Miki Kashtan’s book, Spinning Threads of Radical Aliveness: Transcending the Legacy of Separation in Our Individual Lives includes different styles: personal memoir, history of ideas, teaching and experience about difficult emotions, a section on the “core commitments” Miki has chosen to guide her life, description of radical consciousness, practices for self-change, and more (as you can see in the Table of Contents). This chapter, “My Mothers Diary of Me,” is memoir. Introducing several chapters on her childhood, Miki writes in part:
Although my own memories of childhood are vivid, I find it inconceivable that I survived my childhood, or that anyone else survives theirs. Part of what feels so oppressive is that as painful as my childhood was, I don’t think of it as extremely unusual. It’s the familiarity of it that presses on my heart more than anything, knowing how common it is for children’s needs to be overridden by the adults around them.
My Mother’s Diary of Me
My mother’s diary starts when I was born, and has a few entries in the first two years of my life. It then breaks off for about three years, and the bulk of the entries are from a two-year period at the ages of five and six years old. Below are translations from Hebrew into English of some of these entries and below them my current reflections on the significance of these entries.
The Personal Context
I was born in 1956 in a small apartment in Tel-Aviv, the second daughter (five years after the first) to a family of teachers, although my mother was not working as a teacher at the time. In addition to raising children, large chunks of her time were spent being my father’s unacknowledged assistant in writing, publishing, and educational projects. When I was eight months old, I lived through my first war. When I was about fifteen months old, my family moved to Argentina for two years, where my father taught in Jewish institutions. When I was a little older than four, my family made another move to a new and larger apartment in Tel-Aviv, where we stayed until I was twelve. My third sister was born when I was nine.
The notes, incomplete and imperfect as they are, are primarily reflections on the (indented) selections from my mother’s diary that precede them. In addition, I have a couple of memories that are significant to this unfolding understanding, and a letter that was written and sent to me when I was seven.
Part 1: The First Two Years
They brought you to me for a 10 am meal. …. You were fast asleep and I couldn’t feed you. The nurse spanked you on the butt until you woke up crying and started learning the craft of suckling. (2/19/56)
The day after I was born the Western forms of child rearing were already apparent: separation from the mother, and very rigid ideas about when babies are supposed to eat. One day into the world, and three of my most basic needs are powerfully denied: the need for connection, the need for nourishment when my body needs it, and the need for choice and respect. I was being spanked because of not being ready to eat for a “10 am meal.” No infant has a need for a “10 am meal.” This is so clearly based on following the rhythm of adults and institutions rather than attending to the specific and unique being that I was. Nor is it my own mother’s choice independently of that context.
Hurry up and grow, the milk is bothering me. (2/20/56)
What a night you made for us. On grandmother’s advice (and I decided to follow her advice), I responded to your crying and fed you. So you ate almost every hour and a half. This has got to stop. (2/22/56)
It’s been a few days that you have been a very bad girl. After dinner you start crying a lot. Friday night we had guests, but you were not considerate at all, and stayed up until 3 am. (6/24/56)
Two days into the world the polarizing of mother’s needs and infant’s needs became ever more apparent. For me, this is very personal. My mother was constructing me as a thing that was burdening her rather than as a human being with needs. I read this entry to mean that she was the only one with needs. In fact, it’s my very assertion of my needs that is construed as “bad girl” or “inconsiderate.” I see this as a clear example of the social context I have described earlier, where children’s needs are systematically denied and seen as bad and insatiable.
How did these reactions in my mother affect her actual handling of me and my needs? How did she communicate her reactions to me? What was their effect on me? The silences in the story abound.
Last night you had a terrible cough, and also a pain in your anus that couldn’t be soothed with any ointment. You were very miserable – and I with you. I was also scared – alone, alone with you and your sister. (8/31/58)
[Later, while traveling by bus:] You lay in my lap and slept most of the way. My legs, especially my thighs – were insane with heat, and were sweating under your weight and your heat – I bore it all with love. We are, after all, getting closer to father. (9/2/58)
The cough is so prolonged – and I am so afraid and worried. I am alone with this illness. (9/7/58)
There are many gaps in the diary, and this chunk is at the time when I had whooping cough, around two-and-a-half years old, while traveling with my mother and older sister, Arnina, in South America (from Buenos Aires, where we lived for two years, to Medellin and back). I am awed at the image of this young woman, twenty-nine years old, with a seven-year-old and a two-year-old with a potentially lethal disease, traveling in South America in 1958. And once again I am struck with the emphasis, in a diary written about me and to me, on her feelings at a time when I am suffering so much. I am coughing, and she is alone with the disease. My own experience is invisible in the story. The part that is hardest for me to swallow is the entry of my father into the picture. As I read “I bore it all with love,” I imagine, I want to believe, that this love is for me, but no! It’s for the father who is absent!
