Narcissistic Parents

Several months of recent correspondence, as well as occasional visits during this time, have given me a very good understanding of who Ed is today; the same man he has always been – a child abuser, coward, rapist.  He is also, in my informed opinion, a narcissist who suffers from cognitive dissonance and self-aggrandizing delusions.  He has not changed, but he has become adept at hiding who he really is, rendering him capable of surviving among the good and decent people in his life today.  He, in some ways, is the luckiest man alive; the Teflon-Man nothing ever sticks to, and he is so good at selling himself; there is a different version of Ed for every man, woman and child in his world – past and present.

On the other hand, I haven’t seen or spoken to Pat since early 1983; she attended my wedding in 1986, but the only exchange we had that day was her telling me that she approved of the new me – whatever that meant.  I  kept my distance; I didn’t want to know her anymore.

There was a time when I knew her far better than anyone else, and despite our lack of communication for more than three decades, this, I have found, is still true.  In fact, I actually know her – I don’t think many other people do …

Kind, thinking, good people assume we all share basic values, and our understanding of mothers comes from the precept that all mothers love their children.  We believe that every mother is dedicated to nurturing and guiding her young children, and is desirous of a solid, affectionate relationship with her children when they are grown.  Mothers who do not reflect this archetype are virtually inconceivable to the rest of us.

When my aunt contacted me after decades of estrangement, she was excited to share with her sister that I had responded to her message wishing me a happy birthday.  My aunt thought my mother would be happy and excited too – she thought perhaps this might give my mother hope that one day I would speak to her as well.

My aunt didn’t understand then that my mother is the antitheses of the mother archetype.  She didn’t love and nurture when I was little, and she damn sure didn’t want a relationship with her grown up son who had lived the truth she had lied about for almost three decades.

When my aunt came back into my life, Pat simply shut her sister out of her life.

I may not have recent personal communication with my mother to offer as support, but the evidence is pretty compelling; she is the same abusive, narcissistic drama queen she has always been.

I used to wonder how Pat could possibly be happy, given everyone she has hurt, but now I understand that she never cared to begin with.  She put on a passable face, said the right things for a time, behaved like people she knew who actually did love and care for their family, but it was never real for her – and her love  was never, ever genuine.  It’s easy to be happy, despite the pain and damage you have caused, when you never cared about anyone other than yourself to begin with.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Last Word

 

I have been stable for a long time now – years really.  Oh, I’ve had bouts with insomnia, and cycles in which stress and fatigue caused my Bipolar symptoms to recur, but I’ve caught it early and those symptoms were, for the most part, very mild.  No psychosis, no deep depression, no impulsive behavior.  If you just met me, and didn’t know I have Bipolar Disorder, nothing about your interaction with me would tip you off.

I am not a spontaneous person by nature, and I over think everything; logical almost to a fault, my emotions seldom get the better of me.  I almost never react in the moment.

But when Ed-the-Narcissist sent me the following note – prompting the ensuing exchange – on April 3rd, during the height of my sister’s most recent crisis, something inside me snapped:

Hi Tim,

 

I said I would go and see Elizabeth after Easter, but for got [sic] I had a jury summons for this week and have been selected to be on a jury expected to last up to 6 weeks.

 

I will get over to see her when I can, and wanted you to know my current limitations.

My reply:

Ed,

 

There was absolutely no expectation on my part that you would reach out to Elizabeth in any that matters; you are a coward, you have always been a coward.  You have not changed.  

 

Jury duty?  In what universe are you a representative of another’s peers? Who the hell are you to sit in judgement of anyone else’s behaviour or choices?  Are juries now comprised of criminals?  

 

My God, Ed … for once, just once, really look at yourself.  

 

His defense:

 

Tim

 

I have no answer for this, The court system has privy to criminal records, so between them and the DMV  jurors are reveiwed [sic] and selected.

And I am still in the jury selection process.

 

The last word:

 

Once again, you miss the point entirely.  I was not speaking of legality, I was speaking of morality – very different things. You are able to exist as you do in society today ONLY because of when you were convicted, and expungement.  Nothing will ever alter the fact that you are a rapist and child abuser, Ed.  Nothing.

 

Your daughter is ill, she will likely die, because of what you did to her.  The fact that you feel no obligation to face that within yourself speaks volumes about your character … today.  Your refusal to reach out to her in any way that matters makes you a coward – and far worse.  

