+SEVERE CHILD ABUSE AND THE PRESERVED GOOD AND NOBLE SELF

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If I am going to spend some time pondering about some of what I was book-writing about yesterday, I might as well do some of that pondering here.  First of all, I believe (because I cannot make this belief go away, or change it in any way, it is obvious to me that I believe it!) that all humans are born good and noble.  That means all children are good and noble.

Being innately good and noble means to me that humans are born knowing right from wrong.  What must happen as we grow older and grow up is that we come to develop our ‘self’ that possesses the ability to make choices — some of the good, some of them not good.

We are born to parents and other caregivers who are not perfect.  While we might be perfect when we are born it seems nature designs us to soon lose track of this perfection simply because we ARE humans — and being human means that in this world we have choice.  Or, are supposed to have choice though I believe changes in physiological development especially due to early severe trauma can create ‘mental illnesses’ that interfere with the human ability to self-choose (the body does most of the choosing instead in its attempts to survive).

“So,” I’ve been asking myself this morning as I wander my garden after last evenings terrific rains, “what is it about the circumstances surrounding the tiny snippets of clear memory I have always retained from shortly after my 9th birthday when I was in 4th grade that emblazoned those memories in my conscious mind?  Why those and not others?”

As I pondered this morning I remembered for myself the ‘rule’ I invented:  There must have been something going on inside of ME that was absolutely GOOD that was immediately smacked up against something very bad in my mother!

Thinking now in this way about these incidents — as I present them simply below — I see that what I witnessed with my little sister being miraculously saved from great harm was ALL GOOD.  What was going on inside of me during the ‘TV memory’ and the ‘ice cream memory’ was equally ALL GOOD.

Perhaps I received a gift through the special circumstances of having been abused since birth — the inability, complete inability, to feel anger toward my mother.  Perhaps that gift not only allowed me to survive her horrible abuse, but also to survive it with access to my own goodness intact.

Not that feeling angry in the face of great injustice is a bad thing in itself, but in my case because I was a captive and had no possible way to escape or to fight back, any anger on my part toward my mother might well have spurred her to kill me.  So NOT feeling angry was a protection.  Why feel ANGER toward someone or something I could do NOTHING about?

Anger is itself one of the stages (I believe) of the trauma survival response cycle.  It is a step around on the circle of the stress response.  When we feel anger we are SUPPOSED to be able to poke around in our proverbial box of survival coping skills so we can find one we can apply in a new and different — and exactly effective way — to get out of a traumatic mess.

My entire body-self well knew by age 9 that I had no way out and nobody to help me get out.  So anger would have been worse than useless.

OK, so knowing that — what next can I discover in my ponderings?  Do I remember these snippets I mention here because I had no wall of inner rage to intervene between me and my true spiritual-soul essential self?  I certainly had no conscious thought of “Mother is so wrong.  I am so right!”

Nope.  Couldn’t have had those thoughts.

But perhaps it was my good and noble self that felt the verbal blows in these memories — I do not remember anything physical being done to me regarding these ‘events’.  Mother’s attacks — did I feel a new sense of humiliation at age 9 that I had never felt before?  After all, I had been abused — and viciously verbally abused — since birth.  What would be different about these words on these occasions?

Maybe I was naturally gathering some mental powers just by the fact that I had managed to stay alive this long — 9 whole years.  Just because these powers had certainly not reached the level of my conscious awareness so that I could self-reflect did not mean these mental powers weren’t there.

Did I remember these things and stuff them in some memory-retaining bottle and toss them into the sea of time so that I could find them yet again, this time in my writing now 50 years later and decipher my own inner meaning in them?

Very possibly……

At this stage of my pondering I haven’t ‘gotten IT yet’.  I haven’t felt an inner sense of “Oh, THAT’S why I remembered them!”  I don’t have the piece of information I suspect is connected to these memories — yet.

What I can say is these memories stand as milestones along the pathway of my child development that let me know clearly that by age 9 my mother had STILL been completely unable to penetrate through the protection I had around my inner, own good and noble self.  I had not really BOUGHT any of the toxic poison she had been dumping on me since I was born.

Certainly Mother hurt me.  But not the INNER me?  I’ll say, “She had not changed me, my essential me.  I was still completely grounded in standing within my own self — knowing the difference between good and bad, right and wrong — though I could not in ANY way articulate that I knew this.”

Part of what is so affirming to me in my struggle now to tell my own coherent life story over the passage of time is that who I know myself to be NOW as a good and noble person is exactly who I innately and instinctively knew I was all the way through my abusive childhood.

I am so grateful!

In essence this means that when we consider ANY situation of child abuse it is critically important to recognize the good that is ALWAYS also present.  For sure, one fundamental FACT is that this goodness will ALWAYS be found in the heart of the child (the survivor)!!