And once again I step back, and take in the social context of the nuclear family, intensified by being in a foreign country, and the consequences of the mother having no support in the labor of raising children – not from her husband and not from the social network around her. These conditions, mixed with the dependence of the woman on her husband, create untenable situations, and lock women and children into emotional intensities around ostensibly conflicting needs.
The way I heard this story growing up emphasized what happened to my mother. As a result of the heat and the sweat, at the end of the bus ride she had pus and sores on her legs. I recognize in myself one trait, which I date back to this terrible time of facing death in the context of having my needs experienced as both a burden and the cause of damage to my mother. I still am battling to overcome a persistent message that says that I cannot go all the way for anything I need, because if I do someone will be hurt, something bad will happen.
And I suspect that this experience is not unique to me. I sense that the setup of mother against (especially) daughter in the context of an insular nuclear family is often fertile ground for the development of the sense that our needs cannot be met except, in some way, at the expense of another human being.
You are remarkably independent, and it’s scary what a strong character you have. It’s very hard to get you to change your mind. … Usually you are also a good girl – you eat well and play beautifully. (9/15/58).
This text clearly indicates that being a “good girl” and being “independent” or having “a strong character” are mutually exclusive categories: the implication of the text is that when I am displaying independence or a strong character, I am not being a good girl. Once again, this means some needs of mine are not going to be attended to.
We traveled by a small, poor village. Little children were walking around half naked. We didn’t stop, and you commented: “The boy does not have an undershirt. I have an undershirt.” (9/15/58).
This entry is the earliest indication of a budding social consciousness. Concerns about poverty and justice and evil will surface again later. Where did this social consciousness come from? Is there a social context for it? Is it “constitutional”? Do other children have it and keep it to themselves because of not being encouraged to talk and engage with adults around them? I am trying to excavate myself, reconstruct how I came to be me, with the intensity of concern for others’ well being that I have, personally and globally.
Interlude: Two Memories from When I Was Between Four and Five
Both of these memories are extreme acts done from a position of helplessness, the ultimate experience of a small being who is at the mercy of others larger than her.
A). We were engaging in a large family visit. Suddenly I realized I needed to shit. I had a real reluctance to use toilets in strange houses. I remember weighing the situation carefully. How much longer were we likely to stay there? How long could I hold the shit in? I concluded quickly that the effort to hold it in would be futile, that sooner or later I would have to shit in my pants anyway. And so I decided, out of total desperation, to shit in my pants. I was fully toilet trained by then. I had to choose to do something that was going against how my body had learned to function, so it took active will to make this choice. The discomfort was enormous. I can still feel the visceral experience of it.
At about four, I already had no hope that my parents would take my needs into account. I was in real fear that if I told them about my situation they would force me to use the strange toilet, which was beyond what I could bear. I didn’t even consider the possibility that they might be willing to accommodate me and leave early enough that I could shit in the safety of my familiar home toilet. All alone, I made my own decisions. Self-reliant, already withdrawn.
I tell this story because it is, to me, a poignant memory illustrating the result of earlier training, for me and I suspect other children as well. Not having received care and empathy about my needs, I lost sense that they would matter to others. Once I am reduced to a small, lonely child, I am less and less likely to stand up, more and more likely to accept what others demand, to succumb to others’ power to meet or deny my needs.
B). I was running away from my father between the living room, dining area and kitchen, which were all connected. I knew – because this happened before? Because I saw it happen with my older sister? Because of some intuition? – that when he caught me he would slap me. Suddenly I realized my size and his, and that there was no way I could escape the slap. I stopped running, turned around, faced him, raised my face in his direction, tightened my facial muscles and closed my eyes. “Hit me,” I was thinking, “so it can be over with sooner.”