 

No decent human being would condone your behaviour, then … or now. 

 

I haven’t heard from him since …

 

His immoral and egocentric choices didn’t trigger me – I didn’t get sick; I didn’t become depressed or manic – just irrevocably resigned to his complete lack of integrity, honor and character.  He no longer has the power to cause me even  a moment’s instability, and that’s a damn good thing for me to know.

I didn’t say anything to him that isn’t true, but I’d like to have been able to say it devoid of anger and frustration; you can’t win a battle, much less a war, with a narcissist – and I understand that now.   Anger and frustration have passed; lesson learned.

He will die without ever understanding …

and that no longer bothers me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Turn The Page

Ed has not changed.  Ed – has – not – changed.  Ed. Has. Not. Changed.

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve pondered our email conversations spanning more than eight months, and I’ve considered our face to face conversations as well …

and it always, without fail, comes back to Ed.

He knows what he did – and there isn’t a shred of denial, but it is always about what he feels, and how he has suffered.  It’s really strange; he lacks the ability to connect on an emotional level with me at all.  He can discuss his feelings, even until eternity, but when it comes to my feelings, “there’s nothing I can do about that now,” is his response.

One of the things I did with my therapist several years ago was create a psychological profile of each of my parents based on their behavior when I was growing up.  These profiles aren’t meant to be diagnostic of abusive parents, but intended to help abuse survivors understand they weren’t bad children; they had bad and/or ill parents.

A lack of ability to connect emotionally with one’s own child is indicative of some serious deficits and character flaws. Combine that with cruelty, physical abuse and neglect, and you have the profile of an abuser.

Ed has a grandiose and false view of himself which is mind-boggling and deeply troubling.  He sees himself as a literary hero, caring for his sick child against all odds.   It isn’t about the truth – how he failed his children, it’s about his attachment – unhealthy attachment, for my poor sick sister who couldn’t tell Ed to go to hell as Elizabeth and I did.

He hides in today, pathetically shielded by people he has managed to manipulate, and fool.  People who do not understand that anything positive they get from Ed is only pretend; he is incapable of anything real or meaningful.

And so I am done.  I am wiser than  I was when I walked away thirty plus years ago, and wisdom is its own reward, but I’m not content with the final understanding that I was right:  people do not change.

Many of my questions were answered, the rest will likely go unaddressed forever …

every therapist and psychiatrist I have seen tells me that in addition to the physical and emotional abuse I suffered as a child, I was very likely sexually abused, too; I have no recollection of this, but I don’t doubt it either, not growing up in the house I grew up in.  My sister has said she remembers being sexually abused by our father, but she will not delve into it with me, or anyone …

so when my therapist again cautioned me to trust my instincts about Ed, and followed it up with the question: “If your children were little, would you leave them alone with Ed today?” …

I concluded that I don’t want him in my life, or the lives of my wife and children.

Final words to Ed:

I walked away from you thirty years ago in order to survive – I had NO choice, stop believing I did.  This is part of accepting responsibility for what you did.

You are a coward for not reaching out to Elizabeth; she has the right to spit in your face for what you’ve done to her.  I never told you not to contact Elizabeth – that was not my choice to make; I told you to be prepared for her wrath if you do. You are so afraid of rejection – rightful rejection on her part, that you won’t own what you did to her – and that is despicable.

You made your abusive parents my business the moment you used having been an abused child yourself as your excuse for beating and abusing me.

And, you are absolutely correct when you state that what I say about you is true.

Time to close the chapter, Reconciliation; it has come to an end.

Answers To Your Comment

Dear Reader,

I am ready to discuss your lengthy comment of 15 September.

This blog is not static; it represents my thoughts at a given point in time; I fully understand that healing is not a linear process.  In keeping with my personally held belief that everyone is entitled to a second chance, I heard what Ed had to say, and I gave him almost a year to take responsibility for what he did.  That was the right thing to do, for me. Forgiveness, in the true sense of the word, was impossible from the start; child abuse is unforgivable, and I never sought peace through a relationship with Ed – I sought answers.  Answers I found.

I did not further vilify Pat through correspondence with Ed; I learned to separate MyAbusiveParents into Pat and Ed, my abusive parents.  I didn’t know, for example, that Ed was unaware of Pat’s penchant for abandoning her children, so I held him collectively accountable along with her; he may not have played the abandonment card himself, but for decades I believed he supported and condoned this action – therefore, to my mind, he was complicit in her actions.

