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Conquering fear and apprehension caused by failure and now ingrained.

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We all from time to time get ourselves into a situation, where we know we are having trouble with a note, or a song, and that knowledge, and the apprehension it causes sets us up for failure time and again. A teacher may comment that posture and confidence level and technique all change noticeably when we approach our trouble spot. It becomes habit. In my case, tackling a song while I was sick led to failure. Failure led to apprehension on that note. My teacher can see my throat muscel tense when I get there, even though everything was great before. I know, on a mental level that the note is completely within my ability. But I've got myself all messed up in the head with it. And I can't seem to conquer it. Even though I know I can do it. I regularly do much harder things, I used to do it. I know what the problem is but don't seem to be able to stop it. It is like a habit. I have no control over it - I subconsiously shift the effort from support to the throat, stick my head out and blurt out this terrible note.

Can we share some ideas for getting past this sort of stumbling block?

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This is a problem I face quite often too... one remedy I've found is letting go of that song/part for a month or more

while I work on my technique - especially focusing on that particular vowel mod/range etc. Then I come back

having in mind only to apply my technique - not to just sing the song. Sometimes I need to work on

a part in a soft, non breathy voice for a long time and slowly start leaning into the sound.

I'm very interested in this topic.

Kind Regards,

Thanos

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Make exercises around that note. Make them start as a soft, pure vowel and then go slowly and progressively towards singing the actual word and then the actual scentence. In other words, make the exercises gradually more complex and more like the final outcome. There are endless variations on how to do this - sirens, scales, mecca di voca, onset training, using other pitches, etc. The responsibility should be yours (or your coach's) to build such a program of exercises. But by approaching it this way, you start with something easy that doesn't frighten you and then work on just that phrase, with tons of variations until you finally know the phrase inside and out and fear gets replaced by familiarity. Good luck!

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We all from time to time get ourselves into a situation, where we know we are having trouble with a note, or a song, and that knowledge, and the apprehension it causes sets us up for failure time and again. A teacher may comment that posture and confidence level and technique all change noticeably when we approach our trouble spot. It becomes habit. In my case, tackling a song while I was sick led to failure. Failure led to apprehension on that note. My teacher can see my throat muscel tense when I get there, even though everything was great before. I know, on a mental level that the note is completely within my ability. But I've got myself all messed up in the head with it. And I can't seem to conquer it. Even though I know I can do it. I regularly do much harder things, I used to do it. I know what the problem is but don't seem to be able to stop it. It is like a habit. I have no control over it - I subconsiously shift the effort from support to the throat, stick my head out and blurt out this terrible note.

Can we share some ideas for getting past this sort of stumbling block?

with all due respect, it sounds like you are in a self-sabotage mode, and the more you say "i can't do it", "i can't help myself", the more you will remain there because the mind cannot tell the difference between real and imagined.

i would first focus on re-programming your mind to let go of the anxiety and fear and try to replace it with positive affirmations....

here are some suggestions: (believe me, i have to practise what i preach too.....lol!!!!!)

tell youself everyday, as many times as you need to (an example): "high notes are just notes, i will no longer associate high notes with difficulty..in fact, i will sing today higher than i ever have before."

believe me, it works.

you must believe in yourself, for yourself....just keep trying...if something is not working?...try something else....keep searching and experimenting with your own body.

understand, accept and embrace that you will have those stumbling blocks, and you will get through them but don't forget, not for one second, when you nail a song, when you are so "on" you just can't miss that day... those great days have to be dwelled on as well.

you have to congradulate yourself (we're not taught to do this) when thing go right as well.

i believe the mind directs the technique. hope i've helped.

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I work everyday with folk who suffer extremes of anxiety and mood for a variety of reasons. I'm convinced that we all suffer from these worries from time to time, the only difference being how we respond to them. It never ceases to amaze me how quickly worries can dissolve in the face of a little kindness and humour. With defences down we can all do more than we can possibly imagine.

