Posts tagged ‘Deprivation’

Deprivation or plenty

Deprivation or plenty? In which did you grow up? It makes all the difference for the rest of your life. Deprivation does not mean lack of money, and plenty does not mean plenty of stuff. Deprivation means that you were emotionally deprived, and plenty means that you were emotionally cared for.

Children who grow up in deprivation are denied that which they need to grow. Have you heard of “failure to thrive” babies? They are in the hospital or in an orphanage with warm, dry beds and bottles every three hours. All their physical needs are met, but they don’t thrive because they have no one with whom to bond. Their nurses or caretakers change with every shift and work perhaps only two or three shifts per week.


Look at nature. Baby animals need their mothers to exist. The mother has to sit endlessly on eggs, lick off all the birthing fluid so the newborn colt can get up on her feet, or nurse those thirteen piglets until they can toddle around on their own. Each of these examples shows us the patience and consistency babies need to grow up to be healthy and thriving.


What do you think went wrong in the segregated south a hundred or more years ago when black wet nurses fed the white plantation owner’s children? Do you suppose those black slave women would have been angry about being taken from their own babies and forced to give the very essence of love, breast milk, to the children of the men who bought and beat them? Do you suppose anger was transmitted in that milk? Certainly generation after generation of slave sons continued the brutal treatment of the families of the women who had nursed them through babyhood. No matter where or how it starts, anger begets anger. Hatred begets hatred.

Deprivation comes from lack of bonding. I’ve heard lots of clients say they didn’t have it too badly. After all, there was always food and a roof over their heads. Then gradually the rest of the story leaked out. Mom preferred my brother. Mom was a prescription drug addict who paid no attention. Dad was an alcoholic. Dad was a minister (or truck driver or doctor) who was never home, and when he was home, he was unavailable.

Plenty comes from the opposite experiences. Dad coached my baseball teams. Mom read to me every night. Dad had to help with math homework because mom hated math. Mom was a fanatic about everyone sitting down together to eat dinner. Mom insisted the television be turned off and the cell phones quieted so we could talk.


Plenty does not come from perfection. Plenty is based on using wisely the time that exists, making opportunities for adventures and shared experiences, and the general emotional health of being able to put an adult ego on hold and make a child a priority. This is the template that enables a child to bond. Single moms or dads can do it beautifully. Married couples can fail miserably. Children could care less if they have two mommies or two daddies as opposed to one of each gender. Is there an adult in my young life who thinks I am the best child in the universe and whose love for me teaches me to love and respect myself? That is the basis for bonding and the birthright of every child.

Narcissists and sociopaths are two dangerous examples of what happens to children who don’t “bond.” People who don’t bond learn neither sympathy nor empathy. Empathy is very different from sympathy. Empathy is being able to “feel” what another feels. Sympathy is being sorry that someone is feeling something negative. Sympathy is fleeting. Empathy may well last a lifetime.

As a young woman I didn’t understand the difference between sympathy and empathy, and it negatively impacted my life choices. Sympathetic people may cry during movies and appear upset if you are upset. What sympathetic people are often upset about is that there is something outside their control and they want you to stop being upset immediately because you are making them uncomfortable. Empathic people are never uncomfortable with emotions, theirs or the emotions of others. (if as an empathetic person you are put off by someone’s emotions, you can rest assured that emotion is a dishonest one, an act, or a manipulation.)

Sympathetic people are capable of turning on you if you express too much emotion. You may be making a scene or inconveniencing them. If you make them too uncomfortable, they may well go for the jugular. Empathic people never go for the jugular. They never attack other people because they don’t want to be attacked. If it doesn’t feel good to them, they don’t do it to others. Empathic people are safe. Sympathetic people are only safe as long as you don’t do anything to make them uncomfortable. Unfortunately, this difference between sympathy and empathy only becomes obvious over time or in very trying circumstances. Narcissists and sociopaths can be deceivingly sympathetic. Beware.

