assholes · fucktard repetition · Onward and upward · Re-enactment · Repetition compulsion · whore

Legacies of Neglect

What I remember of my dad was that he was always gone. I could not rely on him to be home, and when he was, I could no rely on him to be a stable, steady influence. Sometimes he was in a good mood, sometimes he wasn’t.

I’m still mining my latest romantic disaster for childhood healing. The familiarity of neglect was strong, and even as I write how my dad was, this is an exact replay of how this latest man was…distant, unreliable, hot and cold. It made me wonder how he ever ended up in a relationship with anyone, and again, I look to my dad’s pattern to learn about men. My dad married someone with whom he could forge an extremely superficial relationship. As I struggle to grasp what that means I think it means a relationship based on appearances and not things of substance, such as true compassion, self-reflection, or relational values. Both he and his wife abandoned their families, their children, so they could come together and worship things. They have no relationship to speak of with their children…no Thanksgivings, or Christmases, or birthdays. No celebration of family but a life lived in celebration of things. These materialistic values hold them together and they miss a whole other part of life….the part of humanity and real love.

But there is still a little girl inside of me who wants my father’s love. She has starved herself, bent herself into emotional pretzel shapes, made herself very small and needless and obsequious, so she could be non-threatening enough to win her father’s love. She has transferred this same longing to men in her life, and has chosen men who are materialistic and unavailable and unreliable like her father. Over and over, she tried to bend to accommodate the wishes of men, to guess what they wanted and second guess herself.

Lately, this little girl has been blended with my inner system in an attempt to heal. I have had a lot of trouble letting go of the latest unavailable man, a real asshole after all. One of the biggest indicators of being an asshole is that they SAY they’re not an asshole. They SAY they’re not runners. They SAY they want words and actions to match. But they don’t actually DO what they say. In fact, they do the opposite then deflect blame to you. I’m mad and want to tell him off, and I might call him up for coffee to say what needs to be said. I’m sad and rejected and want to apologize (for nothing, really) and make up with him and “get Daddy’s love” this time. These parts of me are important, and they remind me, it wasn’t just my dad, it was that neglect causes cycles and ripples of neglect everywhere.

My mom worked so hard to please my inconsistent dad. She worked all day long, even longer, while my dad was gone “working”. When she caught my dad cheating, a whole cascade of events was set into place and I remember my mom, my young mom, making some decisions out of the pain of her heart, out of her grief and hunger to heal. She would look for healing in other men. I remember one time she was at a lover’s house in the 1978 red Grand Prix with white leather interior she had bought with money from selling the cattle on the farm. My brother and I watched as she went into this guy’s apartment. I don’t know how long we were in the car, but it must have been some time because my brother and I had time to have a “Coke fight” and coat the insides of the car with sticky, sweet Coca-Cola. We had to have been 7 and 8 years old. Somehow my mom found a towel and was pissed off.

But we were just spectators, pushed out of our own life and into hers, along for the ride.

I was introduced to porn at another lover’s house once we moved to Ohio. He had a stack of magazines two feet high in the bathroom. My mom would take us over to his house and leave us to our own devices while she shut the bedroom door and spent time with him. Of course my dad was nowhere around, and in the wake of his considerable violence, I had never considered that no one was taking care of me or my brother.

Yet somehow I felt tightly held and the need to make myself small. Again, these threads of memory- being exiled, being left out, being not seen, being criticized, numbing out- carry through so many situations and become the parts that narrate my adult situations. So that when I am loved and cared for, it doesn’t register the way it would for someone else. And I can absolutely tie any romantic disaster back to a childhood moment, or feeling, or sometimes even a memory.

My mom’s story is inextricably linked to mine, as hers is to my grandmother’s. The horrors we suffered at the hands of men and the ways we tried to adapt are written in our bones. Our new stories await, in the lives of my daughters and in the ways we heal. I have repeated, to a certain degree, these moments of disconnection and neglect with my own children, by choosing men who were not available, and by choosing the needs of men over my children’s needs. I spent a whole marriage choosing a man’s needs over my children’s, and that created disconnection and grief for my children and myself. I sacrificed years of our lives to a controlling man, believing his beliefs about my unworthiness and setting a shitty example for my daughters.

No more. The legacy of neglect gets healed here.


4 thoughts on “Legacies of Neglect

  1. Ann, I agree and disagree with your advice. I believe in trauma, learning to handle the triggers is what helps us heal. If you’ve done any IFS, you know it is not a conventional approach and platitudes such as “take a break” are not suited for everyone. I agree that the insight or awareness is not the same as inner work, but it helps ground me in reality so I can do my deep grieving work. I am not publishing your comment because it carries a tone of shame, something many of my readers are trying to heal from. Thank you for your feedback…I recognize you are trying to help and appreciate it.


  2. Ann, I agree and disagree with your advice. I believe in healing from trauma, learning to handle the triggers is what helps us heal. If you’ve done any therapy, then you know platitudes such as “take a break” are not suited for everyone. I agree that the insight or awareness is not the same as inner work, but knowing exactly what is going on from an intellectual standpoint helps ground me in reality so I am set up to do my deep grieving work. I am not publishing your comment because it carries a tone of shame and blame, the effects of which Psycholobitch readers are trying to heal from. In trauma, we do not create our pathology any more than we created our eye color but we still have to heal, and some of us don’t have the luxury of removing ourselves from our abusers (as is the case with divorcing a narcissist and family court serving as a proxy to abuse). Thank you for your feedback…I recognize you are trying to help but please keep in mind those healing from dysfunction would do better being supported to trust their own perspectives and instincts, and be validated in their feelings.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. l’m sorry- but I believe you totally misinterpreted my comment: your pathology was created FOR you, sadly- generally by abusers during childhood, totally against your will. As you know, abuse victims often attempt to master their abuse, choosing similar types of abusers over and over again – reliving the anguish, but generally healing nothing. There is no judgment or shame involved- it is simply a behavioral truth.
    If you had a horrible burn on your arm, I doubt you would feel that thrusting your hand into a fire was therapeutic. In many cases, making the decision not to date while healing from trauma is a very valuable tool- it gives you space and time to learn healthier choices, while allowing you to feel comfortable without a relationship. It’s hard to heal your “burn” when you continue burning yourself…and sadly, abuse victims frequently burn themselves over and over with their choices of men. Choosing to take time off from dating isn’t a punishment- it is a way to take your power back, and not simply move from one pain to the next, never really feeling your own value or will.

    I certainly respect your right to live your own life- I have read your posts and felt your pain. But please remember that others have walked similar roads and found healing…and generally, ideas are given with a pure heart, in hopes of helping you break patterns and see the forest for the trees. Sometimes it’s difficult to see that our choices are mired by our pain when we are deep in it.
    And all of this is said with love and respect, from one sister to another, from one survivor to another.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I appreciate your clarifying and you are right, I did misinterpret your comment. I admit I got triggered not because of your personal advice, but because that is a piece of advice given often to women who are trying to make their way through. I imagine it is painful to watch someone “thrust their hand into the fire” over and over when there is a more sensible option. I hear the hope in your comment too…that there is healing on the other side. Thank you for your compassion.
    I have at times made the decision not to date, and I’ve also used dating as a tool for healing…for being able to create corrective experiences and get stronger that way. It took a long time to bin to look to myself as my own liberator, as you know that does take time. Blessings and I apologize for my lack of understanding.


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