What is it that enables a grown man to look at his four- or five-year-old daughter – frozen in fear, recognizing her enormous vulnerability before him, not even trying to escape anymore – and still hit her? The psychologist would say that probably he himself was hit as a child, and he was passing on the abuse. I, looking for the social context, recognize in this act a willingness, in the name of social mores and accepted practices of child rearing, to turn off what I believe is a natural empathic awareness of the other, in particular in relation to our own children, and believe that hitting a daughter is doing the right thing.
I know from my mother, through conversations we have had years later, that my father had an explicit project of breaking my spirit. I also know that she made some feeble attempts to stop him or at least mitigate it. She would say to him when I was not present: “Why break? You can mold, bend, shape, but why break?” and he would insist that I needed to be broken! In my presence she would sometimes say what I thought were magical words, because she said them in English, which I didn’t know at the time: “Let her!” Then there would be a moment outside time, when I stood tense and expectant. Sometimes he would relent, and sometimes not. She never stood up for me explicitly. The social context is, once again, a patriarchal order in which she would not stand up to him, certainly not in front of the children, and in which the presence of an independent, vibrant, spontaneous, and curious little girl was a threat to the entire order of values and social understanding that my father occupied.
Part 2: Ages Five and Six
The bulk of what’s written is my mother’s interactions with me, and her observations about me, mostly stories about my interests and my intellectual and imaginative abilities, with a few miscellaneous other entries. The diary is almost entirely silent on most of the traumatic events I do remember, including the ones I mentioned above. What can I infer from the choice about what to tell? The celebration of my intellect is paramount. Indeed, I have grown up to have a solid confidence in my intellectual abilities, a level of confidence that is unusual for a woman.
The image of myself I get from reading these descriptions is incredibly spontaneous, energized, curious beyond limits, very verbal and bright, and also perceptive and thoughtful. I was creative with words (including inventing words for linguistic gaps I noticed, words that followed the Hebrew morphological rules), with ideas and with images. I had very clear ideas about many things.
As hard as I look, I cannot find my inner experience in these entries. I completely love the little girl I read about, and I wonder about her, my experience. What was I hiding already that my mother couldn’t know and didn’t write about? What is the gap between how I appear to others today and how I experience myself inside? I know that many people have no idea that so much of life is a struggle for me. It’s clear to me that I learned to do then what I still do now: without conscious choice I maintain an external appearance of being self-assured, able to navigate life, and free while having an inner experience of being on my own when the going gets rough. The freedom is true. It’s just not the whole picture. The legacy of my childhood leaves me not trusting that my needs can be heard, let alone acted on, by others, especially those in positions of authority.
[The selections continue:] It is not simple to tell you stories. We stop at every line, every word. You investigate and ask and want to understand the root of words and their ultimate meaning. And indeed the understanding is fantastic. After one telling you know and understand everything. (1/2/61)
[One day when I was witness to a conversation between my mother, my sister Arnina (five years older than me), and her friend, my mother asked me what history was, and relates:] The explosive response, which left all of us wide mouthed: “History is things that happened, and some people didn’t see, and that’s why they wrote it down.” (2/19/61)
There is no question that there was no judgment of my inquisitiveness and incessant commenting on the world. My mother seems to have given me a certain freedom. She had the patience to let me pursue everything that interested me to the nth degree. I had total room to cultivate my mind, although from an earlier age I was given no room for many of my other needs. My mind itself was no threat. It was physical and emotional needs that presented a problem. I mentioned earlier a very persistent message about good behavior meaning certain things and not others. From this entry and others I gather that, in the social and familial context into which I was born, a lot of talking and excitement about ideas was not inconsistent with being a good girl.
The need for proof is so strong, that you must demonstrate it to yourself immediately. (2/19/61)
Yesterday I found you jumping on the bed, and when I entered the room you said: “You see how the earth is pulling me? I am jumping and falling. The earth is pulling…” [And also, trying to understand the incessant motion of the moon:] “You see,” you said bending over and explaining with hand motions, “the earth is pulling, pulling, down, down”, invoking gravity to explain the lunar motion. My mother concludes: In general, the need to figure out the root of things and understand phenomena all the way is a real characteristic. (2/26/61)
One aspect of myself that is particularly striking is the combination of experiential learning, scientific experimentation, factual knowledge, and imagination. On the whole, it seems that the scientific bent was the strongest, and it was always based on my checking things out for myself. These entries, written only a few days apart, are two incidents of trying to make sense of scientific information through my own experience, and there are more such entries in the same timeframe.
