Generational Pain: “I was spanked and turned out OK”


Are you one of those people who keeps asserting that you “were spanked and turned out OK”?

Do you feel that no harm was done to the relationships you have with your children, or that you had no relationship issues with your own parents after experiencing such “discipline”?

Why is that the people who make the above claim, at least in my experience, tend to also display signs of passive-aggressive behavior and deny that they have suffered disconnected familial relationships?

The ones I know personally have obvious denial about the problems experienced by their own offspring or within their families, including the transference of that pain into their children’s relationships.

But, we all get a caveat in the expression, “When we know better, we do better.”

Even so, some still refuse to muster the strength to look within and admit that perhaps they really didn’t turn out so OK, after all. Even when the reflection of the pain stares back at them in the tears of their own beloved children.

It seems that these poor souls would rather risk further alienating those they have harmed along with the legacy of that impact upon generations that follow than to find it within themselves to feel, process, and heal the very pain they themselves buried as children.

It is no easy thing to face and work through one’s familial legacy of pain, taking the brave steps towards ending this cycle of dysfunction. But to take a rhetorical play right out of their own book, life ain’t easy, so suck it up, buttercup.

You know that old metaphor for sweeping things under the rug? By the time rhetorical you hits your 70s, that pile is so high that your grandchildren start tripping over it!

That is not to say that the mistakes of children and grandchildren are the fault of the parents – but it IS imperative to see how such avoidance of reality makes us implicit in perpetuating the nasty cycle of pain and abuse. But that avoidance and denial… it really isn’t just about spanking, now, is it?

Let’s be truthful – spanking is just the epitome of all that is wrong with authoritarianism and patriarchy.

It is the evident symbol that characterizes a way of seeing children that perpetuates everything from misogyny and rape to domestic abuse, bullying (all age groups), and even incarceration.

This antiquated paradigm of hierarchy and coercive control over children is at the root – literally, figuratively, metaphorically, and categorically – of all that is wrong in our society.

As related by Leanne Patrick at The Green Parent,

The reality, however, is that smacking/spanking dramatically increases the risk of anxiety and depression, substance abuse, violence, criminal activity and poor educational outcomes in childhood and also in adulthood. So the phrase ‘I was spanked and I am OK’ is not representative of the scientific data available and is often perpetuated by people who are unaware of just how affected they are by violence in their childhood.

Do you want to be that person? Once you’ve been made aware of the facts, doing better when you know better becomes a matter of moral and ethical obligation!

Leanne Patrick explains,

Fear, pain and humiliation teach people to submit, to fear of authority and to doubt their worth as a person and the value of their opinions. It teaches children that it is OK to physically hurt people who do not behave the way we want them to, which is a clear path into domestic abuse and control issues, as either the abuser or the victim. Several studies have also demonstrated that children who have been intimidated into submission with pain or shouting are as much as six times more likely to submit to peer pressure whether it’s drugs, sex or gang violence.

Thus, why would you make light of spanking (or any kind of punishment given that it causes disconnection, pain, resentment, and long-term negative consequences) under any circumstances?

You are given one shot at this life in this body.

We agree on that single fact, no?

Why then – would you insist on continuing to suppress and at all costs resist feeling the pain you experienced at the hands* of someone whom you depended upon to love and protect you?

(* …or at the hand that held the soap that washed out your mouth, or from the parent who abandoned you, or the relative who molested or raped you, or the mother or father who competed with you, or the sibling who always criticized you and never stopped – not even in middle age, or the parents who never validated you, or the parents who disrespected your self-identification, or the parents who never gave you their mindful presence, or the family who rejected you for being yourself, or whomever in your life made you feel you were not good enough, and on and on the examples can go depending on your experiences…)

Just how insignificant do you want your contribution to the greater fabric of oneness to be?!

Adyashanti spoke of generational sufferings in saying that,

Each of our family systems is imbued with a tremendous amount of beauty and goodness, and also carried within these systems, as we all know, is what we might call ‘generational pain,’ or ‘generational suffering.’ This is an actual energy that is unconsciously passed down from one generation to the next…

One of the interesting things to note about generational suffering is that it’s not personal. In other words, it’s more like a virus that infects the people within a family… When you’re born, without even knowing it, you’re actually being handed this generational pain. In response, you will complain about it, think it’s terrible, or otherwise resist it. But by doing so, you will come to see that denial or complaints about this pain only makes it sink more deeply into your being.

So what do you do? You have a choice… You can deny it and sweep it under the proverbial rug, or you can embrace it, get to know it, feel it, process it… and heal.

You can heal not just for yourself, but for the crest of your generations. Look at it this way – for every bit of pain you refuse to feel, you reduce the intensity of your joy by that amount.

Adyashanti also stated that as this pain is not personal, we do not have to own it and can choose compassion for those who unwittingly hand it down through generations. But, I feel that when we do this, we must also bring awareness to those who continue to manipulate and passive aggressively spread this “virus.”

When you start to see this in terms of a long chain of suffering handed down from generation to generation, and you realize that you’re the one, here and now, who can become conscious of how this works, then you have the opportunity to put an end to it.” ~Adyashanti


Your legacy is not as beatific as you believe it to be, those of you who “turned out OK.” Without compassion for the pain of childhood, and the ability to own your role in the mistakes of generations, openly and apologetically, you erode connections.

For every child or grandchild that is kissing at your feet and expressing thanks for the “tough love,” still wounded in perspective by their own fear of what lies within were they to take an honest look, there are other children and grandchildren and their families who do not pretend that the connection to you is some immortal example of unconditional love.

These others are the ones who are not lying to themselves about the transference of generational pain – who want to end the cycle of dysfunction – who take great strides to treat their own dependents (and hopefully their spouses) with respect and compassion.

At some point, many of them find that they would rather be done with people who avoid pain rather than continuing to endure the slap in the face from passive-aggressive denial.

Wake up to the signs that your passive-aggressive avoidance is pushing them away. They don’t tell you things (as teens, they rebel), they avoid spending time with you or communicating with you – reserving only platitudes to placate the discomfort that is the disconnection – they grow more and more distant as they discover that their childhood pain has held them back in their own lives – they take measures to change how they do things to spare their children the same cycle of pain – they give you chances to own your role in perpetuating that cycle – but, eventually, if you continue on your path of denial and thinking that you turned out OK – eventually, you will be surrounded only by progeny who, like you, wear only rose-colored glasses.

That shit is superficial, and after a while, you’re going to feel the emptiness of a void that cannot be filled, whether you want to or not!


Perhaps you are “OK” with that as well.

I want my kids (both step and bio) to know that such is not OK with me.

I want them to know that all of my messy, annoying, misguided, and wrong measures and gestures are not acceptable, and that my apology for my mistakes that hurt them will always be here  – over, under, and in between the layers of our generations. I am humble in their presence, as they have taught me much.

I want them to know that I desire to hold the space for them to process their own pain. I want them to know that I am prepared to embrace and feel the ugly of their tears to the point of their healing. To the point where acceptance is a place of peace, and validation is never hard-won.

I want them to know that my heart remains open in all of its imperfection, and that I will never mock the pain of their childhoods by claiming that I was spanked and turned out OK.


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