The hardest part of recovering from failures of love in childhood is breaking through denial. Denial is a defence against reality. It’s purpose is to keep us from seeing and feeling the truth of how we are being treated. Ego and denial are synonymous. Ego is the personality we put in place in support of denial. To break out of the condition of denial is to dissolve ego. But by the time we get around to revisiting reality we ‘re pretty attached to ego as our true identity. Clearing the fog of denial is a heroic and necessary task on the journey back to living one’s own life.
It’s voice sounds like: It wasn’t that bad. Others had it a lot worse than me. I need to just get over it and get on with my life. They really did love me, they just has a strange way of showing it. Etc.
Whether the failure of love was physical, sexual, or emotional abuse/neglect a child on the receiving end simply cannot allow that things are as bad as they are. S/he knows that her life is dependent upon the person who is hurting them. We are forced to endure the torment of lovelessness as best as we can. Some courageous souls try to run away from home before they are able to support themselves only to return humiliated, having been “taught a lesson”. The lesson is you’re stuck here, and helpless to do anything about it.
As a result of this dependency a child’s rage and hatred at the source of their humiliation is turned back on themselves. It simply cannot be true that this person/these people don’t actually care enough about me to protect me from the worst in them.
I must make it my fault. Then I can do something about. If it’s them, I’m screwed. But I can change. Be nice. Be good. I’ll be quiet. I’ll be charming. I’ll be whatever they need me to be. Thus we curate an compensatory ego, which masquerades as our true nature sometimes for a lifetime.
The result of turning the hatred back on oneself is an unconscious, potentially lifelong self-loathing. The natural homicidal impulse to remove the source of suffering becomes suicidal. Both are unconscious wishes to make the hurting stop by taking out the source. Fortunately the suicidal impulse is rarely acted out to the point of taking one’s own life. But there are many ways to remove oneself, including addiction, dissociation, escape into religion or spiritual practice and emotional withdrawal.
Sarcasm, cynicism, pessimism, and gallows humour, are also ways to compensate for how bad it was without actually feeling it. These too are forms of denial.
My hunch is that what is now called ADHD is at core a distraction from the unbearable suffering of the present moment, of not being loved, of being hurt, disappointed, and devastated by the inability or unwillingness of those whom we are dependent upon to love us. We cannot focus on reality as it is, on the other as they are, because we learned early and often this is an unbearable proposition. Our attention wanders, we can’t concentrate. We cannot take the “other” in because the other, we have been set up to believe, will devastate us.
All of these distractions from a hostile reality are forms of denial. The moment we stop distracting ourselves from reality, our original feelings about the mistreatment emerge. And they are not “nice”. Nice goes away. Being nice was a way of trying to make it stop. Stripped of that strategy reality comes in like a tidal wave, in the form of feelings of hatred, rage, shame, guilt and grief.
Add to this the reality that should our perpetrators ever be confronted with our experience they will deny it all. They will counter with claims of unconditional love and by pointing out all that they did for you – clothes, shelter, food, etc. As though their children owe them for providing the bare minimum. Children are gaslit. All the time. They are sent to doctors, who give them pills. They are the scapegoated victims of toxic families who are let off the hook by the dominant medical mental health models.
The grief is deep when the child-now-adult truly gets that his/her parents would rather sacrifice them on the altar of their egoic image of “good” parent than fess up and apologize for their lovelessness. This is the source of 98% of the DSM (Diagnostic Statisticians Manual) which psychiatrists use to label and then drug their “patients”. The insanity, they imply by their “treatment” plan, has nothing to do with lovelessness, with abuse, violence, or neglect. It has nothing to do with the individual’s actual treatment by an insane family system where the members all seem “normal” to outsiders but inside the system it is a chaotic, deceitful shit show.
Treat the brain. It’s all brain chemistry and molecules. Dull the feelings. Deny the experience of the “patient”.
This psychiatric “treatment” is the final stage of a massive cover-up. What is the cover-up? Violence masquerading as love.
Humans know enough to know that love is the ideal. That’s how we’re supposed to act toward those in our care. But it’s a small percentage of humans as far as I can tell who have experienced abiding love from our parents. It’s a small percentage of parents who even know what that looks and feels like, because they didn’t get it either.
And so we pass it on to the next generation. What humans actually know is violence, how to humiliate, how not to listen, how to invalidate. But we don’t want to admit at this point in our evolutionary journey that it is violence that predominates and not the ideal of love. Hurt children grow up and unconsciously desire power over others because, well, never again… Prime Ministers, Presidents, CEO’s, religious leaders, gurus, teachers, bankers, husbands and wives, coaches etc. who are not conscious of this desire to exert power over others construct a world which has little to do with love. I will not let you in, I will not feel you, I will not let you live in freedom. Instead I will control you so that I feel safe.
Who dares to see this? Who dares to admit the truth of it? Who dares to do something about it?
All there is to do about it is to find somebody who will be with you as the cloak of denial falls from your shoulders and a river of grief carries you back to sanity. Back to yourself. Back to compassion for all that you’ve suffered. There’s no way home without suffering. It’s a choice between the suffering of denial (which results in the perpetuation of violence) or the suffering of reality, the dissolution of fantasy, and the way of the open heart.
That one gets my vote. To feel compassion return for yourself, arising organicaly out of the ashes of your mistreatment. Compassion for yourself. For others. For humanity. May you discover that you can bear reality now. All you need is a little support to find words for the truth of our experience, to replace self-loathing with a deep tenderness toward yourself, and an awareness, finally, of just how beautiful and radiant you are and always have been.