As I wrote to my daughter following the publication of my last post (+IN MY RESPONSE TO MY MOTHER’S ABUSE: A GIFT), if she and I are going to write a book together she will need to understand her role as the translator of my words. I am very aware after writing this last post that when I write ‘my truth’ I am doing so according to this image I can see inside of myself at this moment as if it physically exists and I can see and touch it:
I am standing alone in a world that is divided from the world that other people live in by a clear surface — like glass but more like a very slightly flexible, unbreakable membrane. I cannot get through it, over it, around it, under it or past it in any way in my lifetime.
When I write ‘my truth’ I do so as if I am writing with a magic marker using an area of this membrane as a slate. My words, however, appear on the other side of the surface as backward letters. My daughter will need to be able to understand this reality, carefully consider how my words ‘get through’ to readers on the ‘other side’, and adjust them in whatever way she feels is needed so that they can be tolerated – and somewhat understood – by readers.
As I just emailed her about what I know about this barrier, I also understand that I have a FIRST (or primary) self, and a SECOND self.
My FIRST self knows things that I hope can be recorded in a book. My first self is the only self I had until, at age 18, I stepped onto a jet plane and headed away from home to Naval boot camp. The world that I was leaving did not match the world I was entering, and my first self has ALWAYS known that.
Nothing except surface and only marginal bits of information about my life during my first 18 years had any relevance to the second world I moved into.
My second self figured out a way from the moment I put my foot onto the jet plane how to get along in the world where other people reside. My second self moves around in this second world I found myself in in effect ‘acting as if’ or ‘pretending’ that I have been in this ‘normal’ world from the get-go. Yet this second world is NOT my home. I am an implant, an immigrant, a transposed ‘alien’ (like they call the Mexicans that enter the country down here in Arizona ‘illegal aliens’).
I act as if I am a ‘naturalized citizen’ of this second world, but I am not. I only get along because I COULD create this second self that moves around more like a ghost than an embodied human being.
If I am going to, with my daughter’s help, write a book that actually could MATTER I will have to make an agreement with myself to let my FIRST primary self appear. That part of me is often present when I write. I am aware of ‘her’ presence because I can sense my inability with language — verbal and written – that I experience because my language development was so impacted and altered within the environment of early severe abuse I suffered.
I cannot go back and edit what I write from the ‘ordinary’ side of the clear membrane that encases the world that I ACTUALLY live in. The ‘mostly normal’ suit I try to wear so that other people are perhaps somewhat comfortable in my presence only goes ‘so deep’. I cannot truly BE what I pretend to me: an ordinary person.
I am a severe-trauma-abuse-created person who comes from a malevolent world – who is trying to fit in the best I can in a different world. Dr. Martin Teicher calls this world a ‘benevolent world’ and describes how it is the mismatch between the two worlds that creates most of the problems severe abuse survivors face in adulthood. In my case, the use of verbal language is a foreign experience to me in ways that only my first self could explain. Yet there are very few on the ‘ordinary’ side of the membrane that would even be able to begin to understand me if I tried to tell them what this is all about.
Actually, in thinking about this, my second self is like attired with somebody else’s clothes. I think of how I’ve seen around me – teens borrowing clothing and putting together outfits to wear from someone else’s closet. When I left home I had nothing appropriate ‘to wear’ in the new world I stepped into. I borrowed an ‘outfit’ = this second self.
I had had practice being a second self when I went to school, I suppose. But even my experience as THAT version of a second self was completely connected to the first self I always was during my first 18 years of life.
It took a severing – like cutting an umbilical cord – between my first world and the second world I stepped into for my second self to truly take her form.
I realize today, then, that when I write about ‘borrowed secure attachment’ rather than ‘earned secure attachment’ that these two concepts must be connected in my reality somehow. But what matters to me is that even though I suspect my secure attachment to my children as their mother was a ‘borrowed secure attachment’ — it primarily worked. I did not abuse them, I loved them, and they are fine.
I am also still alive in this second world – and that in itself has never been for me a simple or meaningless feat.