I am reminded of my long ago (1980) 7-week in-patient ‘treatment’ for addiction.  When it came to the step’s words “restore me to sanity” I truthfully told my therapist that would not be possible.  Even though then, I was 30, I had no concept that I was a child abuse survivor, I at least had the first glimmer of light go on about this abuse:  I knew there had never been any sanity in my life to go back to.  I knew that to ‘restore’ something that never existed was impossible.

My therapist very UNHELPFULLY told me I was using the defense ‘mechanism of intellectualizing and rationalizing’.  Now thinking about THIS I feel anger.  But that was all my therapist knew – that was her ignorance and limitations.

Today, for the very first time in my thinking I can clearly see that, yes, I CAN now think in terms of ‘recovery’ — because I now know clearly and exactly what I am ‘going back’ to recover:  My own perfectly pure, noble and good self that was preserved within me as a child — no matter what abuse was done to me.

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I have always had a collection of short memories from this school year.  Our dinner table was placed under a ceiling light that had a large glass globe over the bulb.  I was sitting next to my little sister, Sharon.  One night at the start of dinner the globe came crashing down nearly on my little sister’s head.  Barely missing her and pounded down on the edge of her dinner plate in such a way that the plate tipped away from her and acted like a shield that protected her as it projected the glass pieces so that they fell harmlessly to the floor past her body.  (Someone in the apartment before us had not screwed it back on correctly when a bulb was changed.)

Her words gashed and slashed me – on these occasions that I remember – worse than anything she could have done to hurt my body.  Why do I remember these so clearly?  What was so different or ‘special’ about them that they have always stood out in my mind?

We were all watching Beverly Hillbillies on TV.  I made the mistake of enjoying myself in thinking something on the show was funny.  I laughed.  Big mistake!  Mother immediately seared me with, “You stupid, stupid girl, Linda!  Nobody but you could be so stupid as to think this stupid show is actually funny?  Don’t you know they use canned laughter in this show.  It’s not even real.  Nobody but you would think that was actually funny, let alone laugh at it!  Go to your room!  I can’t stand the sight of you!  I don’t want you anywhere near me.”  Etc., etc…..

One night Mother was sitting in the living room when she asked, “Linda, go check in the freezer and see how much ice cream we have.”  So I did, and reported back to her, “There is a whole half gallon of ice cream.”

She sliced me with, “What?  A whole half gallon?  You stupid girl!  If there is a full half gallon then there is just that – a HALF GALLON of ice cream left!  Don’t you know anything?”  Etc., etc……  I did not mean to be stupid or ‘make her’ mad at me on occasions such as these, but I had no defense inside of myself to NOT let Mother hurt me.  These are just tiny examples of how her hatred of me flew at me out of nowhere – at any time, on any occasion – that I could not anticipate, expect or guard against.

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3 thoughts on “+SEVERE CHILD ABUSE AND THE PRESERVED GOOD AND NOBLE SELF

  1. It appears I misjudged the TV verbal abuse memory I wrote about in this post. I finished carefully working through Mother’s letters for the time of my 4th grade year and as far as I can tell we did not have a TV. She had sold it the spring before this year. I am going to go back to the letters and look one more time, but if there is no sign of a TV being in our family home during this winter, then this memory is from the first time we lived in these apartment buildings in Anchorage when I was 7 and in 2nd grade.

    If that is true, then it amazes me even more how clearly I remember Mother’s attack of me that night as I made the mistake of laughing at something in a TV show I thought — no FELT — was funny.

    I have had great difficulty with humor all of my life, and I can track some of that difficulty to the night this memory was created. Overcoming the painful and devastating effects of this verbal abuse has been nearly impossible for me to do. I am disappointed in myself that I can’t ‘expound upon’ what Mother’s words did to me that night. I guess it’s been my job mostly to just remember….

    • I know the fullest measure of what I need to say about the ‘TV’ needs to be moved to age 7 — but thinking about this today 8-30-11 I realize that just as mother interfered even with my ability to develop my own taste buds — what flavors I liked and when I liked them (when I was little I didn’t like the taste of melted brown sugar and thought ham too salty — when I got older my tastes changed yet when I expressed to Mother that I liked those tastes NOW she refused to let me eat them) — Mother interfered with the development of my sense of humor and humor appreciation, understanding and expression in many, many ways.

      First of all, never being safe and often being HURT and terrorized is enough to make any child sad. But more than that, as this ‘TV’ incident and my clear memory of it indicates, humans must grow into their own sense of humor in their own unique way.

      Mother interfered with that development for me. She did not let me play or have ordinary social interactions — and when I laughed at something in that TV show her reaction CRUSHED me. Her reaction and words were meant to do that, were meant to be condemning.

      And they were — and they did that to me. My laughter, my sense of humor was an expression of ME — and I think she hurt my HEART this time in a way that I have never truly gotten over.

      • Writing this I realize that ‘this’ didn’t stop here. As I grew into my teens Mother would criticize my laugh, that I laughed ‘too loud’ and it ‘hurt her ears’.

        Oh, the depth and breadth of Mother’s madness!

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