Pat is someone I know very well, and have for the whole of my life.  For everything I share on Silence Shattered, there is much more I don’t share – or at least haven’t shared yet; Pat vilifies herself, as does Ed.

The decision to distance myself from Ed now is based in the anxiety I feel when I am with him.  This anxiety is palpable, and it makes my wife and children extremely uncomfortable.  The bottom line:  Ed has not changed, he has merely grown older and better at manipulation.  I don’t want to be alone with him, and I certainly would never leave him alone with a child.

When I was first diagnosed, my psychiatrist was insistent that I revisit the past; feel everything I had never allowed myself to feel before – this in order to gain understanding and acceptance of my own thoughts and feelings, thoughts and feelings that had never mattered a damn to Pat and Ed; it was hell, but I did it.  This therapy, though highly beneficial, was incomplete; it had been more than thirty years since I had seen my parents, and I had never confronted them in a constructive way – never had a chance to find all of my answers; what I have done with Ed this past year allowed for Post-Traumatic Growth, and for me it was necessary.

Although I did give Ed an opportunity he did not deserve, I never felt an emotional connection to him, or pull to find one; he is and ever will be the father who beat and neglected me.  He is the man – no, the monster, who sexually molested my sister’s friend – and if my sister is to be believed, the repugnant, depraved father who molested her.

But I was at a place where I had to know … and now I do.  The abuse in my family, at least on Ed’s side, is multi-generational; it is part and parcel of being Shockley.  It is insidious and pervasive – and worst of all, it is simply accepted. No one talks about it, no one seeks to examine or change anything; no one breaks the cycle.  The damage is so deep, and so much a part of their genetic legacy, they are, in many ways, inhuman; incapable of empathy, understanding or insight – Ed lacks the ability to simply feel.

I found my peace many years ago; first when I married my wife and became part of a functional, loving family, and later when I became a father and discovered a complete love I never knew was possible.  In breaking the cycle, I became whole. Healing and consistent recovery in dealing with Bipolar Disorder required that I evaluate my childhood — peace will never be found, for anyone, in a world in which Pat and Ed are a part; I knew this when I decided to give Ed a chance, and I knew it when I realized that with Pat I could never even go that far.

I’m sorry you know firsthand the necessity of estrangement from your parents, but trust this means you have some idea of the complexities that lead to its inception, and the need for it to continue.  There are layers and layers of thoughts, feelings and emotions at the core of this issue – none of it is easy to sift through and make sense of; hence this blog represents my thoughts and feelings at a given point in time; it is abstract because abuse and its aftermath creates an abstract world for survivors.  Conclusions are reached – but they aren’t what we are conditioned to believe they should be; a child is not supposed to be better off without his parents in his life … and hurting their child should be inconceivable for any parent; sadly, societal truths are not my truth, nor are they truth for any survivor.

It is what it is, and survivors deal with the aftermath in unique and individual ways. For most thinking, feeling human beings, it is difficult to see our parents, or anyone, as inhuman; incapable of emotional connection, love or empathy.  I don’t know anyone who doesn’t shake their head in dismay when they learn that I haven’t seen my parents in decades … we are conditioned to expect the best in people, sometimes even though we know better.  For what its worth, I have never been surprised that my parents didn’t reach out – they were happy to be rid of their children; we weren’t wanted to begin with, and we were a link to a past they wanted no one to know of.  I make a liar of Pat and Ed in the eyes of everyone who knows them … Did I expect that Ed had changed? No.  Ed was put into the position of having to reach out, this blog did that.  He has a life he wants to protect.  There was no sincerity in his actions, and anyone who believes otherwise is a fool.

I am not jaded or cynical; I am a realist; pragmatic and resolute.  My parents taught me very well who and what they were, and always will be.

I wish you a happy and fulfilling outcome, whatever that may be for you.

Kind regards,

Tim

Untitled: A Letter To My Parents

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Pat and Ed,

It is sometimes difficult to remember that your treatment of me was never about me, and always about you.  You so often told me I was bad I believed it myself.  And because I was bad, I deserved every act of abuse you levied against me. Today I see clearly just how fucked up you were – and still are, but as a child I took responsibility for everything you did to me.

