This has been my little secret for a long time. I haven’t spoken about my childhood before, especially in public; simply because other children have lived through a lot worse than me. Also, I am who I am because of my past – I came through it and I am happy with the current me.
My only reason for talking about this is to illustrate that even people who have had difficult, unhappy lives are able to change and find genuine, lasting happiness – just as I have.
Some people think I was always happy. It would be nice if that were true, in fact I was a very unhappy little boy. Just look at the right hand picture below of me at about nine years old.
Growing up in Calvinistic, apartheid South Africa, I was a slight, fairly sensitive little boy. My father (I guess) felt that this sensitivity was “unmanly,” so he decided to toughen me up and “make me a man.” He beat me
with the back of a wooden handled clothes brush every day to teach me that “real” boys (and men) don’t cry.
I don’t remember just how long this went on – a lot of my childhood memories are still missing – but the beatings were quite effective. I learnt to suppress my tears fairly quickly; but the mental effect of waiting each day, knowing what was coming when he arrived home from work, carried a heavier toll. I only felt safe when he occasionally went away on business.
This led to me suppressing my emotions to the point where I felt absolutely nothing. I was emotionally dead inside. At this point I could either degenerate into a sociopathic personality; or somehow connect with the hidden empathy we all possess.
Luckily, instead of becoming a serial killer I somehow chose the second option, although for a moment it was a close call. My experiences led me to develop a desire to understand how and why these things happen to people.
It took decades for me to unearth my feelings. This process had the interesting and useful side effect of causing me to go inward and ask questions that may not have occurred to me if I had enjoyed a “normal” childhood.
An off-hand remark by a school friend one day, was the light bulb moment that started me on my path to genuine happiness, although it took a long time to find happiness, with many diversions and pitfalls along the way.
From this defining moment, as a teenager, I started studying the mind and the motivations that make us do the things we do, good and bad; as well as the ways we sabotage ourselves, actually leading us away from our real objectives. This quest to understand what makes us tick has been a constant in my life for about forty years.
Through this study, I now know that my father (like many others of that time) behaved as well as he was able with the knowledge and tools at his disposal. I have no negative feelings towards him for what he did to me when I was young – after all, it is part of what made me the person I am today, and there is nothing better than being happy!
What I offer you is the accumulated wisdom, the processes and techniques that I learnt and used to reach this wonderful, virtually constant state of real, genuine happiness that I enjoy today.