I'm the introverted, negligible confidence, overly-thinking type and my only saving grace is that I'm well practiced in a kind of light, whimsical spontaneous expression. Without that I'd be a sort of musical accountant, all numbers and no feeling. It is the seat of my most creative musical moments. I would love to know how many of our favourite songs started as ... "Play that again", "No, I was only mucking about", "But that sounded awesome!" ...

Following on from VideoHere

i believe the mind directs the technique

I'm just sayin that the creative (improvised ?) place can be used as a means of freeing mind from being too focused on body. So play with the melody, harmonize, exaggerate tones / resonances / dynamics and just invent along with the music. After years of practicing 'by rote', I cant believe how much quicker I learn if I practice interspersed with improvisation. Connected to that energized, free state of mind where everything is allowed in pursuit of invention I find myself a lot more relaxed and able to push the boundaries of my technique.

Hope that doesnt come across as too ridiculous, only meant as reminder of why a lot of us do this music thing in the first place. I know to my cost how easy it is to forget that one :/

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Hi,

There has been some good stuff posted and the positive affirmation aspect is good advice - be it from people on this forum, teacher, family / friends and the like.

I few things I would like to pick up on is;

"My teacher can see my throat muscle tense when I get there"

"A teacher may comment that posture and confidence level and technique all change noticeably when we approach our trouble spot"

And what is your teacher doing about it, surely helping you across this spot by different exercises than the norm (such as inverted scales across passage, sirening, hum before vowel ... and whatever else they have in their toolkit) ?

Examples are - Male issues say D4 through G4, Females flat/sharp A4, B4, C5's ... Different students have issues with different vowels (and there is an active post regarding vowels. http://www.punbb-hosting.com/forums/themodernvocalist/viewtopic.php?id=2435).

I had one young student TODAY sort out their "ah" vowel, as we were talking about "feelings". She "felt" the vowel on the lower jaw hinge from A4 onward and now her A4, B4, C5 are in tune and have stopped sounding breathy (it will take time to "embed" it - but it was a breakthrough). A definate milestone for her :). She now has "ah" on the jaw hinge, "ee" on her forehead just above her nose and "oo" just under her ears (about ear lobe).

One question is - what note and what vowel ... Tonight possibly listen try to get some feelings on vowel and note them down .. Then when singing take your sheet of paper and sticky it to the music stand .. When you have a problem word ... know the vowel - look at the paper and sing that note / vowel from where you noted the feeling.

One thing you said was , "stick my head out" ... This sounds like "possibly" trying to reach / grab a note in a uncontrollable fashion (chest too high), or imagining the note is "higher" than the previous, but trying to hit it the same as the previous note... coaches COMMONLY see the head raise upward on passage notes (especially in younger singers).

Your issue will be sorted with the right guidance, positive affirmation and your own drive and determination. One thing someone has not posted is the best way to confront a fear / phobia .. and that's tackle it head on ... Get yourself to the festivals (you have already done a festival with that Jazz piece), get to open mic night and just sing away ... You'll get claps, cheers and maybe a beer thrown in on open mic night.

One last question is M / F (are you F) ? and how old (if you don't mind answering), as you could also put yourself in a Female young 12-16 y/o shoes with mutational chink & breathiness, or maybe a male going through puberty. If you sang when you were that young - you'll remember the feeling and working through that (and they can be tough times for coaches too).

You already have from forum posters here positive comments on your singing;

"I liked it! Just sing it like that and you'll be fine, IMO." - Jonpall

"it was very good and enjoyable" - Ronron

"Excellent. I like the way you sing this soft" - Ronws

.. So keep it up whatever you are doing and don't loose heart.

Stew

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Wow, thanks for the many and varied and wonderful replies!

Thanos - this is how I've worked on this problem in the past, and found it yields results, but takes time. I know this is a psychological barrier rather than a physical one so I'm hoping to find a nice instant psychological switch. But what you have suggested is one of the ways I am currently tackling it.

Jonpall - This is a good spin on the system I am using and I'll give it a go.