I was twenty years old when I began dating Rhonda, and she was the first person I ever told about the beatings and other abuse.  I was ashamed to tell anyone; by then I knew what you had done was wrong, but it was humiliating to speak of. I was conflicted emotionally, and I didn’t yet understand the abuse viscerally, so I kept it all inside.

When I say Rhonda was the first person I told, I mean she was the first person I told other than Lois (my maternal grandmother) who questioned me about the bruises I had on my ass and legs when she was giving me a bath one night – I may have been four or five; “Daddy spanked me,” was the answer; she expressed her disgust – her hatred of Ed, but nothing more than that.  And then there was the gym teacher who questioned why I could hardly walk after the beating Ed gave me with the tree branch – I told him my father had spanked me a little too hard, but that I had deserved it. I actually took responsibility for that violent, rage inspired beating; I protected you, Ed.  It was years later, when I was an adult and had access to my CUM folder from my school years, that I realized exactly how many people knew you abused your children – and, of course, exactly how reviled they were by you.

It was a different world then – you could get away with abusing your children.  Most people believed that unless a child was in danger of losing his life, he belonged with his parents.  No one yet understood that the assumption of love inherent to that belief – a blind faith that all parents love their children and would never knowingly cause them harm – was fallacious in many cases.  No one was ready to face the stark, cold and bleak reality that for some children, parental love is nonexistent. Love in our home was a concept –  a word we used, but a feeling and emotion none of us knew or understood.

Ed, you speak of your affinity for Janet in a way that borders on unhealthy obsession – and you beat Elizabeth and I without feeling or remorse.  There is so much contradiction and conflict in this picture of your character I have no idea where to begin; it troubles me to the very core of my being.  When you speak of how you felt when we left Janet in institutional care – how difficult that was for you emotionally, I cannot feel empathy for you because you are the same father who tortured your other children.  How am I supposed to reconcile this?  It makes no sense.  If you actually did feel a deep connection to Janet, why did it not extend to Elizabeth and I – were we not your children, too?  Did we not deserve to know a kind, loving and compassionate father?

And Pat, even to this day you deny, so you haven’t stopped abusing.  You blame much of the content of this blog on my having Bipolar Disorder, which is despicable even for you.  I’m told you may be sick, and if you are sick, I’m sure you believe the cause to be your broken life – the stress and pain you have endured along the way.  I’m in no position to dispute the truth in that belief; I know all too well there are limits on what one can endure, and what happens when we’re taken past the point of no return.  Odd to think that maybe – perhaps, we’re in the same metaphorical boat – and you actually put yourself here too. If you are suffering the effects of what you have done, and those effects have manifested in illness, you and you alone bear the responsibility.  I did not write this story, Pat, I’m just telling it; you have always been unfeeling – incapable of empathy or remorse, love or affection – motivated only by what is best for yourself; I pity you, I always have.

You were young, and you  had no business having children.  Your marriage was less than ideal, and built on a shaky foundation.  You had an ill child and no money.  I understand all of that, but it does not excuse anything you did to Janet, Elizabeth and I – it never has and it never will.  At the end of the day, you destroyed your own children.  I have grieved for who I was meant to be – the boy you killed, who never got the chance to exist – the man he would have become.  I have mourned the absence of a mother and father throughout my life – all I had were tormentors who, in the end, were too stupid or blind or self-deluded to understand why I left and never came back.  And I have walked through hell and back to save myself after you made it crystal clear in my childhood that I couldn’t count on anyone else, least of all you, for love and support, or even a family and a soft place to land.

I would love to be able to say in honesty, “I’m over it; I have no desire to hurt back, no need for hatred or vengeance or retribution, but I can’t; it will have to be enough to say in honesty,”I will never avail myself of hatred or vengeance or retribution.”  Although all are owed, deserved, and ordained by the principle of Karma – I will not be that force.

I look at my children and know they are, quite simply, the best part of who I am.  There is nothing I would not do for them, no lengths I would not go to ensure their happiness and well being.  My life – my marriage, the kind of father I am and will always be, is what is supposed to be, what is meant to be.  If you fail your children, you have failed at life itself. What right do you have to a happy life if you betray and harm your child?

But, I will not be that Karmic force in your life, no matter how much I may want to be, because I will not be that man in the eyes of my children.  

Tim

Terrible Legacy

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My father’s mother insisted that her grandchildren address her as, “Grandma Dear.”  Yes, I am serious – and this was long before Mommie Dearest was written or published.

