Changing the Trajectories of Our Lives
BY: T. Franklin Murphy | March 2018 (edit January 5, 2022)
Our lives are set in motion before we realize we have choices. In adulthood, we must confront errant programming and create something better.
We over simplify with judgment. We seek the easy way out, ignoring the complexities. Behaviors, emotions and thoughts are not singular but a construction of millions of inconceivable proceeding events—both occurring within our mind and the surrounding environments.
A behavior, emotion or thought materialized from a chain of past events and current triggers. We often condemn or admire the immediate expression as hurtful or charitable, and this is our prerogative, however, nothing stands on its own. Everything comes from somewhere. We have a right to moral standards of behavior; but our hatred of actions that we judge as bad must be tempered with understanding. Any single event is the final act, proceeding from a long chain of events. Our judgments are shortsighted, missing the complexity.
Life Trajectories are the natural pushes towards preordained futures based on our childhoods and early life experiences. We can intervene and change the trajectory.
Life Histories and Trajectories
In my current position, I review thousands of criminal histories; often examining police contacts spanning over forty years or more of a person's life. I have noticed a common pattern that has significantly softened my biases.
A typical pattern resembles something like this: Several reports listing the subject as a victim of child abuse or neglect; followed by several reports of petty crimes and truancy (during teen age years); a spattering of drug charges and, perhaps, a couple driving under the influence (DUI) arrests, and then reports of domestic violence either as a victim or suspect.
Many lives have hidden chains of events leading to the unhealthy and unscrupulous actions with many trajectories beginning while the embryo is still in the womb.
"Endings are a part of life, and we are actually wired to execute them. But because of trauma, developmental failures, and other reasons, we shy away from the steps that could open up whole new worlds of development and growth."
Childhood Abuse and Life Trajectories
Heinous crimes against others certainly are inappropriate and pasts don't justify cruelty. Yet, childhood neglect and abuse set the trajectory that if left unchallenged may destroy futures.
A little boy abandoned by his father when he was three, abused and belittled by the stream of men in and out of his mothers life, grows into an insecure lover. The little girl repeatedly sexually abused must live with high anxiety.
We may judge their relationship failings as 'bad', labelling them as narcissistic or neurotic, but ignore the sorrows that strongly contributed to the formation of their personalities.
Emotional Abuse and Life Trajectories
The reported crimes are only a small sampling of damaging events. There are no laws against emotional neglect. But emotionally ignored children grow into adult with notable emotional processing deficits in their lives. Their actions and reactions are influenced by what they experienced and didn’t experience. An early life without emotional validation often is internalized, carried into adulthood, leading to a life of self criticism and shame.
Examining an event conveniently isolated from complex proceeding causes constrains judgments to the limited known information, creating damning biases. We may curse the final event without knowing anything of substance about the perpetrator.
"You are free to choose what you want to make of your life. It's called free agency or free will, and it's your birthright."
Separating the Action from the Actor
Inappropriate actions that hurt others shouldn’t be unequivocally excused of consequence. Life would be chaotic. Consequences are the primary schoolmasters bestowing wisdom. An abused partner has a right to not be abused. They shouldn't excuse the abuser's behavior because he or she had a disjointed childhood. Those hurt deserve a safe environment free of violence, no matter what the actor’s history.
The dastardly actions, although influenced by a host of causes, are not excusable. But as a society and as compassionate people, we must look to the complexity of causes if we desire to create change.
We must transcend the simple good and bad judgments, splitting life into rigid categories. If we want to be progressive, moving beyond faulty blame, examining more fundamental influencing factors. The invisible events the created the harmful trajectories.
"The hurt should take action to create safety and escape further violence, no matter what the actor’s history. The dastardly actions, although influenced by a host of causes, are not excusable."
We can’t afford to wait for larger social movements to make these necessary changes. We need to be involved. We must be informed and active. We must be the difference. Flourishing Life is more than personal success, personal peace, and personal growth. Flourishing life is a worldwide project, putting our communities, our nations, and the world on a positive trajectory of betterment.
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