This is an article I wrote on Toxic Socialization, suicide, and mental distress forThe Conversion. It was also picked up by Canada’s National Post, which is Canada’s second largest national newspaper, and some other outlets, thus bringing the LP concept of Toxic Socialization to an audience of millions of readers in Canada, and world wide. In terms of LP spirituality, Toxic Socialization is relevant because the emotional, psychological, and spiritual damage it causes undermines an individual’s ability to Connect.

Every 40 seconds, another human life is taken by suicide, according to World Health Organization data.

In Canada, a new report reveals that young people between the ages of 15 and 19, who are struggling with mental illness and addiction, have the highest rates of suicide attempts. Middle-aged men are also at high risk, as are children and youth in First Nations communities who live with the legacy of trauma perpetuated by colonization and the residential school system.

World Suicide Prevention Day this Sunday provokes us to pay attention. Suicide is a silent epidemic that ruins lives and devastates families and communities. As a researcher, I have been examining and researching the factors that contribute to the blossoming of human potential, and the factors that undermine its full realization, for close to two decades. Suicide is the ultimate subversion of human potential.

Why are so many teenagers taking their own life? One factor is what I call “toxic socialization” — a process of physical or emotional childhood and adolescent abuse. Those who grow up in toxic environments are up to 12 times more likely to experience addiction, depression and to try to commit suicide.

Neurological damage

Remarkably, more than 90 per cent of people who succeed at suicide have been diagnosed with depression or some other mental disorder. If we want to understand why people commit suicide, we have to understand what makes them depressed.

Like suicide, depression is complicated and caused by many factors. One important contributing factor is childhood and adolescent abuse in a “toxic socialization” process.

Socialization is the process where we are trained — by parents, teachers, priests and others — to be citizens of our societies. Toxic socialization is when this process is characterized by neglect or ongoing physical and emotional abuse. The violence of a toxic socialization process is typically justified as beneficial in some way to the process. “Spare the rod and spoil the child” is the prototypical justification.

One in three Canadians have experienced abuse before the age of 15, according to a 2106 report from the Chief Public Health Officer.(
(Shutterstock)

Agents of socialization hit, scream, intimidate, threaten, shame and exclude because they feel that violence — such as spanking — turns out a better adult product.

But it doesn’t, at all. Toxic socialization — including corporal punishment, emotional abuse and the childhood trauma that is associated with it — contributes to negative behaviours. Children who are exposed to maltreatment, violence in the community or marital violence in families struggle with many forms of mental disability, including anxiety, alcohol dependence, eating disorders, personality disorders and depression.

Why does the violence of a toxic socialization process contribute to depression and suicide? That’s a complicated question to sort out, but it’s certainly linked to the neurobiological and endocrine damage that results from chronic exposure to the stress of violent environments, especially during the critical early years of childhood and adolescence.

The impact is made worse when perpetrators are people who are supposed to protect and nurture, in environments that are supposed to feel safe and secure.

What about our children?

A staggering one in three Canadians has experienced abuse before the age of 15, according to a 2016 report from the Chief Public Health Officer: A Focus on Family Violence in Canada. In 2014, 131 Canadians also died at the hands of a family member, and there were 133,920 reported victims of dating or family violence.

How do you reduce the risk of depression, mental illness and suicide? The first step is to put an end to this toxic socialization. We have to stop using violent methods such as spanking, and emotionally abusive methods such as shaming, to “teach” our lessons and control a child’s behaviour. In order to take this step we will, as a society, have to stop justifying abuse in any form.

There is no evidence to support the notion that violence in the socialization process contributes to strong, healthy, well-adjusted adults. In fact, the evidence points in the opposite direction, that toxic socialization damages us and costs us as a society. One research team has estimated the burden of child maltreatment in the U.S. alone at over half a trillion dollars per year.

It’s simply not the case that if we “spare the rod” we “spoil the child.” On the contrary, if we want our children to be healthy and well-adjusted, and if we want to save this planet trillions of dollars, we should immediately halt all forms of violence against them.

What about me?

If you are a victim of a toxic socialization process, what can you do to heal yourself?

The first step is to stop telling yourself that violence against you is OK. Violence you experience does not make you a better or stronger person. It damages you. Instead, end your exposure to all forms of violence.

