Sunday, July 5, 2009

You have no right....

Hmmm..... this one has been brewing for a while. In essence, it is simply this foundational belief that I have no right to sympathy or comfort. Why? Because if someone hurts me, it is my own fault for being weak or stupid or niave...

This concept has controlled a lot of my interactions in the past in ways I wasn't aware of. It has only been the last couple of months - through therapy both in a professional setting and with a friend - that I have even been able to pin it down enough to put it into wards. To many of you, it may sound patently ridiculous. But I have realized that this is a concept that was trained into me from the very beginning.

I was talking to a friend about it a couple of months ago, right after it first came out in words in therapy. As I was talking, it was almost as if my mouth was saying things my conscious mind didn't know.... I said, "This concept that I don't have the right to feel pain and ask for help - sympathy - comfort - goes back to when I was 2 and my mother said...." And at that moment, my mind shut down like a steel door slamming shut and I realized that I had almost seen something I've been trying to get a handle on for a while - what, exactly, it was that happened when I was 2 1/2. My mind is not ready to let me see that, but what I did get was a sense that whatever it was, my mother was aware of it and told me to essentially get over it, it was not a big deal... it was somehow my fault.... And I can get no further with that at the moment.

But as I have thought about it, there are other incidents. I remember when was 3 I found this stuffed gray cat lying somewhere. My mom let me keep it, but made sure I knew how gross it was to take a used toy you found laying around. She washed it.... And I named it Graytor. And I took him with me everywhere. It was almost like having a pet. :-) My mom has a picture of me sitting on the curb outside my aunt's house in Denver reading a Mad Magazine and the cat tucked under my arm - I was 3. Fast forward a couple of years. Still toting this cat around. And it is time for me to start school. I remember mom warning me to leave the cat at home. Warning that if I took it to school, I would lose it or it would get stolen. Warning me how horrible I would feel if that happened. But I never went anywhere without that cat. So, to school we went. And at recess, playing on the playground - there was this huge stump. It was the size of a table - at least to us little 5 year olds. And I left my cat lying on that stump at the end of recess. And even now, I can't explain how I forgot about it. But I didn't realize that I had left it on the playground until I got home and it wasn't there. I begged mom to take me back to the school. She told me that there was no way it was still going to be there, but she consented to take me so that I could be sure. And sure enough, it was gone. I was devastated. And I'm not sure what made me feel worse: the fact that it was gone or the fact that it was my own careless stupidity that caused it to be gone. And there was no sympathy or comfort. Only the stark fact that she had warned me and I should have listened.

There are many little incidents.

When I was 4, I gave my piggy bank to the neighbor boy in exchange for some toy (can't remember what). My mom was very up set. She made the boy give it back and told me I was naive and easily taken advantage of and needed to smarten up. I was 4! (I didn't get my piggy bank back - she kept it.)

If I cried, I was spoiled. She used to say that when I would go and spend a few days with either of my grandparents, it would take her two weeks to "straighten me out" after they had "spoiled me."

When I was in trouble, I was sent to my room (after being whipped with a belt) and told that I had to stay there and think about what I had done and not to come out until I was prepared to tell mommy I was sorry for hurting her. This started when I was 2 years old.

In a letter that I came across a few months ago that she had written when I was about 5, she writes about me getting in trouble and that she gave me a whipping with a belt and sent me to my room. She then wrote that the person the letter was to should not worry as it didn't do any damage as I only shed a couple of small tears. Yeah. I learned early not to let them see me cry any more than I could help.

When I was 8, my grandmother died and when my mom caught me crying in bed one night, she asked me what I was crying about. I told her I missed grandma. She frowned and told me to get over it.

When I was 13, my favorite teacher accidentally killed himself. No sympthay. Why should I be upset, I didn't know him that well.....

So many times, growing up, someone would hurt me - and my mom's response was always to tell me that I must have provoked them or I just needed to toughen up...

Is it any wonder, when my cousin began sexually abusing me, that I didn't tell anyone? I still struggle with the concept that it was my fault for letting him do it...

I still struggle with the idea that I do not deserve any sympathy or help because whatever the damage is - whatever the reason for the pain - it was my own fault and I should just buck up and move on and take my consequences like a good little girl.

Hmm.... today marks one year since I have seen my mom. And the pain is still just as deep as it was then. And there is still some guilt at not seeing or talking to her. And yet, to go back to the place where she actively controls my life.....no.

I guess there is still a lot of confusion and pain here. And that should probably not be a surprise.

And you know....hmm.... forgiveness. That is an interesting topic for me - toward my mom, my dad... and toward my cousin, and all those others who sexually used me. I have thought about it and I really do not want any of them to go to hell. But I don't want to have to be around them, either. And I think that is one of the ways that the church is messed up in it's doctrine of forgive and forget. That is humanly impossible. And it is the height of stupid arrogance to tell someone who has been abused to forgive and forget - something they cannot possibly do (how do you forget?) and then tell them that unless they do, God will not forgive them and they will be in trouble with God. That is called a crazy making - telling someone they will be in trouble if they don't do what they cannot do.