Those who grow up without sympathy or empathy can hurt other people because they grow up with no sense of human connection. As a non-bonded human, I can hurt you with a knife or sharp words because I don’t feel anything for you. I am not connected to you or anyone else in the family of man. You mean as little to me as the keyboard on which I’m typing. I have grown up without any realization of “humanity,” and so I can act in very inhumane ways.

People who don’t bond can harm the earth, also, because they feel themselves so isolated and separate not only from others but from the natural world, too. The Native American view that trees have feelings would be laughable to someone who grows up without being bonded. Think about Native American women with their papooses swaddled next to their bodies as they walk and work. Bonding!

I met a wonderful woman at a Richard Rohr event and she had such a heightened sense of empathy that she could hear rocks talking to her. Truly, she was perfectly sane. She often heard them cry, she said. Her empathy was such that she could feel the pain of inanimate objects. People who haven’t bonded can’t even feel the pain of other people, much less feel the sadness of trees being chopped down or rivers being polluted.


I once heard a psychiatrist explain the two things necessary to produce a sociopath or psychopath who would become “a hit man.” He (I’ve never heard of a hit woman) would need to possess the impetuous, leap before you look, adrenaline junkie gene which is notoriously missing any tendency to think before acting. A second prerequisite is having been seriously and severely abused as a child. Many people who are impetuous and have been terribly abused become wonderful, productive members of society. Bonded children with this gene become firemen and Navy Seals. They choose dangerous occupations, but they channel their adrenaline into careers which help humanity. Children who are abused and denied bonding don’t fare so well. They become recluses in the woods or hit men in the cities. In former times they no doubt operated the guillotine. Presently they no doubt join terrorist organizations.

The residue of deprivation and plenty is obvious in much less dramatic ways in most of our lives. People who grew up in deprivation live as though there is never enough. Think of Christian Grey from The Fifty Shades of Grey. He couldn’t get enough money or sex. Insatiability in any form is an indication of having grown up in deprivation.

Deprived children typically give up pretty early and live out the remainder of their lives mired in the deprivation into which they were born. Alternatively, they become dissatisfied over-achievers who are never content with themselves or their lives no matter how good they are. Only “best” and “perfect” will do.

Deprived children also tend to be stingy. They are bad tippers. I used to have breakfast with just such a woman, but I had to stop. She invariably left a little change on the table after our breakfast, and I invariably felt I had to add another dollar or two to make up for her shortfall.


Deprived children are often stingy in other ways, too. They are stingy with positive emotion. They won’t give away any unrequired love or even unnecessary compliments. There isn’t “enough” to go around, whether it be love or appreciation or acceptance, so they have to cling to whatever they acquire.

Children who grow up in plenty are typically happier and healthier than those who grow up deprived, and they are usually more generous. In their world there has always been plenty to go around. They don’t necessarily have more of anything than deprived children, and actually they often have fewer material things, but they give away more of what they have. That generosity, by the laws of karma, becomes a self-sustaining positive feedback loop.

Who is likely to exhibit road rage? Will it be the deprived child who believes there is not enough, not even enough room on the road for someone to pull in front of them, or the “plenty” child who can share, even share the road on the road of life, because he has grown up believing there is enough?


Who will be jealous and envious? Is it the deprived child who grew up thinking everything was in short supply, and if you get any of it, even so much as an admiring look from her boyfriend, there won’t be enough left for her?

Who will support charities? Will it be those who grew up bonded? Of course. If I’m not bonded to other humans, what possible reason could I have for buying school books for a child in Africa? Who volunteers? Who gives blood? Who supports and sustains the arts? Who gives away smiles and kind words?

Now you know what I’m going to say next: If YOU grew up in deprivation, that is no reason to stay there. Ask yourself if you’re making outdated decisions. As a child you may have been denied all the ingredients for good, thriving health, but now you’re an adult. You’re smart, but being smart is not enough. Be wise. Be compassionate. If you have trouble bonding with people, let a dog or cat teach you how.

Blessings, hope and courage be yours – Susan


Gratitude to Mary Ellen Jelen for sharing her talents with us!

More support is yours at manyfacesofptsd, manyfacesofdepression, manyfacesofanxiety and





May 31, 2015 at 9:51 AM 2 comments

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