Cultural lies (notes)

pop quiz:

Which little boy is more likely to grow up to be intelligent, compassionate and generous?

a) H.P. (orphan, abusive guardians, no money, no friends, no mentors)


b) D.M. (strong family ties, wealthy, many friends)



– there were 2 boys growing up in a household with their parents and grandparents. A. was inexplicably adored by all, while B. was either neglected or criticized.

At the time, inventive, cruel corporal punishments were de rigueur for common childhood misdemeanors, such as talking back, escaping chores or getting low grades. However, A. usually escaped these punishments while B. got them often, no matter which was actually more well-behaved.

A. would speak up for B. when he was facing punishment. B. delighted in the rare times that A. ever got the punishments he technically deserved.

When they grew older, A. was forced to take up law, a course he despised. (He wanted to be an artist.) B. was encouraged to pursue the liberal arts degree that he wanted.

They had their own families. A. constantly belittled and insulted his children and their dreams. B. was easygoing, supportive and affectionate.


Adversity doesn’t make people loving. Being loved makes people loving.


– people learn by example
– people can only effectively care for others when their own needs have been met
– it is a survival tactic (“I need to defend myself because if I don’t, no one else will”)
– it is the root of disconnection: there can be no closeness without vulnerability. there can be no vulnerability without security. there can be no security without trust. there can be no trust when a person has learned from their life that weakness invites attack


It is one of the most popular lies we tell ourselves because it encourages narcissism. That we don’t need to rely on others. That we should be able grow up under a dark staircase and become strong and good. That we don’t need to care for each other and look for love from each other


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