[One day I asked my mother to read to me from the big bible. I am fascinated by the Garden of Eden story, especially by the collective punishment of everyone.] “Why, I didn’t do anything, why does God punish everyone?”
[A conversation ensued later:] “Let’s go look for the Tree of Life – We don’t know where it is – So we will look all over Israel – But maybe it’s not in Israel – So we will look in all the countries – But there are many countries – Not true, there are only 109 countries – How do you know? – I saw in Arnina’s atlas [my sister]. I counted the flags, there are only 109 countries.” (3/5/61)
“Mother, you are still learning, right? (you know that I am learning to play the piano), but father knows more than you, because he teaches…”
I: “But father is also learning, because there are always things we don’t know and can still learn.”
You (with anxiety): “So an old person can still learn?”
You: “So, so a person dies and doesn’t know everything?”
You were clearly frightened, and I could feel that you were looking for a way out of the horror of this absence of knowledge.
“I have a bible as big as this whole room … (in general, your private bible is a special concept. You say about everything: “I will look in my bible”) and in my bible, at the end, there are blank pages, and each time it gets written, automatically, and when the pages are done, new pages are added, automatically, and everything is written there…”
We were stunned, and you – completely calm, because you solved for yourself the problem of knowing everything.
I provoked you: “If you have a bible that is so big, how can you even open it?”
You: “When I want to read it opens automatically.” (October 1961)
Yet as these entries illustrate, my scientific experimentation was never separate from my imagination, and my sheer passion for wanting to know and understand things. Almost every entry is suffused with this combination.
As I think about this peculiar mixture of experimentation and vivid imagination, I can’t help thinking about the denigration of indigenous knowledge, which always sounds like these people were simply stupid, unable to think straight and make logical inferences. More than anything, these entries show me that the assumed contradiction between imagination, passion, and rigorous logical thinking is not the only possible interpretation of reality. I lived that combination.
My acquisition of knowledge was as far away from dispassionate as is possible. I conducted my own little scientific experiments and deductions with great excitement and enthusiasm. The range of problems that occupied my mind was all over the map – morality, science, math, creation stories, technology, prehistoric anthropology, and more.
“Mother,” you said, “isn’t it true that each year they make better and better tools? So look, I will draw you” (and here you quickly brought paper and pencil and in lightning speed you started drawing). “Look, this is the hammer they make today, and these are the nails. So next year there will be a better hammer, which will hammer the nail in with one blow … and the second year there will be an even better hammer, such that one would only need to touch the nail and it will go in … In the third year there will be a very large nail … and in that year they will make such a hammer that only holding it above the nail will be enough for the nail to go in.” (December 1961).
It is in and through constructing this imaginary scenario that I worked out for myself an understanding of what progressive change means. This understanding exploded out of me in great passion.
“What, God worked in the dark? How did he see?” When he was done on the seventh day you were puzzled: “What, he created everything so fast, how did he manage? He is so fast, God. And what, the knives and forks too?” (in other words, all the little details) I answered: “No, forks and knives are made by people.” “Oh, right, they are made in factories. Tell me, mother, is there a different god in each country?,” “No,” I said, “god is of all the countries.” “So when it is day here it is night in Argentina, so how? I know, it’s from country to country to country to country” – you resolved for yourself a very difficult question. (3/5/61)
Last Monday we went to the movie “The Ten Commandments.” Your first response was: “What language are they speaking, how come it’s not Hebrew?,” followed by questions about customs in Egypt, dress, food habits, why Moses was called Moses (because he was taken out of the water) [in Hebrew the name is derived from the root of the verb for taking something out of the water], but he was named before Pharaoh’s daughter found him in the water, and why did Pharaoh love him, and why when it became known that he was Jewish Pharaoh didn’t want him – ”What, if he is Jewish then he could not be the king of Egypt? And why did god talk with him only, why doesn’t god talk with others, and did all the Jews see him? And what a shame that I didn’t live in those times” … “And why was Dotan a bad Jew? Did he learn from the Egyptians?” I: “Every nation has good and bad people.” You: “There are good people among the Germans too?” – I: “Yes, but they have many bad people.” And then your summary: “We have many good and few bad, and others have many bad and few good, and some are medium, good and bad. … And why are there bad people at all?” (3/14/61)
Just as I added passion and imagination to scientific endeavors, I also refused to let go of my sense of logic in any context. I subjected everything to a precise scrutiny, including stories and myths. My passion was never an occasion for losing my sense of logic. Everything had to make sense, and so it is no surprise that when I first asked my mother to read to me from the bible, I immediately started quizzing her.