Bob- you are absolutely right. This is a psychological thing. I know it. Just like I know that I can do this - somehow I've gotta tell my subconscious to stop sabbotaging my perfectly capable voice! I am a massive believer in the mind and its power, but I don't find that my conscious mind has much control over the rest of it. My reasoning is not connected to my feeling. Perhaps everyone is like that. I have an extremely high IQ, which is often a hindrance.

Silent Mind - I LOVE your suggestion. I SO GET IT. I love to play with the music and this is when I find a really enjoy a song - and this is why I love jazz, creativity is EXPECTED. I'll certainly try this out and may start by looking more closely with the piano at the chords so I get to know more about the notes I can improvise with. I love your philosophy on the good humour and kindness. You are so right, and this will be an excellent attitude change for me to focus on. Stop worrying about the part I'm having trouble with and just enjoy the process, the creativity of making music.

I'm hoping others too wilil pick up on ideas to help them overcome little stumbling blocks in their head. Thanks all for your support and advice.

SH

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Stew, thanks for your very specific and authorative advice. I wanted to answer some of the points you raised

I few things I would like to pick up on is;

"My teacher can see my throat muscle tense when I get there"

"A teacher may comment that posture and confidence level and technique all change noticeably when we approach our trouble spot"

And what is your teacher doing about it, surely helping you across this spot by different exercises than the norm (such as inverted scales across passage, sirening, hum before vowel ... and whatever else they have in their toolkit) ?

We went descending 5 note "nay" over the trouble spot, sirens. The nay was easy - can go well higher than the C5, the moment we switched the word to "stay", things tensed up. So we tried "say" (my suggestion in an attempt to soften the onset) which was still tense.

I had one young student TODAY sort out their "ah" vowel, as we were talking about "feelings". She "felt" the vowel on the lower jaw hinge from A4 onward and now her A4, B4, C5 are in tune and have stopped sounding breathy (it will take time to "embed" it - but it was a breakthrough). A definate milestone for her :). She now has "ah" on the jaw hinge, "ee" on her forehead just above her nose and "oo" just under her ears (about ear lobe).

One question is - what note and what vowel ... Tonight possibly listen try to get some feelings on vowel and note them down .. Then when singing take your sheet of paper and sticky it to the music stand .. When you have a problem word ... know the vowel - look at the paper and sing that note / vowel from where you noted the feeling.

So, we are talking about WHERE we feel the vowel, at its best? As in where the ring is? I tend to find this by accident and don't have an actual system for finding it. I'm female and the note is C5, the word is "stay", and stylistically I'd like to deliver it softly, but with volume and hold for a bar. I can belt it no worries at all - can belt the D5 no worries at all. Just trying to do it softer, but losing control when I'm not in belt. I can so it VERY softly - with quite a breathy sound, but that's not what I want either. I want it strong, but not harsh and belty. The song is My Funny Valentine.

One thing you said was , "stick my head out" ... This sounds like "possibly" trying to reach / grab a note in a uncontrollable fashion (chest too high), or imagining the note is "higher" than the previous, but trying to hit it the same as the previous note... coaches COMMONLY see the head raise upward on passage notes (especially in younger singers).

Your issue will be sorted with the right guidance, positive affirmation and your own drive and determination. One thing someone has not posted is the best way to confront a fear / phobia .. and that's tackle it head on ... Get yourself to the festivals (you have already done a festival with that Jazz piece), get to open mic night and just sing away ... You'll get claps, cheers and maybe a beer thrown in on open mic night.

One last question is M / F (are you F) ? and how old (if you don't mind answering), as you could also put yourself in a Female young 12-16 y/o shoes with mutational chink & breathiness, or maybe a male going through puberty. If you sang when you were that young - you'll remember the feeling and working through that (and they can be tough times for coaches too).

You already have from forum posters here positive comments on your singing;

"I liked it! Just sing it like that and you'll be fine, IMO." - Jonpall

"it was very good and enjoyable" - Ronron

"Excellent. I like the way you sing this soft" - Ronws

.. So keep it up whatever you are doing and don't loose heart.

