Our founding fathers believed everyone was "endowed by our creator with certain unalienable rights; among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." This principle also applies to anyone who grew up facing adversity in their childhood home.
But, while we may have been "endowed" with these rights at birth, the home we grow up in can have a significant impact on whether we fully take advantage of those rights given or not.
What does it mean to face adversity in your childhood home?
If you are not certain of the answer to this question, you should take a quick look at this previous post, because the research is clear... if the answer is yes, it can have a profound impact on your life. How? Specifically, some of the negative beliefs you learned in childhood, if not unlearned, will hold you back from fully taking advantage of the rights that are deservingly yours.
Negative beliefs were wired into our developing brain
If you grow up facing adversity in your childhood home, the experience can negatively wire a developing brain. It encodes a series of negative beliefs -- LIES -- that as a child, we assume are true. And the brain, doing its job, always seeks to find evidence of what it believes is true, whether true or not.
So, if you grew up in home where you experienced Childhood Domestic Violence (CDV) or your parents were divorced, or you experienced physical, sexual or emotional abuse, or perhaps a combination, and because of it, you felt (as an example) that you were in some way worth less than other kids, then, your brain can find evidence as to why you are indeed worth less throughout your childhood... and often into adulthood.
Believing you are worthless is just one of the many lies that can negatively define us and lead us down a path to not fully take advantage of those endowed rights from our creator.
If I believe I'm worthless, if I don't believe I am worthy of happiness, how can I pursue it?
A leading researcher who wrote the book How the Brain Learns -- a man who literally teaches teachers how to teach, so that the brain can learn the material more effectively -- once said this to me, "Brian, it's one of the greatest weaknesses of our species that we determine who we believe we are before we have a fully developed brain to consciously choose for ourselves." Legally, we may be an adult when we reach 18, but scientifically, we aren't an adult until our adult brain or neo-cortex is fully formed, and that isn't until the age of 21 or 22, most often.
So, if our early childhood encodes these beliefs, prior to our even having an adult brain to consciously choose what they should be, are we truly able to take advantage of the rights we have been granted? If I don't believe I am worthy of happiness, how can I pursue it?
But you may not link the adversity you faced to your areas of struggle today
If you grew up facing adversity in your childhood home, you may not link that experience to the areas in life where you are struggling. But they are connected. Remember, adversity faced in your childhood home is VERY different than adversity faced as an adult. Once you understand this, you can begin to understand the lies that the experience has left behind, the truths that are just below the surface and the gifts you earned in that home that you may not be tapping into.
Someone had to step in to help you unlearn the lies
So how do you unlearn the lies? What about those who grew up facing adversity in childhood, yet today are fully pursuing life, liberty and happiness? The research is clear. Most frequently, someone stepped in to help them unlearn the lies; to unlearn the negative beliefs. To see a truth that perhaps they couldn't see for themselves.
But this doesn't happen as frequently as it should. That is why some of the statistics of what happens to those who grow up facing adversity in childhood are so dire. Why so frequently, their negative beliefs trigger significant damage to their health, relationships, emotions and destructive behaviors. That they are six times more likely to die by suicide, 50 times more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol, and 74 times more likely to commit a violent crime against another.
So, what can we do?
If not the U.S., who?
It is clear that the first step is to remedy the extraordinary lack of awareness about the impact growing up facing adversity has on a life (see this HuffPost blog from three years ago). The U.S. should take the lead.
Why? Well if a group of citizens on this day, 239 years ago, could have had the revolutionary vision that a king should not rule a people, that citizens should govern and that those citizens were created equal and had a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness... then it seems only appropriate that the citizens who have benefited from this vision work today to fully complete their intended promise.
The first step to take
Perhaps today, after taking a moment to appreciate the significance of this day, we can ask of ourselves or someone we care about, "Did you grow up facing adversity in childhood?" We can share our thoughts below. We can share this message with others. And in doing so, we can take a meaningful step towards truly pursuing or helping another pursue the right to happiness -- to live a life where our thoughts are indeed pleasant most of the time.
Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) for the National Domestic Violence Hotline.