Pretty Cheerful

Some personal thoughts on universal themes

Reflections on Reading about Others’ Painful Experiences

Yesterday evening, I read through my new Oprah magazine. I read Oprah’s interview with Tyler Perry, and hearing about his childhood experiences broke my heart. Oprah is an amazing person and seems to be a wonderful empathic listener and friend. I have incredible admiration for Tyler Perry and his amazing success story.

It is sad to read about others’ painful life experiences. It makes me want to help children who currently need help. At the same time, I feel helpless because my small efforts would not change the entire world. However, it is inspiring to know that many adults are able to eventually create the lives they really want, overcoming their painful childhoods.

I remember, years ago, reading Gavin DeBecker’s book “The Gift of Fear” from cover to cover. He seems to have devoted his life work to helping others after his difficult experiences growing up. I also read parts of a new book yesterday by a person with borderline personality disorder. The author struggled for years with her destructive feelings. I am always saddened when I think of the talented musician Elliott Smith. It seems like the dark childhood he faced always haunted him.

I have only faced a tiny fraction of the dark experiences that others have overcome. Even the small struggles that I have faced were very difficult emotionally at times. Naturally, I have incredible admiration for the many people who have survived very horrible experiences.

Of course, as just an observer and a reader, it is difficult to know how to channel your sympathies. Certainly, at the very least, I feel gratitude for having positive people throughout my life who have allowed me to become a good person. Not everyone has the opportunity to be a person who respects others because of tremendous adversity. In the nature versus nurture debate, I am about one hundred percent on the side of nurture. I think environment is the main factor in a person’s development. The fact that some people in the world never have a chance for a success story is very heartbreaking.

I took a class last semester on child maltreatment. Unfortunately, children typically do not have opportunities to replace their families, even if the family they are born into is not a nurturing environment.

My hope for the world is that each individual out there gets exactly the real, direct help in life that she or he needs. I know that often does not happen, but I still think idealistic goals have a place. I know, to some small extent, what it is like to feel alone and without the real help or guidance that you need. Human beings are sometimes there for each other, and other times we really let each other down. But as a global society, we can continue to improve and increase the ways that we help each other out and also take care of ourselves in a nurturing way as adults.

So, with an awareness of the tremendous struggles that many others face, I feel determined to at least try to do my small part. As always, my goal is to treat all others with respect. Human beings deserve cheerfulness, grace, and dignity. Life can be either heaven or hell, created by the humans present. As adults, we have the capacity to help create nurturing environments for ourselves and others. If we have a small space to create a peaceful atmosphere, we are very fortunate indeed, and our future children will benefit from all cheerful progress we are able to make. Hopefully one day, all children will have safe and happy homes.

In psychology class yesterday, we discussed the hierarchy of needs and also, spontaneously, the nature of happiness, which was a very animated discussion. Humans have many essential needs, only beginning with food and shelter. We also need safety and esteem and a sense of purpose. We even need cheerful environments with access to nature, which is peaceful and actually soothing to our brains.

Yes, there will always be an element of struggle to life. But there is no need to make life worse than it needs to be. Everyone faces their own mortality and at least some hardships. But if each person does their best to help life be the amazing experience that it can be, needless suffering can be completely ended.

I feel very idealistic about the future. There are many wonderful people who do a lot of good each day. People have suffered through many painful past experiences. Yet, so many people have held on to the good in life and overcome their struggles in amazing ways, and that makes me very hopeful about life.


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