luni, 27 iulie 2009

More thoughts on Childhood

Yes, this article is inspired by real events and persons. And I don't know why, but today I feel more comfortable writing about childhood in English. Maybe it will help bridle my own hurt feelings.

How does childhood look through the eyes of an infant? All parents want to act "in the best interests" of the child, but do they really succeed? Or is it sometimes just a lie they (try to) live with in order not to feel guilty?

Our core relationship with ourselves is, as we all (should) know, formed in the earliest childhood. During this period of time, we desperately need affectionate, caring parents to love us, to honour our very existence and nurture our soul. We need the constant presence of someone who makes us feel safe, secure, loved and cherished. Anything less is beyond the pale.

Babies have neither the discernment nor the perspective to recognize when their family is dysfunctional, so when their needs are not met, they will simply conclude that there is something terribly wrong with themselves. When parents only do what is best or suitable for themselves and then argue that this is for the child's best, an even deeper wound appears, since no infant has the possibility to defend himself consciously against such a manipulative lie, but he can always feel that it is a lie.

Basically, what I am saying is: if someone loves us, then it should FEEL like they love us. However, most parents have not experienced love themselves, so they grew up with a sense of inadequacy that they always tried to repress (in order to continue to love and honour their toxic parents), so they don't know how to love themselves and are thus unable to love their children the way these children need love. These parents mistake social success and recognition for love, they mistake professional careers and a good standard of life for love, they mistake fulfilling the biological needs of a child for love. Unfortunately, all this is not only insufficient, but it has simply nothing to do with love.

A child needs his parents to spend time with him, to keep him close to them, to validate his very presence in their lives by showing their happiness simply because he is around, an infant needs his parents' permanent presence not only because he needs affection, warmth, body contact, but also because he has no sense of time and the feeling of abandonment arising in the parents' absence is simply devastating. Speaking of the feeling of abandonment, just try to forget for a few minutes the adult perspective. We have long forgotten (repressed!) our own feelings of abandonment in our early childhood, that is why parents unaware of their own past tend to reiterate it with their children without any sense of guilt. Parents who deny that they too have once felt abandoned by their own parents end up by sending their 4-5 months old babies to day care with the conviction that this cannot possibly harm them. But it does harm them, this is for certain.

Still don't get it? Then imagine yourself as a ... let's say ... 6 years old, being invited by someone to their house with the promise that they will take good care of you for the rest of your life. Then imagine, after a few months you are being sent away for most part of the day, to spend this whole time with complete strangers as a surrogate for your family. What you would you think? Honestly! I say you would think that you are simply unwanted. What would you feel? You would feel abandoned. There is nothing in between. Also, the feeling of abandonment comes with a feeling of fear, the fear of being unworthy of love, because children have the magical thinking which puts them in the centre of the universe and they interpret each of the adults' actions as being related to them directly.

It is well known that infants do not begin to understand that their mother is "just in the next room" until they are about one year old. How could they understand the reasons for which they are being left half a day with complete strangers? Please, get it once and for all, children do not understand social or financial criteria, children have feelings. When they spend more time with strangers than in their own home, they inevitably feel abandoned and alone. Besides, children do not understand adult reasoning and, when feeling abandoned, they cannot blame it on their parents because they need the illusion of their parents' love to survive. This is why the child always blames it on himself. No matter what goes wrong, the child thinks and feels it is his fault. And here the future catastrophe takes shape. There is no empathic way of putting this in order to spare the adults' ego. This is the truth.

Personally, I think there is always a way to avoid this. Even my parents, whom I blame for many bad things they did to me, took care to work in different shifts so that one of them could always be with me when I was a little baby. And they were very poor! Wait, can this be part of the answer? That some parents delude themselves into thinking a child needs a good standard of life in order to thrive and that he may be willing to trade his mother's presence for any material junk that the good standard of life would provide? No, it is just another lie designed to cover the real reason: the inability of most parents to register the emotional needs of their children, because they are trapped in their emotional blindness covering the pain of the neglected child that they once were. Still worse than giving your infant away to strangers for most of the day is the self-righteousness of saying that this cannot possibly harm the child. This is another consequence of one's own suppressed and denied feelings of abandonment. My advice: when you are really, really forced to do something that you know is not good for your child's wellbeing and happiness, please do not insist that it is ok and that the child will not suffer! You have the right to feel guilty about it and try to change things, but if you are not willing to do that, at least have the inner strength to acknowledge that you are not doing the child any favour.

The true nature of parent's love resides in its total selflessness, in its desire to really understand the child and to do their very best for the child to FEEL happy, in the child's reality. There is a huge difference between the adult concept of how a child should be happy and the child's own sense of happiness. Parents who are not aware of their own childhood traumas will always intellectualize, analyse, rationalize everything (a defense mechanism) but hardly allow themselves to be confronted with their child's pain, because they are avoiding their own repressed suffering. In time, the child also learns to suppress his own pain and anguish because he sees that they are unbearable for his parents ... and so the vicious circle goes on.

