marți, 18 august 2009

Cleaning out the (psychological) closet

I don't know about you, but I have some appetite for English again.

Do you know what adult children are? Well, I think you should know, because this concept applies to most of us. Yes, even to those who deny it vehemently (oh, especially to those!): as children of narcissistic, emotionally unavailable parents, we grow up without love, we deny and repress the truth, we learn to adjust and finally become biologically mature but remain emotionally caught in a state of consciousness which is typical for children. Oh, and did I mention that we don't realize it most of the time??

We go through life in our adult bodies, we are doctors, engineers, lawyers, teachers, journalists or architects etc., we go to work, interact with other people, we think our behaviour is that of an adult person, while, in reality - as soon as the right trigger is activated - we are often acting out of the perspective of the wounded and unloved child that we once were (especially when we are having arguments or feel disappointed and hurt). This will always happen until we start realizing and changing what is really going on within ourselves - and most people are only able to do this after years of therapy, while the vast majority just keep living like zombies whose lives lack all emotional components leading to a possible authentic happiness; we all are adult children.

Yes, lots of these adult children can actually manage their lives "successfully" without anyone ever suspecting anything, simply because most of us are functioning the same way.

Women fit the usual cliché, they have learned a long time ago to bury their negative emotions, to put their own needs behind and always sacrifice themselves for others, they are obsessed with avoiding conflicts and keeping an illusionary harmony and they even manage to believe they are happy, when they do not think too often about it; they forgive for instance their husband's cheating or even the occasional slap in the face, because they desperately want to believe that everything will turn out right, just like they believed that their parents will one day love them and accept them for who they are; in fact, what keeps them going is that deep yearning for the smallest sign of affection, the eternal hope which prevents them from realizing that they have sold their souls for a huge lie and that they are still deprived of love just like they were as children; mostly, however, they act like the little girls who have never been loved and who have learned (or have been taught!) early on to unconsciously beg for a love they will never get, that is why they are easily controlled, manipulated and abused, sometimes without even knowing it, until it is too late. Unfortunately, the ones who suffer most are these women's children.

Men are allowed (sometimes even encouraged) by society to be angry and thus they can easily find scapegoats for their repressed emotions, especially when they talk about money issues, unemployment, foreigners, gypsies, politics, sports... when they are given a possibility to unload the negative energy building up inside them, while still ignoring the true reasons of their anger; men who are blind to the feelings of others; men who see no harm in the genital abuse of retracting the prepuce of little boys or in the genital mutilation called circumcision, because they desperately want to believe that what has once been done to them did no harm, since they have repressed any pain they had felt back then, so that now the abuse manifests itself through other channels such as partial impotency, need for stronger sensations to get aroused or to finish intercourse, emotional absence during intercourse, insensitivity for the woman they have intercourse with etc.; men who are emotional invalids with very limited empathy since they obstinately refuse to remember their own helplessness and dependence as little babies, they like to believe that they have always been in control of their lives and so they assume that all children should do the same and stop "being such babies"... all this while their wives do not dare to confront them about it (then the wives become passive abusers). Unfortunately, the ones who suffer most are these men's children.

When we become parents, all this denial and inner unbalance poses a huge problem, since babies and children have the stunning capacity of continuously triggering parents' repressed emotions and painful memories back to surface.

Babies are strong triggers, for example, for mothers who permanently and inexplicably (!) have the urge to cry after giving birth and are unable to understand that this is because they are re-living THEIR OWN feelings of helplessness, loneliness and THEIR OWN desperation as the unloved and abandoned babies that they once were. Surely it is easier to deny that all this is coming from the inside, it is much more comfortable to blame it on the postnatal depression (a usual "syndrome" for most fresh mothers - but not for all of them!!), it saves them from taking responsibility for their own feelings and especially from further digging into their subconscious in order to discover the real cause of those repressed emotions. There is no such thing as postnatal depression brought on by the newborn, the baby is only the trigger and every postnatal depression is caused exclusively by the repressed childhood emotions of the mother... As soon as women start accepting this fact, they will feel better and they will also (I hope, for their own sake) start wanting to understand the meaning of their depression.

Babies are strong triggers. Example: parents who develop a profound aversion to their baby's crying or their baby's being a "spoiled brat", parents who love their child only when he is compliant and "sweet" at the cost of neglecting his true feelings. [By the way, for the record, a child who resolutely expresses his feelings when he is unhappy or discontent or simply agitated is NOT a spoiled child, even if this annoys his parents who probably want him smiling all the time; a spoiled child is a child whose parents compensate the lack of love with objects, giving him the wrong or not enough emotional food. As Jesper Juul put it: "Spoiled children get too much of what they like and too litle of what they need".] These parents who cannot tolerate it when their child displays strong negative emotions are just being reminded of their own suffering as children, when they were forbidden to feel and show their pain and were expected to grow up faster, speak faster, become more independent faster... practically they were forced to stop being a child... these parents now unconsciously apply the same heartless treatment to their own child, without realizing that they are reinforcing a toxic pattern that had been so "effective" in their own childhood, they are re-inflicting their personal drama upon their child. Repeating the abuse is the inescapable destiny for all those who live in denial and refuse to believe what was done to them.

Even those who live consciously have to carry out a constant fight against old impulses, against inherited reflexes, against the internalised voices of their parents... Even when you become aware of what is going on inside you, when you allow your rage and your repressed feelings to resurface, even when you honour your past experiences and you relive the early pain, even when you remember not only intellectually what has been done to you, when you have identified the agony of the unloved inner child, when you recognised your parents' cruelty under the mask of "love" that they sold you, even when you start fighting against the self-hate, when you realise your own mistakes, even then it is so incredibly hard to silence the inner tyrant that keeps echoing mechanically your parents' unloving words, it is so tremendously hard to act like an adult all the time, to control your inner child, to be empathic and loving with yourself and with the ones you love...

