This post won’t be much more than a sketch of a collection of thoughts that are swirling around in the shadows of my mind this morning. I will capture a few of them here, but most of them will have to be patient and wait until I am more ready to take them out and put them together into the structure of a more formal writing.
I have been deeply involved for weeks now in sorting through the messy collection of my family’s photographic history. I don’t have the savvy or the computer power to scan and work with digitalizing this collection, which is most frustrating to me. I am finding the pictures that correspond to the text of 8 books as I go, but there are other pictures that I know will belong in books that have yet to be written and that don’t even begin to have a structure or a title at this point in time.
Among those pictures are ones of myself before the age of five that also include pictures of my siblings who were also very young at the time those photographs were snapped in California before our family moved to Alaska to begin our homesteading saga. These pictures tell stories all by themselves!
Back in the 1950s there was great expense in processing films. Pictures of children were most often taken on some kind of picture taking event like a birthday, Easter or Christmas. In some of these holiday pictures Mother and Grandmother are literally hanging onto we children to keep us still long enough for a picture to be taken. Behind the body language in these pictures I envision WILD CHILDREN being captured momentarily, grabbed by the wrist, as adults tried to freeze the energy in our body as we were so awkwardly frozen in time to be framed in a picture.
I can see myself — the INSIDE of myself — bursting through over 50 years of time as if I only stop being who I was then, who I can see, only when I LOOK at these pictures. The rest of the time little me — being only a fraction of inches tall as I romp around within the space those little pictures hold me within — is trapped waiting to be remembered.
I end up thinking this morning about myself as a severely abused child — and about my siblings who witnessed that abuse — as we could not HELP at those young ages being ourself with our full expression of emotion, feeling, attitude — in action.
As time goes on children begin to learn to make conscious choices, the best that they can (as I imagine the scenarios) to PLEASE the adults upon whom they owe their survival AND when abuse is present to try to avoid harm.
Little people cannot possibly be adept at doing either of these things. When emotion and reaction live in little children’s bodies they cannot be selected at will to present an ‘acceptable’ version of who they are to either gain praise or avoid retribution. Little children are ALIVE. They feel and they begin to think at a very, very young age.
When who the child is is not acceptable to the grownups in their life, where does the free-flowing energy of childhood go to? Where CAN it go?
In families where the essence of the small child as a person is not tolerated, when any free thought or natural expression of emotion is not allowed, and then when – in cases such as mine was – the person of the child is deemed to be essentially evil and bad no matter WHAT the child does — what happens to the development of the self of the child?
When a child is raised in a healthy family socially acceptable parameters for behaviors — which include the appropriate and healthy expression of the full range of emotions — are gradually introduced as these behaviors are gradually modulated by healthy adults who understand that their little charge was BORN as an individual person. Abuse and violation of the person of the child is NOT part of the picture.
Because my history involves a mother who most likely suffered from Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) with a definite psychosis, my perspective is biased. Things go wrong in all kinds of families in which BPD is not present. I cannot sort out how much of what I detect of what went wrong in my family as it was run and run over by BPD Mother could possibly apply to other kinds of families in trouble. All I know is that Mother lacked empathy and did not actually know what a person even was.
To Mother her children were puppets, props, dolls, toys — NOT human beings. We were in her mind things that could be manipulated, arranged, controlled. There are some early photographs of Mildred’s children that were taken as little ones were enjoying doing what children do. At those times we were only accidentally doing something right and approved of in Mildred’s world.
In other pictures we were supposed to be doing something else other than being our own little person. It is at those times and in photographs of those times that the dynamics appear in body language and expressions that show the contrast between (especially for me) what I was SUPPOSED to look, behave, act and feel and how I truly DID experience myself in my life.
I cannot yet add the photographs into my writing. There is a whole long process to get to that stage. What I am writing here in words is simply a kind of narration of an invisible play because the pictures to be submitted as evidence are still being processed. In the meantime I am processing ideas related to what good use I can put some of these pictures to in my future writing.
I am wondering where the self of a child GOES when that self is not allowed to grow up even existing within its own body in its own life. It’s not like a child has a choice to change itself in for a different self that can manage (somehow) to make all the right choices so that conflict with its mother-parent can be avoided. Nor can a suffering child trade in its caregiver for a better one, either.
The only thing I can think of that might be useful is that somehow conveying stories means that we can convey information that can be thought about, talked about, learned from — somehow. I wish I had more answers than I have questions.
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