This can be a challenge if you find yourself trapped in an abusive marriage. Organizations such as Stop Abuse in Families (S.A.I.F) in Alberta can help.

Ending your exposure to violence can be a challenge when ending it means ending toxic family relationships that may have endured for decades. Even as adults, we can find it difficult to draw boundaries around abusive parents and siblings. We fear the loss of these relationships, long for the love and support they are supposed to provide and cling even when they cause us serious harm.

The next step is to get treatment. A therapist can help you examine the relationships in your life for evidence of toxic socialization. They should be willing to work with you to help you understand the damage these relationships cause. They should be willing to help you heal the trauma involved.

Mental health crisis

The decision to commit suicide is complicated, but enduring toxic socialization is a significant factor. On the occasion of World Suicide Prevention day, let us be clear that violence perpetrated against children in the name of training them to be members of society is wrong.

The ConversationIf we are going to make any progress against the growing mental health crisis and suicide epidemic in Canada and globally, then we need to change how we raise, educate and socialize our children.

Dr. Mike Sosteric, Associate Professor, Sociology, Athabasca University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

A few years ago I took my kids out of school to protect them from the physical, emotional, and psychological violence of the toxic socialization and indoctrination they experienced there. My goal was (and is) to ensure they emerge from their childhood unscathed, undamaged, and ready to connect.

My only concern over the years has been lack of social contact. Are they being emotionally/psychologically stunted by their isolation in the home? Turns out, the answer to that question is no. A recent study finds that online friendships are just as significant and meaningful as “real life” ones, meaning my kids are missing out less than some might argue. This is great. Digital culture has created an opportunity to “save” our kids from the toxic socialization and Bodily Ego-damaging experiences in the K12 system.

With more and more home schooling options becoming available all the time, at least in Alberta, Canada where I live, and with more and more parents opting in, maybe it is time we make a faster shift. We should take some of the money we save on salary, educators, and bloated and unnecessary administration, and pay actual teachers (or student teachers) to rotate between homes for weekly tutoring and support sessions with parents and kids.

This is how our family has been doing it, so we have a practical model of how this would work. We pay 25 dollars an hour for a student teacher (recently accredited) to come to our house and tutor our kids on standard curriculum supplied by the Alberta Government.  If the government made that commensurate with current teacher salaries, and funded them fully for families who cannot afford, that teacher could easily handle six home sessions a week. If the cost of educating our kids is a concern, economies of scale could be achieved by asking these traveling educators to put up to two families together into one session (so the kids from one household would be tutored at the home of a friend) so they could tutor between 3 and 5 students per session.

Obviously, home schooling your kids is not for everybody, and so regular schooling systems could chug alongside. I hazard to say though, some (perhaps many) parents of all genders, would make the choice to home school their children if they received a stipend, and if teachers or student teachers could be sent in for support. From my perspective, this is a great way to avoid the damage done by toxic socialization.

Of course, one very important assumption must hold here, and that is home is a safe environment that children don’t need to escape from. This is not true of all homes. Indeed, many homes are unsafe and in them children experience forms of violence and abuse worse than they experience at school (in what modern schools are children whipped with belts and beaten with spoons?). The children in our family thrive in homeschooling because we have a “no violence” rule in our home. This means no physical, emotional, psychological, or spiritual violence. This sort of environment is an absolutely essential prerequisite for safe and effective homeschooling. It makes no sense to home school children in a home where they are not safe. If you do, you will likely end up with more disjuncture, disconnection, and pathology than if they had the escape that school would represent in this unfortunate situation.

I’m recently having a discussion with an LP student that I mentor. This relationship has evolved from a counseling relationship to a mentor relationship. Initially we were concerned with clearing away eating disorders, anxiety, and Non-suicidal Self Injury (NSSI) (picking). Having mostly cured these pathological outgrowths of a toxic childhood we moved on to spiritual mentoring, discussions of entheogens, and so on. However one lingering unresolved issue remains and this involves connection and intimacy in her primary intimate relationship. She, let us call her PB, expresses lack of emotional connection, lack of physical connection, and lack of sexual attraction. To this I state:

I think you and “X” need relationship counseling. You both come from bad backgrounds I assume. Both are dealing with forms of damage, and neither know how to have a good relationship. Many of the blockages we have are relational and so many of them only are dissolved in relationships.

