My cousin, Engela Mawson Ellis writes in response to my previous essay, Provoking Pictures:
I fully get and empathize with your confidence thieving, authenticity crushing childhood fear of making a mistake and the completely disproportionate punishment.
It seems the flavour of many adults of the last generation in SA was anger and shame! In our family, most childhood 'incidents' were met with violent punishment. The "wet your pants" kind of fear was present on several occasions. I too have had to deal with my feelings around childhood lies but have thankfully realized that it was merely self-preservation! If you wanted to survive AND be the inquisitive, fun loving child you were meant to be - boy you had to learn to be very creative. Survival of the fittest?
I am proud to report that my generation has struck much less fear in the hearts of children, but the children still lie, not out of fear of physical pain, but out of fear of disappointing and or any kind of discomfort around being caught being human.
I am prouder still to hear the approach of the current generation of young Parents when dealing with mistakes that would require owning up and possible punishment or consequences. They sympathize with the children about their mistake and will say something like this: "Aaah no, I'm so sorry that you messed up like that, now I will have to take away a privilege for a while whilst you learn that there are consequences" There is questioning: "Why do you think it is wrong to do ...?" There is understanding and awareness, not just force and indoctrination which our egos just reject anyway.
Like most things, fear also has a good side in some instances. It makes us aware, fully alert and present to consequences. We should trust our guts more when fear is felt there, see it as a possible warning and investigate it, not explain it away in our heads as many adults do or merely let it overpower us so that our fear has us in its clutches – and we do not have our fear in control. Possibly we should examine what is our relationship to fear? Do we feel it, question it and then take control of it, or do we just allow it to wash over us and freeze us?