Stew

I'm 33, female and been singing for a year. My teacher uses some SLS technique and some technique she learnt studying pedagogy at Uni. She is very lovely, but our lessons are over skype. She has done me alot of good and I know I can sing. I know I can do this note. In fact I am rather excellent at jazz. But somehow, I have a habit of stuffing up this note. It is on such a subconcious level. It seems outside the realm of my conscious control. It seems ridiculous to me because it is not a difficult note. I have lots of drive and determination - done a lot of work to get where I am.

I look forward to reading your reply, having answered the questions. When tackling a problem I tend to look for a lot of answers and then go with the ones that seem most sensible to me. I'm quite certain the answer to this lies within neural pathways, habit and subconcious psychology. I know physically that I am capable of doing it. There is a niggling worry that my soft voice sounds different since I've been sick - it is raspier and breathier, almost like a rattle. But I keep telling myself to ignore that.

Cheers

SH

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'm quite certain the answer to this lies within neural pathways, habit and subconcious psychology. I know physically that I am capable of doing it. There is a niggling worry that my soft voice sounds different since I've been sick - it is raspier and breathier, almost like a rattle. But I keep telling myself to ignore that.

Cheers

SH

Singing is mental. I say it because it's true. The fact that it may bother others that I am "hammering" a point is more due to their problems than mine.

Please, please, please, read your own words. A worry that you voice sounds different since you have been sick. That's psychological. You are getting in your own way. No one else can hear it but you are convinced and that trumps any objective reality.

Color me bad.

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I forgot, you've been singing for a year, which means you know all about psychology. I think you are stepping on your own toes, though I could be wrong. Believe it or not, I don't think I'm always right. Or do you really need people to confirm that are "damaged" now and what does that do for you?

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Woohoo - just wanted to share with you all the success of SilentMind's suggestion - improvisation. It's certainly not perfect, as it is an impro, but it achieved what I was looking for - get a listen to the C5 at the end, and to the part way through C5 that I changed to a run. Nice way to handle it. Thanks to Silent Mind and also to Ella Fitzgerald for the idea of sliding into the note.

http://www.box.net/shared/31obgyehr9roepvcgx69

Oh, I have to add that a glass of good quality red wine probably helped me to relax a bit too.

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Can't listen to it right now, just wanted to chime in.

Thinking about a part of your body does make you more aware of it, meaning you can consciously control it, but you are less able to inconscioulsy controlling it. Ever tried breathing on your own ? Walking on your own ? It's just tedious and less efficient. It feels odd.

The more you think about the troublesome note, the more you will want to help your body do it, but in fact, all you will do is get in its own way. There has been great advice given on this thread, I'll just add my own way of doing, which resembles bob's visualization :D

I pretend I sing without doing a sound, and try to pour all the intensity I can :]

This way, you setup your mind for success !

Also, I'd lip rolls several times over the specific part of the song to get a better feel for it without tensing up. You can even do this while watching tv so that you don't let your mind get in the way. Your mind needs to do its thing while your body needs to do its own other thing (mainly, remember all the mind taught it and convey the emotions by making small adjustments. It's fine to hop in to help it get in the right place, remind it that technique is actually cool and all that, but my experience has been so far that too much brain makes constrictions flourish).

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Hey, that resonates with me Ronron! Thanks for that. I agree, some excellent advice is within this thread. Too much brain..... yes yes yes. I'm going to try the tv thing. And the lip rolls over the melody.

I just did the silent singing thing and you know what I realise - I have no idea where I want to place the vowel and the t is like a little jump that is in the way (the t is the word Stay). So I might go and work on the vowel, then try to attack it in a "brainless" manner - which I guess is also the point of the improvising - you are thinking about something else, ie note selection. Thanks again. Of course I could just go and get blind drunk - that would get my brain out of the way :) SH

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Hi,

One reason I post as I do is to encourage you to explore this yourself. Your reply to myself and others actually gives you most of the answer. There is excellent advice here and a common theme on how to solve this.

