Overcoming an Abusive Childhood
Q&A Radio: 8 June 2014, Question 1
I answered a question on overcoming an abusive childhood on 8 June 2014. You can listen to or download the podcast of just this question below – or check out the whole episode of Philosophy in Action Radio.
How can a disabled person overcome a toxic childhood? I am a fifty-one-year-old woman with several neurological disabilities, and I would have liked to have been reared as a human being. Instead, I was frequently informed (usually by my mother) that I was a "retarded, subhuman spectacle" – a "vegetable," a "handicapped monstrosity," a "travesty of a human being." It was daily made plain to me that I was being reared purely out of my parents' sense of duty, so as not to burden other people with my existence. It was likewise continually made clear to me that, whenever anyone played with me or tried to become acquainted with me, they did this purely out of an imposed sense of a duty to do so: for instance, because they were following a parent's or teacher's commands in order to avoid being punished for avoiding me. My disabilities (dyspraxia, dysgraphia, and severe Asperger's among some others) are not physically visible. However, their effects on my behavior led to my being perceived as retarded despite a tested IQ above 150. (This tested overall IQ, in turn, was although scores on three of the subtests were in the 80-90 range.) By that standard, at least – the objective standard of lacking some reasoning power – I am a handicapped human being. As you know, Ayn Rand points out that no child ought to be exposed to "the tragic spectacle of a handicapped human being." How should this principle have been carried out with regard to me, as a child? Further, the consequences for me of growing up in this way include an immense fear of other people, and a feeling (which I have been unable to change or vanquish) that I am indeed subhuman and should be rejected by anyone I admire, anyone worth dealing with. This feeling persists despite what I rationally consider to be productive adult achievement in the personal and professional realms. So how can I best undo the damage that has been done to my sense of life by my situation itself (being a handicapped human being, and recognizing this) and by how I was reared (which was at least partly a consequence of what I was and am)?
My Answer, In Brief: The treatment that you suffered from parents and teachers in your childhood was deeply wrong and unjust. You should continue to struggle against feelings of unworthiness – and to reject the idea that you are in any way responsible for the abuse of your childhood.
- Duration: 23:52
- Download: MP3 Segment (8.2 MB)
To save the file to your computer, right-click and save the link above. You can automatically download that and other podcasts by subscribing to Philosophy in Action's Podcast RSS Feed:
- NoodleFood: More Details on Question One: Parenting a Disabled Child
- Philosophy in Action: Visibility of Disabled Children
- Philosophy in Action: Cheryl Hein on Parenting a Child with Disabilities
- The Bully, the Bullied, and the Bystander by Barbara Coloroso
- Sentence Completion Exercises: Part 1 and Part 2
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About Philosophy in Action
I'm Dr. Diana Brickell. I'm a philosopher specializing in the application of rational principles to the challenges of real life. I received my Ph.D in philosophy from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 2009. My book, Responsibility & Luck: A Defense of Praise and Blame, is available for purchase in paperback and Kindle. The book defends the justice of moral praise and blame of persons using an Aristotelian theory of moral responsibility, thereby refuting Thomas Nagel's "problem of moral luck."
My radio show, Philosophy in Action Radio, broadcasts live over the internet on most Sunday mornings and some Thursday evenings. On Sunday mornings, I answer questions applying rational principles to the challenges of real life in a live hour-long show. Greg Perkins of Objectivist Answers co-hosts the show. On Thursday evenings, I interview an expert guest or discuss a topic of interest.
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