Major Cause of Fear – Our Tribal Beliefs

15 Jan

We are all tattooed in our cradles with the beliefs of our tribe; the record may seem superficial, but it is indelible. You cannot educate a man wholly out of superstitious fears which were implanted in his imagination, no matter how utterly his reason may reject them. ~Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.

It has always been my belief that everything we initially believe about life, the world around us and our relationships to other people, cultures and religions we learn as youngsters over the kitchen table. Much is true, but so much of it is just the opinions of other members of our family who are filtering their specific views through their own set of filters.

The first time we truly understand this is when we move in and share a dorm room or an apartment with another person. In the bathroom, as we sit on the throne, we glance at the toilet paper and realize that it is coming off the roll backwards, so we change it. The next time we’re in there we see that someone has changed it back. Who’s way is right? Over the top, or along the wall? Actually no ones.

I was born into a loving but dysfunctional family. And, I believe that all of us were born into dysfunctional families. The only difference between yours and mine is the level of dysfunction.

As these two to three foot beings we look up to our parents and other adults as these giant God like people. We love them because they love us and provide all our daily needs. Would they ever tell us something that wasn’t true? Duh? Of course they would. But often they themselves didn’t know that what they just told you wasn’t true.

Shel Silverstein, the famous author and cartoonist, once published a cartoon in Playboy magazine that showed a happy toddler playing on the floor with his alphabet blocks. On his face, plastered ear to ear, was a huge smile. He loved everyone, and everyone loved him.

Then enters his father, who opens up the top of his head, as if it were on a hinge. His father then proceeds to fill the little guys head with every swear word and every hateful and derogatory word to describe another’s ethnicity, race, culture and religion. As his father continues, the little happy child turns into a hateful, bigoted and racist person. Gone is the magnificent smile, replaced by a look that would kill.

Even though my parents were loving progressive people that didn’t stop them from passing on the “wisdom of the old country.” And though they were born in the United States they learned from their parents and grandparents all the reasons to stay away from certain groups of people. And I know from what my friends have told me, that they were told as children to stay away from people like me.

To teaching our kids to love one another,


One Response to “Major Cause of Fear – Our Tribal Beliefs”

  1. Anne Michelsen January 15, 2013 at 7:49 PM #

    Michael, what a wonderful post. It’s so hard to break away from negative beliefs that come to us through people we trust and love. And when we do, it can be equally hard to reconcile our new-found perspective with our love and trust of these people. Too often, we react against the person as well as the negative baggage. It takes an awful lot of forgiveness to really, truly break away from fear.

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