Years ago, Michael Nesmith, former Monkee, creator of the first rock-video and son of the inventor of white-out, released an album entitled “The Prison.” Tis album was very enlightening as he wrote how the most difficult prison from which to escape is the one inside of each of us. We all create our own prison, comprised of our inner demons, which, for many, begins before we’re even born. Think about the circumstances surrounding your conception, and ultimate birth. Was your birth planned, were your parents a happy couple, were your siblings (if you had any) excited about having a sibling (or another sibling?) Then there’s all which occurs as you were growing up. For some, relatives, friends, classmates, doctors, teachers, group leaders, even parents of friends as well as strangers leave imprints which mould how we feel about ourselves, either good or bad.
If we grow up feeling badly about ourselves, each negative remark or experience becomes an everlasting scar we carry around forever, and unless as a child, one receives help and guidance from a good therapist, the imprint shapes how we perceive not only the world, not only others but ourselves. This is also true for those by whose family they are treated with such reverence, it makes it very difficult both to live up to those expectations as well as that person’s expectations of how they expect to be treated by others. If, for example, the first born is told they are wonderful, can do no wrong, everything is handed to them on a silver platter, finding out as an adult there is nothing special about them can be a very rude awakening. The inner prison is a sense of entitlement, which may continue when visiting with family, but in the real world, will likely be viewed as narcissism. My husband Greg brought up the fact that many children don t-shirts which read “princess” or “I’m special.” If asked why they are special, they answer “because their parents told them so.” This will imprison them as adults, when they realize the mere fact of existing without bringing anything to the table, so to speak, will bring nothing but confusion and tears at the awareness that outside their immediate environment and family, they are just another self-centred, selfish person few wish to be around.
Lastly, we may feel it difficult to forgive transgressions for which we were responsible earlier in our lives. When we see, as adults, others around the age we were at the time of the event, going through the same experience or about to commit a similar act, those feelings of helplessness to fix that mistake may lead us to try to ensure the outcome is different with others. An example of this took place when I was about seven. I was going through a lot of drama, and at the same time was given small turtles to look after. I was not at all thoughtful about their well-being, often leaving them with no water, which made their little shells stick to their plastic enclosure. My mother and step-father were too engrossed in their own misery to either remind me to do something, do something themselves, or realize as I wasn’t looking after the turtles, give them to someone who would. This all came rushing back when, at the home of a friend, I saw their goldfish swimming in the most disgusting yellow water. I mentioned this to my friend, one who does not discipline her child to whom the turtle was entrusted, and she did nothing; she didn’t admonish her child, nor did she take steps to replace the yellowed water with fresh. Rather, she made excuses and promised to take care of it when she had time. All I know is, when next we visited, there was no sign of said goldfish, having likely met the same pitiful fate as did my turtles.
With actual prisons, there is the hope of someday being freed. When we live in a self-made prison, the key to freedom can oft be much more elusive.