Firstly - what a beautiful song, I was listening to Fitzgerald singing this and for you to sing this song all the way up to 2:16 in a "sound" you are happy with shows you are tallented - you also know this due to your own positive responses in your reply.

If you listen to Fitzgerald you'll hear a 'slight' volume swell on Stay a 2:16 (and it is slight)

I was listening to Etta James too - Wow - if you have access to bands with brass - you should soar with this song. - if you listen to Etta at 4:56 - she splits the word ST and AY, and at at 1:49 - she spends VERY little time on the ST and elongates the AY.

and what I would like you to try is - get the old pencil out and write over that sheet music - Start with say 'mp' or 'p' over the ST; crescendo to 'mf' (possibly an 'f' but without belt) on the "ay" , slight vibrato / slide and then volume swell the rest of the phrase artistically. Then start improv'ing with the dynamics and time spent on the ST vs' the AY yourself.

Actually I wrote this at about 9am this morning - so 8am forum time. Since writing it (and not posting) - I see you have had success. Well done. Sounded like you needed the affirmation to improve (and that's fine as it's your voice :) ). Keep going with dynamic changes and get writing with pencil ... hear what sounds good, feel what feels good ... and then the extra mile ... what sounds, feels and gives you goosebumps.

Stew

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Just checked out yer clip - thats the spirit! :D

Sounds lively and chock full of natural sounding stylistic motifs. I bet there's a few flourishes in there that if you tried to copy them 'with intention' they'd be tough to nail again. Keep recording them I say, no better way of working out where your current strengths lie. Funny how we sometimes end up becoming good at things that we perhaps wouldn't choose for ourselves. I've always had a rich, raspy low end to my voice that I've no idea what to with. It almost feels like adopting a new persona, though a little 'out there' for a fan of the rock screamers. Worked great for Beefheart, Lanegan and Howlin Wolf but for me, its wholly unexpected.

Naturally its a matter of balance with a wild impulsive freedom on one hand with disciplined, open-minded technique on the other. I guess its rarely either / or and more a matter of finding a practice style that suits the moment. I create when I'm tired and diligently practice when full o' beans.

Enjoyed your singing, keep at it! As my old aussie buddhist guitar teacher would say 'Be the bird that laughs at the wind'. I know its a tad corny but it still makes me smile, if only because birds cant :)

Part of the joy of this forum is hearing the natural voice, everyday at work all I hear is hyper-processed vocal-tech on the radio. I want my honest reality back! (heh, sorry. Tired and a little daft of mood)

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Thanks Stew, and Silent Mind.

I really should print out this thread, hey. There is lots of good advice for overcoming this problem, which I've had before with Big Spender - that time I just put it away and came back to it six months later, twice. Now I can sing it well. But I don't have that much time this time - I really want to do this song at the festival in August, because when I do it well it shows off my voice really beautifully.

Stew, I very much appreciate your post, and will try what you have suggested. There are a few beautiful versions of this on line - one actually by an X Factor contestant called Lucie. But I see her jaw moving during her vibrato, which I'm not sure is good technique. There is out there a dark skinned chick (I really don't mean any offence with this, just trying to describe the people) and an asian looking bloke who do an EXCELLENT a capella version where he starts out as the base (as in the double base) and she sings over, then they swap and she does the instrument and he sings (they sing the instrumentals). But, Ella is always such an inspiration. What an incredible voice. What musicianship.

Silent Mind - I think you are right, it would be hard to nail some of those little flourishes deliberately, which is a pity because some of them I quite like. Thank you so much for reminding me to enjoy the music. It is after all supposed to be fun. That clip was fun. It's not how I would perform the song - but I'll get little ideas to incorporate here and there. I don't like it when a vocalists flourishes every note. I tend to think it actually takes more skill to sing a straight note well - and I'm good at that, but little flourish here and there, and a bit of a loose interpretation of the melody is great. Us Aussies can be corny now and then. The idea of an aussie buddhist guitar teacher had me smiling before I heard the charming quote. Thanks again.