To which she responds:

Yeah makes sense. If God is love and I can’t accept/receive and offer that, how I am going to embody and seat my higher self. But this world hurts Michael, and words hurt me. I know I’m more sensitive to that, how do you let yourself be more open and vulnerable to that, you know I can try and be more open but then the smallest things close me down again

To which I say:

But I’m not open to it at all. I don’t have any friends, and our family circle is tight and exclusive, not because we are elitist, but because we will not allow anybody in who would hurt us. We expect nothing but the utmost respect and concern from each other, we don’t tease, we don’t call names, and we strive to be compassionate and supportive at all times. We honor the nature and purpose of the physical unit by respecting its sensitivity and its boundaries. It is the only way we survive and move forward and become open. Otherwise we’d be stuck in this “open and close” cycle like you are.

Now there is a lot I could say here but what I want to focus on is a common misconception people have. Many people, whether they are trying to be “spiritual” or not (but often especially when they are trying to be spiritual) have this idea that they have to be “open” and loving to everyone. There is this idea that if you are “close to God” you are also “close to everyone” regardless of any consideration at all. We might call this the crucifixion syndrome, the idea that by suffering at the hands of others we are engaged in some brilliant spiritual behavior. In the words of PB from above we must be “open” in order to seat our higher consciousness.

But I’m here to say, this is not true, or at least, it is not as simple as all that. While I WOULD NOT want to say that we should be devoid of compassion and concern (quite the opposite. In fact, I would suggest that being truly spiritual means being filled with compassion and concern for all life, not just humans), I WOULD want to say that being open, trusting, and loving does not mean being vulnerable, soft, and exposed. The World as yet remains a greedy, violent, and dangerous place and you serve no one, least of all God, by allowing your physical unit (the “temple” of your Holy Spirit) to be damaged by the violence.

This is an important point!

You do not “go out into the jungle” with arms wide open, sword left at home. You must protect yourself and you must pay attention to reality, and the reality is we do not currently live in anything near an enlightened world. Our world is filled with technology, commodities, things, and fancy Hollywood special effects that make it look like we are all advanced and evolved, but this is just a collective delusion. In truth we live in a world lacking in even the most basic spiritual/psychological/emotional sensitivities. We live in a world where our physical unit is set upon from birth, boxed in with prejudice, defined by color, and assaulted over and over and over again, ironically most often by the people who “love us” the most. It begins with parents who heap physical and emotional abuse on their children in an effort to make them fit in and perform. It is continued by schools were teachers rank and order and sort and reward the few while dismissing the many as losers. It extends into work were the vast majority are exploited in sweatshops and tossed aside when they are used up. The profound and debilitating effect of years of violent insensitivity pile up, break us down, and kill us off. It is hell on Earth by any accounting, a horror show by any definition, and nothing short of disastrous for us all. You can deny it if you want but mounting scientific research on abuse of all forms (psychological, emotional, and sexual) is clear, it is bad, bad, bad.

Abuse of all forms is associated with disability, decline, and death.

Abuse leads to unhealthy and risky behaviours (Annerbäck, Sahlqvist, Svedin, Wingren, & Gustafsson, 2012), depression (Blain, Muench, Morgenstern, & Parsons, 2012; Hosang et al., 2013; Kendler, Kuhn, & Prescott, 2004; Liu, Jager-Hyman, Wagner, Alloy, & Gibb, 2012), anxiety (Blain et al., 2012), eating disorders (Burns, Fischer, Jackson, & Harding, 2012), personality disorders (Wingenfeld et al., 2011), post-traumatic stress disorder (Heim & Nemeroff, 1999; Zanarini et al., 1997) suicide attempts (De Sanctis, Nomura, Newcorn, & Halperin, 2012), non suicidal self injury (NSSI) (Swannell et al., 2012), lower school grade performance (Strøm, Thoresen, Wentzel-Larsen, & Dyb, 2013), lower IQ scoring (de Oliveira, Scarpari, dos Santos, & Scivoletto, 2012), and even increased incidence of physical disease (Cuijpers et al., 2011; Hager & Runtz, 2012), angina (Eslick, Koloski, & Talley, 2011), and heart trouble (Fuller-Thomson, Bejan, Hunter, Grundland, & Brennenstuhl, 2012; Fuller-Thomson, Brennenstuhl, & Frank, 2010; Hosang et al., 2013). If our Prozac nations are any indication, we are dealing with rampant levels of psychological dysfunction caused by epidemic levels of social abuse.

