Saturday, July 25, 2009

Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

*Black and white thinking*

I would never presume to understand any of the "Twin Peaks" shows, but I did
see the movie and, according to Wikipedia, Laura Palmer was sexually
molested, raped, and murdered by her father, who was possessed by Bob, some
kind of evil demon thing so he wasn't responsible for what he did to his
daughter. Bob was. He was a good man with a bad man inside him. If only
"possession by evil spirit" was a real explanation for why child abuse

Children are not psychologically able to understand why a parent or other
trusted adult would do bad things to them (many adults are not able to
understand this either, so they blame the child), but you need to make sense
of it somehow. One way is to "split" good daddy, who loves and cares for
you, from bad daddy, who abuses you. Good daddy isn't responsible for what
bad daddy does, so you can keep loving and depending on good daddy. When he
does something bad to you, you blame it on bad daddy. This allows you to
hold contradictory views about someone you care about, and not integrate
their behavior. You don't judge them by the whole of how they act and what
they do; rather, you separate the good from the bad, and focus on one and
disregard the other.

When you learn to see people (and situations) this way, it really affects
your judgment in a negative way (in my experience). For most of my life, I
clung to the things I liked about my dad and the times he was nice to me. I
tried to rationalize away the abuse (he was abused himself, he must be
mentally ill, he drinks too much) or minimize it as not being that bad. I
wanted so desperately to win him back, as I was "daddy's little girl" until
my brother was born. I didn't blame the abuse on him; I blamed it on me. I
saw myself as bad, and I believed that I was triggering bad daddy to come
out. If not for me, he would be good daddy all the time. With my brother, he
was good daddy. I really, truly believed this, which is why it was hard for
me to accept that he was abusive to my brother as well, who I knew was not

This kind of thinking affected my relationships as an adult. If I liked
someone, I disregarded or rationalized away any "bad" behavior, often
blaming it on myself. I routinely ignored red flags. If this kind of
thinking seems childish, it is. I'm learning to see people in a more nuanced
way. I no longer see myself as bad, further, I don't see anyone as "bad" or
"good". As an adult, I don't need to rationalize or understand anyone else's
behavior. I can just leave if they are being crappy to me, an option I
didn't have as a kid.

1 comment:

opal said...

For years I felt this mysterious and crippling terror of my parents. Couldn't understand why. But I'd stuffed the abuse so far down and/or didn't recognize events as being abuse.

When I reached a point where I felt strong enough and safe enough I was finally able to connected the dots.