This woman was lots of things, warm and dear nowhere among them.  Growing up, I was never permitted in the back portion or her house.  I can’t recall ever even seeing the bathroom, only the living room and kitchen.  She once told me, sternly, that she did not believe in coddling children, and the only reason she participated in my school fund-raiser was because she actually needed what I was selling; I could not have been more than six or seven.

Thankfully, we weren’t around Grandma Dear much – she and Pat were adversarial and my father himself didn’t have much of a relationship with her as I was growing up.  I remember her being pushy, demanding and obnoxious.

About the time I was to graduate from high school,  Ed won the use of a condominium on Maui for a week and he invited me to accompany him as my graduation gift – the trip ended up being a family reunion for Grandma Dear and her surviving children; I was the only family member of my generation in attendance.

Her children were beyond respectful of her as their mother – they revered her; acted toward her with a kind of sentiment usually reserved for a deity in religious worship. She demanded, they jumped.  She whined, they soothed.  Her every wish was granted, her every whim indulged. She was pampered and exalted, praised and adored.  She was not grateful for their efforts, or even kind to them – and there was no reciprocity of affection; it was surreal. I spent a lot of the week observing, and was appalled by what I saw – from her as well as my father and his siblings.  Her children drew no lines for her behavior; they had no personal limits of any kind – and she displayed no outward respect for them what-so-ever.

One afternoon, we all piled into a rented vehicle for a drive around the island.  Somehow, accidentally, I locked the keys in the trunk when we stopped for lunch.  Grandma Dear ranted and raved and raged at me for more than two hours because of this; it was an emotionally abusive, uncomfortable scene – and it largely ruined the entire trip for me.

After that day, I did my best never to see my grandmother again.  I saw her briefly at Ed’s apartment once – she was whining and carrying on because he had nothing in the refrigerator to drink.  Actually, he had several beverage options, but when he left to go to the market to appease her, I took my leave as well – and that was the last time I saw her.  I did not attend her funeral.

I know she was an abusive mother – Ed has told me that much about his childhood, but he, like so many abuse survivors do of the their abusive parents, makes excuses for her now.  His father was absentee, and he squandered the family’s money leaving her with worries and a house full of children to care for on her own.  From what I saw, her abuse never stopped, and he never drew lines for what he would and would not tolerate from her as an adult.

As far as Shockleys go, I’m unique; I see things as they really are.   I refuse to make excuses for the beatings my father gave me; he had a choice, and he chose wrong.  The same can be said of his mother — no matter what she was dealing with personally, beating her children was wrong.  She was an Abuser, and at least three of her children went on to abuse their own children.  The Shockley legacy is not Dear, it is nothing other than shameful, morally bereft and disgusting …

there is never justification for beating your child.

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I Am Not Like Them

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I don’t know how many times in my life I’ve heard,  “the Shockleys are pig-headed, stubborn, obstinate or hard-headed,” — from Shockleys!  They wear this trait, this character flaw, like a badge of honor; it’s disgusting really – especially when we’re talking about their refusal to see and understand things as they really are.

They are arrogant – when few have any right even to be proud. Their legacy is abuse, denial and a refusal to see and understand themselves as they truly are.

I’m pretty upset today – I received an unsettling message from my cousin this morning – her sister, a survivor of heinous physical and emotional abuse at the hands of  their father – my Shockley uncle, had to quit her job because her depression had become so severe she couldn’t even get out of bed; she spends days at a time in bed now, lacking the ability even to shower or attend her most basic needs.

My father’s cruelty is well-detailed on the pages of this blog – he was no prize, but if given the choice between Ed and my uncle – who once locked his four year old daughter outside in the snow with no coat and no shoes for an extended period of time, I’d have to keep Ed.  I don’t recall my mother, as my cousin does of her own mother, ever telling my father to stop beating me because he was in danger of killing me, and Ed never beat my mother so badly she ended up in the hospital as a result — I also have no memory, again as my cousin does, of being directly told by my parents they didn’t love me and that I’d never amount to anything.  Yep!  In this case, I’ll stick to the devil I know – and that’s saying A LOT considering I grew up with Ed as a father.

My Shockley aunt has actually verbally assaulted my daughter, then she resorted to illegal measures to continue her assault when we blocked her initial barrage – this is the same aunt who believes her son with Bipolar Disorder has False Memories of her abusing him. Need I say more here?