Yes, it is hard work to be an adult and an even harder work to be a good parent.

Babies are strong triggers. Parents who give up their small babies to the care of others do so because they are overburdened and will not admit it: financial reasons are just an excuse, since everybody knows that children need the presence of their mother and not money for expensive toys; career-related reasons show exactly the missing emotional connection to the baby that I was speaking of. These parents have long ago repressed their own feelings of loneliness and abandonment in early childhood and are thus unable to feel, truly FEEL how this harms their babies... There is also the possibility that unconsciously they may even want to let their children feel exactly the same way they did, a sort of perverted misdirected revenge and punishment: their unconscious wrath is aimed at the baby, who is weak and helpless and demanding, while they continue to unconsciously protect the truly guilty ones, their own parents... Oh yes, the human mind does work like that: for instance, mothers who have never been happy often try to sabotage their daughters' relationships because in their minds there should be impossible for their daughters to be happy or loved when the mothers had not been happy or loved themselves.

Parents who expect of their 2 years old babies to be nothing less than geniuses have forgotten how they were drilled themselves (like little monkeys) to perform in order to make their parents proud in front of other adults... oh, and what a little brilliant poems reciting 2 years old monkey I have been, I should know it ;-( These children will grow up with little self-esteem, which will always be connected to things that they DO, never to what they really ARE. These parents are the same unloved children who took refuge in grandiosity and intellectualisation in order to stay in denial, while the energy that they put into this raised an even bigger emotional barrier within themselves and fueled even more intellectualization, leading to a vicious circle of alienation from one's true self. They cannot feel their baby because they have no connection to their own feelings, they are not present in their body, they function only with their brains and thus live like robots. I know it, I've been there and I know that the road back is very long and exhausting and it may even take a whole life to learn how to follow the right path.

The most frequent tragedy that I've seen is that of the mother whose desperate wish for a baby is not the desire to give but to receive love: she transfers her desperate hopes upon her baby, expecting him to repay her for the love she never received from her own parents, for the love that she probably does not receive from her husband either, since she has chosen him according to unconscious criteria in order to re-enact her early fight to deserve the love of her parents (a fight that she never won!). However, when the baby does not fulfil the expectations (and he never does, for it is never meant to be that way!!), the mother's inner rage is triggered and she starts - best case scenario! - to emotionally reject the baby (worst case scenario = verbal abuse, emotional and physical cruelty).

Other mothers, who unconsciously search for a symbiotic relationship with their child, are always in the biggest hurry to have the next child and then maybe another and another, hoping unconsciously that the next baby will - finally - give her the love she craves for (a good example: Angelina Jolie). Needless to say, this will never happen either.

When children start triggering unpleasant emotions, with other mothers again the "I am so nice" masks begin to fall. For the outside world, these mothers may continue to be the incarnation of self-sacrifice and generosity because they are still yearning for affection and recognition from other adults (symbols of their parents) and so their conduct in the society is flawless, they always brighten every party and fulfil everybody's wishes as the perfest hostess, they are always full of empathy and sympathy toward other adults, while their child receives ZERO love and affection; as soon as the child does not fit the image of the perfect baby anymore, these mothers crush it with expectations and give nothing in return except violence or at best indifference.

They say small children do not remember early traumas. My mother did not believe me when I told her that I don't have ONE beautiful memory of her from my early childhood. I do not even remember her face, she was just like a robot working around the house, cooking, cleaning the whole time (her house was her castle, of course). If this is normal, how come I remember the mother of a friend in my 1st grade who took us to see the Nutcracker ballet? How come I perfectly remember my dearest teacher in the 3rd and 4th grade, Doina Popescu? Her lovely and warm green eyes, her long dark hair, her soft voice, her beautiful hands with the red-painted fingernails, her friendly and encouraging smile, I remember her as if she was standing in front of me. I have, however, no such memory of my mother. Now I know why. Because my teacher was the one who really SAW ME, really LOOKED at ME! My mother was a biological mother, she was functioning like a mother to the outside world, but she never did anything to make me happy, she never tried to access MY world and fulfil MY needs. Her frantic attempts to escape the truth (her inner truth) destroyed her life and mine.

The greatest tragedy with all these parents who have never been loved and thus never learned to love themselves, who think this is the normal way of life, is that they will thoughtlessly pass this on to their children, teaching them indirectly to be the same, to adapt, to adjust, to learn to live without their emotional needs being met and to ignore their true feelings, they will destroy their children's souls just like theirs were destroyed. My mother was much too preoccupied to keep up the appearances and maintain her illusionary world and I always obliged her, I was a very bright and chatty and cheerful little girl, because I felt that she only wanted me that way; my sadness and loneliness had no right to be expressed in front of her. That is why I know that words like "oh, but my child is happy, smiling and laughing all the time" are not worth a tinker's dam, they are only what the parents want to believe in their attempt to fool themselves and everybody else, it is yet another proof that they do not really SEE their child, they only see what they want to see.

So, dear parents: let's take care of our inner children and start cleaning out our psychological closets if we want to be able to raise happy children! Confront and get rid of the ghosts of your past, do not ignore them, do not deny them, do not lie to yourselves that what you don't want to see does not exist, take time to explore your unconscious and honour your repressed feelings and experiences, then try to live and behave like adults and not like children, try to set an example for your children of what a balanced inner life should be!

This is the only way of avoiding the mistakes our parents made and of not perpetuating the abuse, the only chance we have of being the parents we never had but always wished for.

Niciun comentariu:

Trimiteți un comentariu