It is a mental and physical health crises of biblical proportions.

And we all experience it!

This much recognized in the literature. Annerbäck et al. (2012) note when definitions of abuse are liberal, just about everybody the planet becomes a victim of abuse at some point. Open definitions unfortunately make research impossible (how do you grouped statistical analysis when you have one group, the abused) and so more restricted definitions are typically invoked. But narrowing the window we view through doesn’t change the reality outside. Abuse is a problem and we are the generation that has to deal with it.

Which brings us back to the PG and the need for protection. As a student of the Lighting Path, as a seeker after spiritual awakening, as one holding out hope of activation and ascension, the first thing you need to do is protect your body and mind. Well, that’s not quite true. As a student of the Lightning Path, as a seeker after spiritual awakening, as one holding out hope of activation and ascension, the very first think you have to do is heal the damage that has been done (Sharp, 2013). If you don’t do that than for reasons explained throughout the Lightning Path body of work, higher levels of spiritual attainment will be difficult for you.

And healing is just the first, ongoing, step.

Following the healing process you have to take steps to ensure “it” (i.e. assault, violence, damage) never happens again. This is important for anybody who wants to live a healthy life, but it goes double for any serious student of spirituality. Your body is a temple for consciousness and if you don’t take care of that body and mind there is absolutely no way in heaven (or hell) you will ever be able to handle the awesome power and glory of your own higher consciousness. Ignore this advice if you want, huff and puff if that makes you feel better, but I’m telling you the Truth when is ay that if you don’t protect your body and mind then the most you will be able to do in your quest for authentic spirituality is maybe get a pre-emptive “glimpse” of what lies beyond, but even then the glimpse may be corrupted by the damage, or emotional difficulties may make further progress very difficult.

So, as always, the choice is yours. You can hold to the mistaken assumption that being spiritual means being vulnerable, soft, and exposed or you can take steps to shove off the crucifixion syndrome, heal the damage, and take steps to “prepare the way” for the descent of consciousness into the body. Of course, I won’t like to you, it is going to be hard. Choice one is easy and probably doesn’t require you to do anything differently than you have been doing all along, but choice two may require a fundamental revision of your ideas, your archetypes, yours ways of doing things, your work, your relationships, and so on. You’ll be turning reality “on its head” so to speak, and that’s never an easy thing to do. But, it has to be done. You either do that or you live out your days in the pathological dysfunction of your “normal” daily life.

I Am Michael Sharp

Welcome Home

 

 

References

Annerbäck, E. M., Sahlqvist, L., Svedin, C. G., Wingren, G., & Gustafsson, P. A. (2012). Child physical abuse and concurrence of other types of child abuse in Sweden—Associations with health and risk behaviors. Child Abuse & Neglect, 36(7–8), 585-595. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.chiabu.2012.05.006

Blain, L. M., Muench, F., Morgenstern, J., & Parsons, J. T. (2012). Exploring the role of child sexual abuse and posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms in gay and bisexual men reporting compulsive sexual behavior. Child Abuse & Neglect, 36(5), 413-422. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.chiabu.2012.03.003

Burns, E. E., Fischer, S., Jackson, J. L., & Harding, H. G. (2012). Deficits in emotion regulation mediate the relationship between childhood abuse and later eating disorder symptoms. Child Abuse & Neglect, 36(1), 32-39. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.chiabu.2011.08.005

Cuijpers, P., Smit, F., Unger, F., Stikkelbroek, Y., ten Have, M., & de Graaf, R. (2011). The disease burden of childhood adversities in adults: A population-based study. Child Abuse & Neglect, 35(11), 937-945. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.chiabu.2011.06.005

de Oliveira, P. A., Scarpari, G. K., dos Santos, B., & Scivoletto, S. (2012). Intellectual deficits in Brazilian victimized children and adolescents: A psychosocial problem? Child Abuse & Neglect, 36(7–8), 608-610. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.chiabu.2012.05.002

