My mother abandoned me. She neglected me. She prioritized her needs over mine. She was interested in me, but her interest was impinging, intrusive, violating.
My dad was cruel to me. Abusive. He neglected me. He prioritized his needs over mine. He didn’t see me, wasn’t interested in me and, to the extent he did see me, he saw me – and treated me – as either a threat or an opportunity to maintain his own self-esteem.
(Note to readers: My parents also were terrific, loving, kind, generous, wise people, people who emerged miraculously from troubled families with far greater generosity, coping skills and capacity to love than anyone could possibly imagine, knowing the details of their provenance. Though my mother died when I was young, my father and I are very close, and not a day goes by that I don’t feel gratitude for all he’s done for me, given to me.)
I re-experience abandonment, neglect, cruelty, all the time. On some level, I’ve constructed this “N” existence as a way to experience all of that away from the rest of my life, where it could be catastrophic. Where it once was catastrophic.
One way of understanding my dominance is as a creative, generative, and hot attempt to achieve mastery over some very basic situations over which I felt utterly powerless as an infant, as a toddler, as a boy, and as a young man.
There’s a great series of five videos called “Young Children in Brief Separation” about the impact on kids of parental absence. It’s not really available on the web, though you can see a teaser of it below. I watched them all once in a class, years ago. The story of John, in particular, resonated with me in ways I still don’t truly understand, but which feel very salient to all of these questions.
Here’s a very brief description of the “John” video:
It feels very… relevant… for me.
And here’s an excerpt from one of the films in the series. Careful. It’s brutal to watch.