I completely recognize myself in this story: the need to make sense of everything, the critical questioning mind, the swift way of making connections, and the sheer intensity. And so the questions of continuity and change surface: how much of who I am now is simply a continuation of that?
When I read to you from the bible you exclaimed suddenly: “I feel the things, I feel how the Greeks fought with us, I feel how we fought the Arabs” [undated, sometime in 1961].
[At five and a half I discovered the negative numbers, all on my own, and proceeded to name numbers:] “all the numbers below zero – the sad numbers. And the numbers above zero – the funny ones. And zero – the sad and the funny one, because it is between one above and one below.” (October 1961)
At the time it didn’t even occur to me that to think meant to not feel. My discoveries and my insights were always suffused with feeling. Is it even possible that this very ability to blend faculties and have an integrated experience of my world is what enabled me to have this striking intellectual discovery?
[Having learned in kindergarten about a national hero famed in particular for having had only one arm, I declared:] “From now on I will do everything with one hand,” and proceeded to recount all that this hero was able to do with one hand. (3/5/61). [And years later, at 11, I spent a whole winter without any sweaters or jackets after learning about certain Aborigines in Australia who slept naked in freezing temperatures, and concluded that it was humanly possible, and therefore I was going to do it too.]
Not only was my knowledge completely intertwined with my passion and imagination, I also had no separation between theory and practice. What I learned had an immediate impact on my actions.
This morning, when I read the paper, you approached me and asked: “Mother, why are you reading the paper?” – I said that the paper gives us much important and interesting news. “Such as?” you persisted. And I answered: “Here there is news about Africa, and here about the theater, and music, and here they tell about new elections to the government and on and on.”
And you: “I will be a prime minister.” “And what will you do when you are a prime minister?” “I will call the prime ministers of all the nations, and I will tell them to tell their people not to be bad.” “How will you do this?” – “I am still thinking about that.” Later I asked you if you had already thought about it. “A little, only a few words. I will tell them not to fight against us or raid us. But this is not enough, right? I will need to tell them many more things. I will keep thinking.” (3/14/61)
While I clearly had a very national point of view on this as on other concerns, this entry vividly illustrates my preoccupation with bigger issues of the world. At five years old I had not yet succumbed to the messages of powerlessness that later on locked me in paralyzed despair. I still had a clear sense that I, personally, could make such a big difference in the world. I understood that the problem was complex, and that much thought had to be given to it, but it never occurred to me that I couldn’t do it. My mother’s challenge to me, here as elsewhere, is ambiguous: perhaps simply inspired by her curiosity, and perhaps trying to convey the message that it’s not so simple.
At five I said: “I will keep thinking.” At fifty-eight, I am still thinking.
[My mother’s description of my learning style:] an independent form of learning, consisting of penetrating looking, comparison, inference, the deciphering of pictures, and of course, to summarize, my own reading [of a text]. (December 1961)
You went to sleep: “Mother, do the insane know what they are saying?” And you responded: “When they are healthy they do, and when they are ill they don’t. But afterwards do they remember what they said when they were ill?” (1/24/62)
There never seemed to be a moment when I wasn’t trying to figure out something. There was no topic – personal, political, or otherwise – that was outside the bounds of what I would think about. And the diary makes it amply clear that my mother gave me every opportunity and encouragement for that process.
Two weeks ago you said to me with a lot of joy: “Today Leah spoke with me.” (Leah is a one-of-a-kind quiet girl. It is hard to describe a silence as total as hers. I have already noticed your great interest in her. Occasionally you told me that she would say hello to you. That day you were glad to tell me that she actually spoke). I said: “You see that she is a good and smart girl,” and you: “I didn’t know if she was smart, because she didn’t talk!” – “So why did you play with her?” – I asked, puzzled and curious to know what pushed you to her. You answered with passion and affirmatively: “I wanted her to talk to me.” You see, you must solve and get to the core of phenomena which don’t make sense to you. You couldn’t digest the fact that she doesn’t speak even though she has no physical disability (muteness as such you would easily understand), and so you “worked” on her for a month and a half – and succeeded. “How did you succeed in getting her to talk to you?” I asked. “I played with her, and played with her, and played with her,” was the clear answer.