Yes, the Shockleys are quite a clan; pig-headed, stubborn, hard-headed and let’s not forget abusive, vile, repugnant, cruel and generally not concerned with the feelings, needs or well-being of their children.

My wife refused to take my name when we got married, now I wish I had taken her’s.

Breaking the Cycle of Abuse

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Child abuse is an insidious multi-generational process – it is so ingrained, so much a part of the Shockley side of my family, it is accepted as a matter of course, and is as natural as breathing.   No one questions, no one thinks, no one acknowledges, no one discusses …

There is an unconscious compulsion to repeat acts of abuse – to perpetuate the cycle, that exists until an adult survivor actively and with awareness relives the trauma of his or her own abuse.  It isn’t enough for a survivor to simply acknowledge trauma and abuse, or develop an intellectual belief that hitting a child is amoral, he/she must revisit the events of their own childhood – relive the agony and pain to effectively disengage from the cycle.  (Alice Miller, For Your Own Good: Hidden Cruelty in Child Rearing and the Roots of Violence)

Survivors who don’t relive the trauma of their childhood, even if they somehow manage not to further the cycle with their own children, will turn their unresolved anger, frustration and pain inward, becoming depressed or developing mental illness(es) and substance abuse.  Even without being directly abusive to his child, this type of survivor subjects his family to the nightmare and emotional trauma of mental illness and addiction.

Still other survivors, due to their own repressed memories and refusal to acknowledge the pain they endured as a child on a conscious level, become blind to all abuse.  This is known as Betrayal Trauma (Jennifer Freyd, Betrayal Trauma: The Logic of forgetting Child Abuse) These survivors, almost without fail, go on to abuse their own children – then later, when confronted by their adult child, deny abuse or fail to recall everything they did out of an unconscious need to protect themselves from remembering the horror of their own childhood – a childhood full of pain they passed along to their child: Blind to ALL abuse.  These are the most dangerous survivors; they are the most likely of all to perpetuate the cycle.

Coming to terms with the maltreatment suffered as a child — be it physical, emotional or sexual — is the only way to effectively end the cycle.  When we manage to get in touch with own pain, fear, rage, frustration and anger, we no longer want to take it out on others.

Therapy is often the first step, and there are three distinct stages of recovery:  Remembering, Mourning and Healing.  In the first stage, survivors work through what happened to them as children.  The therapist emphasizes that the abuser was ALWAYS the responsible party, not the child — this is something we (survivors) have trouble dealing with on an emotional level; we believe our abuser when he tells us the beating is our fault, a belief that continues into adulthood.

In the second stage, we must grieve for the childhood we lost, mourn the fact that our parents failed us, betrayed us and hurt us.  It is in this stage where we begin to work on our own anger, finding healthy outlets for our aggression and self-destructive feelings. We begin to identify how our childhood abuse affects us today – things like having a mental illness as a result of the abuse, and we take inventory of the things in our lives we’d like to change.

And finally, in the third stage, we accept the fact that we have right to be happy.  We come to believe we deserve kindness, consideration and respect – things we were robbed of in our childhood.  We see our parents as they truly were, and we absolve ourselves of responsibility for their degenerate behavior toward us.

“As long as the anger directed at an abuser – always a parent or other first caregiver remains unconscious, minimized, or disavowed, it cannot be dissipated. It can only be taken out on oneself or stand-ins and scapegoats like one’s own children.”  (Shirley Beeman)

Lesson Learned

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I once had a therapist who asked me to try to find a good memory for each bad memory I had of my childhood – I didn’t have near enough good memories to make the exercise productive, so she changed gears:

Find the good that came from the bad …

“I learned who and what I did NOT want to be.”

This answer appeased my therapist, but the wisdom was born of injustice:

Aren’t parents supposed to be role models?

All parents make mistakes, but overall shouldn’t a man be able to look back over his childhood and find far more good than bad?

Aside from feeding me, clothing me and giving me a place to live, I don’t see that my parents felt any obligation at all to their children, which is mind boggling, really.  If you bring a child into this world, do you not bear some obligation for their happiness and emotional well being?

Ideally, what we do for our children we do out of love, concern and caring, but obligation is an absolute inherent to the parent child relationship …

In the sixties and seventies, when I was growing up, parents spanked their children.  Few people stopped to consider whether or not they should, they just did it – it was what they knew because their own parents had spanked them.