De Sanctis, V. A., Nomura, Y., Newcorn, J. H., & Halperin, J. M. (2012). Childhood maltreatment and conduct disorder: Independent predictors of criminal outcomes in ADHD youth. Child Abuse & Neglect, 36(11–12), 782-789. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.chiabu.2012.08.003

Eslick, G. D., Koloski, N. A., & Talley, N. J. (2011). Sexual, physical, verbal/emotional abuse and unexplained chest pain. Child Abuse & Neglect, 35(8), 601-605. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.chiabu.2011.04.007

Fuller-Thomson, E., Bejan, R., Hunter, J. T., Grundland, T., & Brennenstuhl, S. (2012). The link between childhood sexual abuse and myocardial infarction in a population-based study. Child Abuse & Neglect, 36(9), 656-665. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.chiabu.2012.06.001

Fuller-Thomson, E., Brennenstuhl, S., & Frank, J. (2010). The association between childhood physical abuse and heart disease in adulthood: Findings from a representative community sample. Child Abuse & Neglect, 34(9), 689-698. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.chiabu.2010.02.005

Hager, A. D., & Runtz, M. G. (2012). Physical and psychological maltreatment in childhood and later health problems in women: An exploratory investigation of the roles of perceived stress and coping strategies. Child Abuse & Neglect, 36(5), 393-403. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.chiabu.2012.02.002

Heim, C., & Nemeroff, C. B. (1999). The role of childhood trauma in the neurobiology of mood and anxiety disorders: Preclinical and clinical studies. Biologial Psychiatry, 46(11), 1509-1522.

Hosang, G. M., Johnson, S. L., Kiecolt-Glaser, J., Di Gregorio, M. P., Lambert, D. R., Bechtel, M. A., . . . Glaser, R. (2013). Gender specific association of child abuse and adult cardiovascular disease in a sample of patients with Basal Cell Carcinoma. Child Abuse & Neglect, 37(6), 374-379. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.chiabu.2012.09.018

Kendler, K. S., Kuhn, J. W., & Prescott, C. A. (2004). Childhood sexual abuse, stressful life events and risk for major depression in women. Psychological Medicine, 34(8), 1475-1482.

Liu, R. T., Jager-Hyman, S., Wagner, C. A., Alloy, L. B., & Gibb, B. E. (2012). Number of childhood abuse perpetrators and the occurrence of depressive episodes in adulthood. Child Abuse & Neglect, 36(4), 323-332. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.chiabu.2011.11.007

Sharp, M. (2013). The Lightning Path Intermediate Level Book A – Foundations. St. Albert, Alberta: Lightning Path Press.[ http://www.thelightningpath.com/product/lightning-path-intermediate-module-a/]

Strøm, I. F., Thoresen, S., Wentzel-Larsen, T., & Dyb, G. (2013). Violence, bullying and academic achievement: A study of 15-year-old adolescents and their school environment. Child Abuse & Neglect, 37(4), 243-251. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.chiabu.2012.10.010

Swannell, S., Martin, G., Page, A., Hasking, P., Hazell, P., Taylor, A., & Protani, M. (2012). Child maltreatment, subsequent non-suicidal self-injury and the mediating roles of dissociation, alexithymia and self-blame. Child Abuse & Neglect, 36(7–8), 572-584. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.chiabu.2012.05.005

Wingenfeld, K., Schaffrath, C., Rullkoetter, N., Mensebach, C., Schlosser, N., Beblo, T., . . . Meyer, B. (2011). Associations of childhood trauma, trauma in adulthood and previous-year stress with psychopathology in patients with major depression and borderline personality disorder. Child Abuse & Neglect, 35(8), 647-654. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.chiabu.2011.04.003

Zanarini, M. C., Williams, A. A., Lewis, R. E., Reich, R. B., Vera, S. C., Marino, M. F., . . . Frankenburg, F. R. (1997). Reported pathological childhood experiences associated with the development of borderline personality disorder. American Journal of Psychiatry, 154(8), 1101-1106.

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