The tragedy of all this is aggravated by the fact that, at the bottom of their heart, all these parents know they are not acting in the best interest of the child. Oh yes, they know it! The better they know it and the more they deny it, the more aggressive is their reaction when confronted. In the past, I have always heard things like "What do you know, you are not a mother yourself!" or "Wait until you have your own child" (why should it matter that I was an unloved child myself so I should know!!), now there is "You don't know shit about my child, mind your own business!". Well, sometimes I can, sometimes I can't. And what most people oversee when atacking me is that I am a good example of what amount of suffering is unleashed in an adult's life once the childhood wounds start showing, I am a good example of how unhappy their own child could become in time if they do not become aware, in order to correct their actions and especially their mentality.

Alice Miller wrote many times about the traumas of childhood and how they are being denied by most of the adults: it's either "I had a happy childhood" or "Oh, I am over it, one shouldn't dwell on the past anymore". She also added that the "enlightened witnesses", those adults who recovered (or are in the process of recovering) from their own traumata and name the abuse for what it is, are always prone to be attacked by other adults who are trying desperately to maintain the veil of denial over their own past and unresolved pain. I know that and I am willing to bear the consequences for my speaking out loud. The adults are pretty able to defend themselves, to run and hide in their castle of empty words with which they try to justify their actions, they can make all kinds of excuses, it is only the little children who have no voice and no power to show their parents that they are wrong. The fact that the traumata are not immediately visible makes it even harder for parents to estimate the profoundness of the emotional wounds they are inflicting upon their children, simultaneously making it easier to deny everything. However, the traumata are real and they will increase in time if parents do not become conscious of the destructive mechanisms they are operating in their families. Becoming aware includes first of all coming out of the denial of their OWN blind spots and ego-driven mistakes. Only thereafter they will be able to see their children as individual and separate human beings who deserve to get the best of their parents in an honest and genuine loving interaction.

Another thought, just as I am about to finish this article: what a shame that all these arguments must be produced in the first place... when in an ideal world natural parenting should be undisputably the only good choice.

* * * * *

OK, looks like sometimes I still get trapped in some stage of rage. It is a newer rage (I am done with a lot of older ones), but it is still a rage triggered by parents who remind me of mine and by the suffering of children with whom I identify myself. Yeah, what else would make me react emotionally like a 5-year old? Plus, I forget that someone who tries to give answers to people who have not yet asked the question will inevitably be looked upon as a disguised aggressor and attacked accordingly. Even if I say the truth, reacting out of the old tape of my childhood wounds is never going to contribute to a healthy communication. I know that. Whenever in rage, my emotional truth takes the lead and I tend to exaggerate and paint an entirely black picture of that person. My rage and the critical parental voice that I internalized long ago are an explosive combination, I have already experienced that many times.

Based on the above-mentioned real events and relating to real persons, I am hereby honestly and humbly apologizing to Simonix for having attacked her on the (indeed very delicate) breastfeeding issue. I remember how I empathised with her at that time, but at the time I wrote my indictment on the AP forum my whole empathy went to her son. I am sure I wanted to hurt her badly, to make her feel at least part of the pain that she inflicted on him when taking him to the doctor to have his foreskin forcibly pushed back. I wanted her to feel a little bit of his suffering because she kept trivialising the fact that her son cried in pain for days when peeing or refused to sit down because he was hurting so badly. It made me so angry and so sad. Dear mothers and fathers, if you may happen to read here, interfering with a child's genitals is always an ABUSE (please take time to read the link carefully! It is in Romanian). Not to see this and to go on saying that it was the right thing to do is persisting in the abusive mentality. Another trauma which will show much later in life, without the child's possibility to make the connection to what happened to him now. This typical adult (male) excuse "It's been done to me and I am ok" is a huge proof of the denial taking place. No, you are not ok if you had to go through genital mutilation, this is definitely so not ok! But if you feel the need to go on idealising your own parents who did this to you, the only logical consequence is that you will not hesitate to make your son suffer the exact way you suffered and deny him the reality of his pain.

* * * * *

After a few sleepless nights, I now know that it is not only the inner child's rage that makes me react so extremely whenever I see parents belittling their children's pain or feelings generally. It is also my greatest present fear that I may fail as a mother BECAUSE of what my mother did to me, that I may be unable to give my son the love that he needs (which is far more important than the love that I feel for him), that it may take forever until I manage to get rid of all the toxic residues that still influence my thinking and my actions. Everytime I identify myself with a child's pain and see his parents act the innocent, this panic grows in me and makes me even angrier. I have been taught by my parents to judge and sometimes I give in and I pass the angry judgment on to someone else. I know I have to stop reacting this way, I know it, damn it, but the hurt is so overwhelming that I can't control myself all the time.