Anyway, I think I have begun to just ramble, so .....

11 comments:

Tyler Dawn said...

Forgive and forget is NOT scriptural, grr.... I hate that teaching too. That's just elitist crap.

baby, I had to stop reading all those thing because I couldn't see the screen anymore. Half rage and half agony -- I am so sorry. You deserve comfort, sympathy, love and everything else Abba wants to lavish on you -- which is EVERYTHING. I seriously want to punch your mother.... that was anti-parenting, trying to stifle all creativity, free thought and emotions in order to make you into a controllable little robot. I am grateful you aren't seriously mentally deranged, and I mean that.

Being friends with me means you are only slightly mentally deranged ;)

baby, I wish I could wrap my arms around you, get you a cup of hot tea and drown you in peach cobbler.

Katherine Gunn said...

Tyler, thank you.

I think the jury's still out on how mentally deranged I am. ;)

Hmm... and I wish we could have that cup of tea and some peach cobbler....

James said...

After reading a few book on abuse I read in one how some people like to play “let’s pretend”. Let’s pretend is a defense tactic for abusers because if we don’t acknowledge the abuse then it never really happen right? Wrong! But playing let’s pretend does just that. Playing let’s pretend also doesn’t allow for any type of validation. In short it doesn’t validate one’s emotions and in fact give the message in the pretend world your emotions aren’t important and one should just get over it. The pretend world is a fantasy world where the abuser wants to put your negative feeling and limit your personal power. In the abusers pretend world only the emotions and feeling the abuse let’s you have will be validated and seen as important to them that is.

A few day ago my oldest son was upset with me. My son is 17 soon to be 18 so he is feeling and coming into his own autonomy. Anyway, he was mad so he told me how he hated me and the things he hated about me. Well, I just listened and kept trying to calm things down so we could have a civil conversation. After awhile when this didn’t work I just told him I didn’t wish to talk anymore and walk to another room. Later, my son came to me and wanted to tell me how he was sorry about saying those things and how he didn’t mean them. I told him not to say he was sorry in fact I validated his feeling and told him how I want him to express those emotions. You see to me he was just being honest. I told him parents aren’t perfect and we do makes mistakes. I explain how I wanted him to feel free to express those emotional because I believe them be honest emotions (if only at this time) and that’s what I want his honestly no matter how hurtful it might be to me at the time and how we can always talk about that later. To me playing “let’s pretend” is wrong and is a type of abuse but being honest is something we have a right too as much as understanding we aren’t perfect people and we all make mistakes.

Sue said...

Hello darling,

This is a big big thing to finally be able to pin down in words. Well done. (Amazing that therapy is not only unpaid, but that we have to pay for it ourselves, considering it is the hardest work we can do :)

It does not sound patently ridiculous at all. It makes perfect sense.

How strange to uncover lies and to begin wondering and thinking and pondering that they are lies. It's all terribly uncomfortable, the process, isn't it. So scary.

Standing with you in the midst of my own, KG. Knowing how courageous it is to be following these paths. Thinking of what Papa has waiting for all of us when we get to the next forks in our paths :)

Katherine Gunn said...

Hi, Sue. Thank you. Pinning it down in words gives it shape - form - so that you can look at it and deal with it. Until it has that shape, it is like trying to catch smoke. There is still a lot of work to be done - and you are right, it is work. But it is worth the effort. (And I believe that most of the time :)

I am with you, too. And I am afraid to even hope for what Papa has planned...

Barbara said...

Forgive & forget? Hell no.

Great site! Thanks for linking to mine

Katherine Gunn said...

Hi, Barbara. Thanks and you're welcome. Your site has much to offer in education and encouragement for the abused.

Davida said...

i hope this doesn't sound silly, but i am sorry about your stuffed cat. seriously. it makes me wish i could go back to that place and time to give you a hug and let you cry about losing your cat. sob and sputter about forgetting it at recess. let you get it all out and then go for a nice walk and maybe some ice cream. :-)

Katherine Gunn said...

Davida, it doesn't sound silly. It almost makes me cry. :-) Thanks you.

Paige said...

I know this is gonna sound strange, and maybe a bit insensitive considering what the rest of your post was about, but the story about the stuffed cat REALLY got to me. It makes me so sad.
When I was little, I didn't really have any friends. I wasn't in school yet, my sister was too young to play with, there were no kids in my neighbourhood, and I never bonded with anyone at church. That's why my stuffed animals meant so much to me. They were my best friends. And when you lose a friend, you feel like you've been punched in the gut. You feel like the world is coming to an end. You wish you could go back in a time machine and hug your friend, but you can't so you start blaming youself and it's the worst feeling in the world. I'm sorry about what you went through as a kid, and I'm sorry about your kitty.
This might sound corny, or maybe just insane, but I think it's possible that you might be reunited with your kitty...in heaven. I know, what the heck? But I'm sure it's possible...
Jeez, did I really just say that?

Katherine Gunn said...

Paige, It's not crazy. Thank you. :-)