SH

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Hi,

I have never heard the x factor version;

"and what I would like you to try is - get the old pencil out and write over that sheet music - Start with say 'mp' or 'p' over the ST; crescendo to 'mf' (possibly an 'f' but without belt) on the "ay" , slight vibrato / slide and then volume swell the rest of the phrase artistically"

"Then start improv'ing with the dynamics and time spent on the ST vs' the AY yourself."

Guess what Lucie does ... Maybe I spend too much time studying Yvie.

Had to chuckle ... (but it's what we teach) :)

Stew.

but yes - no jaw wobble ...

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I really liked it, SH (My Funny Valentine improv.) Now, I really get a sense of your style. And fine control. And that your issue was loss of the fine control, for a while. Been there, done that, scary as hell. Congrats on getting back to what you want to do.

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Thanks Ron. It if course is just a working piece at the moment, but I was so pleased to feel that freedom and control. I'm glad you agree now that I did lose something for pretty much psychological reasons (which were probably grounded in physical difficulty when I was sick), rather than that I was just imagining I had lost something - which seems slightly more psycho...

anyway, couldn't get to it properly yesterday, and now I am getting a cold again. So I jumped on the online pharmacy and ordered about $100 worth of cold curing stuff (the nearest pharmacy is over 100km away and it is very dear and doesn't have much). Two of three kids are sick, one of them with a fever.... So I'll probably just work on technique and slides etc rather than try to approach that song over the next week. The break on top of that success will probably help a heap.

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I also want to re-iterate that most of your problem was with your perception. Yes, there was some actual physical problem with fine control due to pathologic (physically based) causes. But those were temporary and minor. You opinion of your ability caused you more stress than the actual physical malady.

Oh, sister, have I been there and done that. And mine was self-inflicted. I was trying to do distortion in the constricted way jonpall has been advocating and screwed myself up. Twice. Because I don't think I know everything (regarldless of what people think of my posts or posting style or my "fragile" feelings.) Simple fact, I tried something that my voice won't and shouldn't do. Why twice? Because I might have not been "doing it right" the first time.

So, I lost fine control through most of my range. I had a rough baritone and a squeak that sounded vaguely like whistle, and nothing in between. I recovered each time taking no less than two weeks and doing nothing more than falsetto descending sirens and not very often.

And I am not painting anyone else as dumb. I was the idiot. For not trusting my instincts. And for thinking that I might need "heavy rasp" to sing rock. So, even at my age, I still have things to learn.

Including going back to where I started. Whatever rasp I have is natural and is a matter of relaxation, not constriction. Because that is what works for me.

But I want you to know how frightening I know it is to lose the control you have had and to fear that you can't get it back. It sucks, and not in a good way (pardon my crass phrasing.)

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It's cool Ron - we agree. It is frightening - and what really scared me was I wasn't sure how I got to the good place in the beginning, so I didn't now how to get back there. Hopefully I'm on the mend now anyway thanks to the help provided here, and the solid help from my teacher. It still scares me somewhat that my technique is so fragile and easily unbalanced (by sickness or psychology).

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one phrase spoken to a child in such a snotty, self-serving abusive and eventually totally bereft of any human decency way can cause that child to grow up hating themselves, holding themselves back, even constantly putting others down so they can feel superior. Because the human being has to feel superior. It's what led the abusive parent to unload on a child, someone already physically and legally inferior to them. Doesn't matter, the drive to survive with the ego intact will cause the humans to turn on their young. We're almost the only species that does that. Other species give the offspring every tool of survival. Humans are the only species that hobbles its young and for no logistical reason.

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one phrase spoken to a child in such a snotty, self-serving abusive and eventually totally bereft of any human decency way can cause that child to grow up hating themselves, holding themselves back, even constantly putting others down so they can feel superior. Because the human being has to feel superior. It's what led the abusive parent to unload on a child, someone already physically and legally inferior to them. Doesn't matter, the drive to survive with the ego intact will cause the humans to turn on their young. We're almost the only species that does that. Other species give the offspring every tool of survival. Humans are the only species that hobbles its young and for no logistical reason.

huh?

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