On this my sixty seventh year. Experiencing the extent of disrespect, emotional abuse and marginalization of me when I was a child – by my mother. The last year experiencing it all physically, deeply in every crevice of my being. Memories long forgotten and buried away arise at all sorts of moments when I least expect them. Some making me scurry away to photo albums to dig up early childhood photographs to catch a glimpse of how I looked and remembering how I felt at the time. At times I am doubled over in pain – on my walk, alone in the shower, or driving to and from work, grocery shopping – anywhere – tears streaming down my face. I feel anger and sadness for the little lonely girl who was me. It is as if I am making a stand for me over and over again. I understand how it all happened and “get it” at how incapable my mother was of doing anything differently at the time. I cannot know how she thought or what she felt – can only assume or imagine if I try and put myself in her shoes. As a child growing up in that house with the people of that time I spent much time quietly observing and trying to alleviate my mother’s suffering. She seemed mostly so unhappy – frightened that my step-father would leave her or have affairs. I hardly had time to know how or what I was feeling. To this day I am always astonished and grateful if anyone pays any kind of attention to me, for my emotional default position is that I am unloveable, a burden – in the way – and fundamentally, oh so flawed – to the point of being destructive for others. The catharsis is excruciating and healing all at the same time. There is no blame in it. Just a sense of what I went through alone as my psyche was developing. As I try to shed the perceptions and realities about myself that I learned so long ago I understand more and more how deeply embedded they are. It helps me to develop compassion for myself as I work at changing the old world view I had of myself.
Young children learn about their identities by the way significant adults in their lives perceive them, and how they receive attention from them. If they are neglected or shamed they learn to believe that there must be something wrong with them. Their need for acknowledgement from the people they love does not allow them to feel anger about the abuse or neglect they endured. They turn it, instead, inward.
I may never fully recover to a brand new emotional default position where I feel confidently loved or deserving. I understand that now. But I am more able to navigate my feelings in the moment and realize when I am slipping into the old narrative I learned over and over again as a young child. Moreover it gives me a perspective about young children’s need for attention, acknowledgement and validation, and positions me to help adults reflect on how they sought out or received attention and how they feel about it in relation to children in their care.
A year ago at Mining Nuggets: The new world