Why I panic? For instance now, ever since my father's visit managed to destroy a little bit more of my inner balance, I have felt the need to seek refuge from my hurt feelings, to run away for a while into a more beautiful world. So I started making scraps and wordarts etc. and stay up until after midnight sometimes (oh, the luxury of a child that sleeps through the night!). Of course I am delighted with the results, of course it is very rewarding to create something beautiful, but nevertheless I know that I am being mostly absent when I do my scraps while David is awake. I know that this is a mistake and I am working on it to correct it, but the remorse is killing me! And still, for the time being I am caught in this hiding place as if my life depended on it. Maybe it does.

So trust me, I am not the perfect mother (ok, who is? but you know what I mean), I am not beyond any blame, not at all, the ones who think I want to leave this impression have been unable to see beyond the mask. I feel mostly helpless and overburdened as a mother, I have the impression that I make mistakes all the time, that I am never doing good enough no matter how hard I try (does that sound familiar, mother?). I am my harshest and most embittered critic, have always been, also a consequence of my parents' abuse. Whatever anybody says about me, with no matter how much hate (yes, holding the mirror to people's faces brings mostly reactions of hate), nothing can ever be worse than the accusations and criticism that I live with inside myself all the time. If it can bring any satisfaction to anyone, here it is, I hope you feel better!

7 comentarii:

  1. great article!
    CHILDREN HAVE FEELINGS-- parents, please don't ever forget this...

  2. Buna Felicia

    Mi-a placut articolul, desi este destul de vechi. Si eu sunt un fost copil abuzat de catre parinti in cel mai inimaginabil mod cu putinta…la terapie insa am invatat ca cel mai teribil abuz pe care l-am trait a fost “neglect”-nu stiu cum as putea traduce in rom, poate neglijenta desi nu prea cred ca semnifica exact termenul. Eu instinctive am pus intre mine si parinti cea mai mare distanta fizica cu putinta…m-am dus sa traiesc cat mai departe, cel mai departe de ei. Mi-ar face mare placere sa vorbim pe privat, eu te urmaresc de ani de zile dar deabia acum am avut curajul sa te abordez. Iti sustin multe dintre idei, inlcusiv lupta impotriva vaccinarii cu forta.

  3. Oh, deja uitasem de acest articol, multumesc ca mi l-ai comentat, O!
    Daca vrei sa conversam pe privat, mai pune un comentariu cu adresa ta de mail, nu am sa-l public :-)

  4. Feli, rezonez cu tot ceea ce ai scris, si eu am fost un copil neglijat si abuzat fizic si verbal de propria mama.e atat de dureros ca la varsta maturitatii sa ai inca acel dor dupa o copilarie frumoasa dar cumva cu alti parinti, nu imi pot imagina o copilarie frumoasa cu mama mea in fapt sa tanjesti sa te simti ora actuala desi incearca sa se schimbe gandeste tot la fel, eu sunt de vina ca nu avem o relatie buna, auzi vina e la mine, nu se poate discuta cu mine.incredibil.
    Acum se deruleaza o tragedie similara in fata ochilor mei si nu pot face nimic, un copilut de cateva luni s-a nascut intr-o familie disfunctionala care il va traumatiza pe viata, pe langa traumele emotionale tin sa il traumatizeze si fizic prin vaccinare si tratamente alopate, ca doar nu era ca vaccinurile sa nu dea efecte secundare care trebuie tratate cu si mai multa alopatie.

    Ps. pot sa jur ca vorbesti de schema therapy si pot sa jur ca avem aceeasi 'buba' emotionala.
    Te imbratisez!

    1. Of, stiu cine esti si iti trimit multe ganduri bune, eu am incredere ca ai multa putere si iti poti recapata increderea in tine tocmai actionand ca sa-ti protejezi copilul asa cum tu nu ai fost iubita si protejata si respectata cand erai mica!!!

  5. A nu am mai scris niciodata aici, nu ne cunoastem.
    Iar copilutul nu e al meu, e copilutul unor persoane apropiate care cred orbeste in doctor.
    Eu ma indoiesc ca va fi candva mai bine din punct de vedere al lipsei iubirii din copilarie, golul lasat de lipsa de dragoste a mamei mele nu va putea fi umplut niciodata.

    1. Ah, scuze, caracterizarea se potriveste atat de bine unei mamici proaspete care a fost la fel de abuzata de parinti, aceiasi parinti care acum o terorizeaza sa-si vaccineze copilul :-(
      De acord, golul lasat de lipsa dragostei unei mame nu va putea fi umplut niciodata, ceea ce putem insa schimba este sa ne oferim noi insine dragostea pe care nu am invatat sa ne-o oferim!!! Iar asta se poate :-)