My own view on spanking is resolute – it is wrong.  It is a terrible way to instruct and guide because it teaches the child nothing of value, and it is cruel.  You’re also playing with fire; no one knows the emotional breaking point of an individual child – when the pain, emotional and physical, is too much; when discipline, however well-intentioned it might have been, crosses a line and damages the child.  Hitting is wrong – you’d be arrested for hitting an adult, what makes it OK to hit a child?  Aren’t you, as a parent, morally obligated NOT to harm your child, not to cause him pain?

Even with my personal view on spanking falling so close to the extreme, I don’t think I’d have held an occasional, mild, non-humiliating spanking against my parents – as I said, when I grew up spanking was routine …

but we aren’t talking about spanking here, we’re talking about beatings – and not occasional beatings either.

We’re also talking about abandonment, humiliation and neglect of my emotional needs.

I had no idea what I wanted in life, or who I was, because my parents did not help me discover these things – did not live up to their obligation.  Did not love, care for or nurture  …

Seriously, Dear Reader, we are talking about egregiously bad parents here. And their cruelty, neglect and emotional torment led to a lifetime struggle with Bipolar Disorder.

My parents did, however, teach me one thing of value — their actions screamed this lesson at me night and day for the whole of my childhood:

Do NOT be like me.

They did not break the cycle of abuse themselves – far from it, but they did, through their own thoughtless and abusive parenting empower me to do it.

The end does not justify the means;

I am not the kind of man who needed to be taught through cruelty how NOT to be cruel to his own children.

Still, there is immense satisfaction in knowing I am not only better than Pat and Ed …

I am a good, kind and compassionate father.

Simple Conclusions

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I have spent most of my adult life trying to understand the terrible things terrible people do; glad to know that means I’m not one of them.

But I don’t think they understand either; in my experience, terrible people seldom realize they are, indeed, terrible.

They are disingenuous and phony; they fake their feelings – especially emotions such as love, regret, compassion and remorse.  They know they are different from others, but they don’t recognize or acknowledge the depth of their own darkness.

And that leaves the rest of us scratching out heads in wonder at the malevolent things they do and say.

Worst of all is Evil that masquerades as Benevolence.

Even in my childhood home, where abuse was the norm, Pat and Ed were occasionally warm.  I can remember bedtime stories, and sitting close to him on the couch watching TV — and she, though never nurturing, tried to soften the pain of a skinned knee with a bandaid and a pat on the head – the itch and discomfort of Chicken Pox with a baking soda bath …

But these acts of human kindness were confusing to me — so contradictory were they to the fear, pain and humiliation I’d come to anticipate and expect, that I didn’t understand them, didn’t know how to understand them.  How is my parents could be kind in certain moments, and cruel and dis-compassionate in so many others – most others?

It makes no sense to me still, and as a child it was its own form of abuse – emotional and gut-wrenching.

Time and time again they pulled the rug out from under me, time and time again they taught me not to trust them, not to believe them – kindness would become pain again soon enough.

I don’t have to wonder how it is I got sick, the miracle would have been if I hadn’t.

From what I understand, child abuse is multi-generational in my family, as it is in most where it exists.  It breaks the child, who later breaks his own child, and so it goes on and on and on.

It is important to talk about.  It is important to remember, especially how you felt if it happened to you …

It is in knowing how we felt that we are able to stop the cycle – to love and nurture our own children so they will be whole and able to do the same for their children someday.

Ed once said he couldn’t recall ever having beaten me with a wire coat hanger – he remembered how much those hurt when he’d been beaten with them as a child and had told himself he’d never use a wire coat hanger to beat his own child.

He used belts and sticks, what is the difference?

It was OK for his parents to beat him, just not with a wire coat hanger?

NO!  It wasn’t OK for them to hit him EVER, with anything!

And it wasn’t OK for him to hit me EVER, with anything!

Guess I was the first member of my family to think this abuse thing through to its logical conclusion, the only correct conclusion.

My mother, too, was subject to humiliating, painful and abusive ‘spankings.’ She was also shunned by her parents for getting pregnant out of wedlock at seventeen, which leads me to believe she may have incurred other forms of emotional abuse in her childhood.  She, my sister and maternal grandmother are, and always have been, so much alike …

and still I cannot fathom doing the things my parents have done – to anyone, much less my own children.

Terrible people perpetuate the cycle.

It is, to my mind, that simple.