I’m currently reading Homecoming, By John Bradshaw. It’s about regaining and championing one’s inner child. I’ve heard this term some time ago, but I never really understood it. I still don’t but as I read more of this book, I’m beginning to understand what it means to be an adult child.
My emotions are stunted. Severely so. I believe they were stunted when I was a toddler, which happens to be the same time which my mother and father divorced. I didn’t realize the divorce had that much of an impact on me – mainly because I thought I was much younger when the divorce occurred. I mentioned I thought I was only a year old at the time however only a year ago I found out that I was around three or four years old.
My mother let me believe that I was a year old thereby downplaying whatever effects the divorce may have had on me. She let me be “fine” with it, so she could have her next victim in her poisonous game. I can’t recall a time when she actually told me at what age the divorce occurred, I just always remember it being when I was a year old. My guess is that she never corrected this thought I had since it allowed me to be right where she wanted me.
It was my father (who as it turns out, is only slightly better a person than my mother, but then again, that’s not saying much) who told me last year that she and he had spent several years married with me before they divorced. This came as a shock to me and my wife who I’d already told what I thought my family history was.
Anyway, the reason I feel that this book is so wonderfully wonderful (in so far as that it’s telling me how awfully broken I am) is that the author already presents many ideas that so severely resonate with me. In one particular section, and why I focused on the toddler stage, the author writes,
“Children arrested in the toddler stage are often fascinated by buttocks. Fascination with a genital part is called ‘sexual objectification’, and it reduces others to genital objects.”
This is important for me because … well … that’s me. Far back as I can remember, I’ve been fascinated with rear ends. And not just those of women either. I can remember, both in the distant and not so distant pasts, seeing people walking by, my eyes would inexorably slide to the ever-moving backside. Looking back now, I see that I treated even the girls I grew up with – whom I was always told were “family friends” – as objects. They were at my disposal and my mother allowed these types of thoughts and behaviors to proliferate.
These early behaviors and thoughts mutated my little malleable mind, and my emotions along with it.
I was always engaged in relationships that would never be fully emotionally satisfying. Three months and done, but never by my hand, always by the other party. I thought that these relationships would fill an empty space I had in me. One that I couldn’t put my finger on, but I knew I needed to fill. It never worked, not until I met my wife. I guess it’s hard to fix something when you don’t know quite what’s broken. That was my problem.
I feel like the author, Mr. Bradshaw is speaking to me when he writes some of these passages. I like that some of what I’ve been feeling my entire life, is beginning to take shape, have purposes, and roots. It helps to see that the author takes his readers through his path of self-discovery as well, detailing his toxic and devastating behaviors, then chronicling his recovery.
He speaks of magical beliefs, of which children cradle almost exclusively. I retain some of these beliefs still: the “what if’s”, and “if only’s”, etc. Most of if had to do with money and my mother. The two go hand in hand, as my mother always had money to spare and she put the idea in my head that money=goodness and happiness.
Another “fairy tale” I held was that, if I were to do everything that my mother and my father didn’t do in their marriages, then my marriage would no only survive but thrive in the most ideal of ways. I thought when I got married, everything would be fine, and the only work would come in getting to know my mate, and then raising children. I never thought that the entire thing would be more work than I ever thought possible. I believe this is part of the reason I’ve been having so much difficultly being in a marriage – not that I don’t want to stay married, it’s that I want to, but it’s the HOW I’m struggling with.
Mr. Bradshaw also writes:
The wounded inner child contaminates intimacy in relationships because he has no sense of his authentic self. The greatest wound a child can receive is the rejection of his authentic self. When a parent cannot -- and I’d add will not – affirm his child’s feelings, needs, and desires, he rejects that child’s authentic self. Then a false self must be set up. In order to believe he is loved, the wounded child behaves the way he thinks he is supposed to. This false self develops over the years and is reinforced by the family system’s needs and by cultural sex roles. Gradually, the false self becomes who the person really thinks he is. He forgets that false self is an adaptation, an act based on a script someone else wrote.
I’d add that I think the false self becomes the self after a long enough time and the separation of the authentic and false selves becomes nearly impossible. Not entirely, but just nearly.
I had to be what my mother needed. I had no choice in the matter. To please her, to satisfy her, I was what she required, and that became my false self at the time. Gradually, that false self became my true self as I was never able to develop the authentic self I was born with.
I imagine my mother felt that she was nothing and so to compensate for that, she had me satisfy her emotional needs. She molded me into whatever she needed at the time, which was an emotional spring, and eventually, a father to her daughter (emotionally). My inner child, which was also me, stopped developing properly as early as age two since that’s when I believe my mother “checked out” of her marriage to my father. And my father at the time, may or may not have cared either, he doesn’t talk about his past. I suspect my mother had begun to treat me inappropriately since my birth, and stifling my emotional development even then. According to Mr. Bradshaw, because the target of my "sexual objectification" was buttocks, and not an oral fixation as he suggested with earlier emotional stunting, I'm more inclined to believe that around two, my mother really started laying it on, so to speak.
Despite setbacks, I believe things are becoming clearer for me. I don’t believe anyone in my former life cared about me – friends or family. I don’t believe I really cared about them – I mean how could I if I was never really taught to feel in the first place. Something deep within my terribly shadowed soul sparked when I first met my wife and I am now just unearthing what that spark means, and attempting to stoke it into something more.