend the movie to the faint of heart.  It is a devastating portrait of subtle emotional traumas of various kinds building up to a climax.

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