The following day I asked you if you played with her again. “No, she already talked to me!” In other words, having achieved your purpose, you were no longer interested in this problem, and you turned to other things.” (2/19/61)
My mother’s carte blanche extended, as far as I can see, into what I consider to be some of the darker sides of knowledge acquisition – the construction of others as objects. Nowhere in this story is there any real care for Leah. In fact, she remains mute despite talking to me. What she said, how she felt after the sudden drop of interest following a slow period of acquiring trust in me, will remain forever unknown. And that this was acceptable practice is evidenced by my mother’s blindness to it as well. Leah silently joins the ranks of those who are made into the objects of knowledge without a voice of their own in the story.
This afternoon you behaved … shall we say poorly? Every time you don’t get your way you threaten – “I will call the police” … “I will hit you” – and other such expressions. There was no choice left but to throw you out of home. You cried and wailed and banged the door with your legs. Father opened the door and came out to you and suggested that you apologize. You came in, but by the time you got to me, you changed your mind. “In that case,” said father, “I will let you out again, and I won’t let you come in again.” “Then I will get lost,” you cried out in tears. “Go ahead and get lost,” father was not frightened. “If I get lost, a police officer will find me and bring me back here.” You were endlessly sweet, and we swallowed a smile. The end of it was that you came to me sheepishly and apologized. (1/22/60 or 61)
Leah’s voice is not the only one silenced. This entry shows that, despite the freedoms, beyond a certain point a little girl cannot go. Once a boundary is crossed, my feelings no longer matter. The bit about the smile shows clearly that they had to put on a role in order to act like this to a small child. That role excludes caring for my feelings. In the role it doesn’t matter that I am suffering. In the role, their power to meet or deny my needs is exercised, because they don’t like what I am doing, the way I am manifesting my displeasure at not getting my needs met. In the end I cave in and apologize. My will got broken, perhaps, but it is hard to imagine I actually believed I had something to apologize for.
And I remember another incident of being kicked out of home, and sitting outside for many hours on the stairs leading up to the roof from our third floor apartment, and thinking to myself: “There is no way I am going to knock on that door and ask for forgiveness. I will sit here until they let me in.” Was the memory of the previous defeat still burning in my consciousness? Will any parent, ever, know what is really going on inside their otherwise quiet child?
Pause: A Letter to a Seven-Year-Old Girl
It is amazing to me that so much of the diary is full of admiration for me, whereas actual contact with me was different. Sometime later, in August 1963, when I was seven and a half, I was visiting family friends in a Kibbutz while my parents were vacationing elsewhere. Here is a letter my mother sent me:
Sweet M. – Hi!
I am interested to know whether your memory is functioning well, in other words do you remember everything we told you in Tel-Aviv, in other words, are you behaving as you should be and can?
What are you doing all day? Are you helping Ahuva [the friend] in the children’s home? Are you sleeping in the afternoon without disturbing her? And in the sea – are you staying near her and do you get out of the water when she asks you? And how are you with Anat [their daughter, my age], and the food, and discipline, and the clothes, and the order, and etc., etc., etc.?
Write to me immediately as soon as you get this letter to this address…
[Description of their surroundings follows]
We miss you, M. When we take you and Anat home on Wednesday we will go places and have fun at home, all right? But bear in mind that your stay until Wednesday is dependent on your behavior. If you are not so good, we will come earlier and take you. Just bear it in mind.
[regards to friends and family]
Your loving parents
Although the letter professes love, there is absolutely no interest in my experience, no question about whether or not I am enjoying myself, no wishing me a happy time. It seems like there was no faith that I could behave myself well. Was she assuming that love is there, taken for granted? Was she so preoccupied with her worry about how others, Ahuva in this case, would perceive me? Was she worried, perhaps, that her patience with my endless questioning and commenting would not be shared by others, and I would be a burden? Whatever the case may be on the personal level, as a trace into the social, this letter is an example of the neglect of the feelings of a child in the effort to control their behavior. An example of the gradual erosion of any sense of confidence in who we are as we are told to be different in order to fit in.