Life – Terror. Ecstasy. Fight. Denial. Flight. Failure. PAIN. Forgiveness. Reconciliation. Hope. Love. Peace – Death.
You don’t know me ’cause I’m from a different age
And you can’t see me ’cause I live in a different age
And you can hurt me but you wouldn’t know what to say
But you should believe me, our dreams are all the same
a life without love
that’s just insane
But a love without a life
Well, that just happens everyday
And I wish I could change, but I’ll probably just stay the same
Whilst reflecting upon my life, especially now, nearer to death, I cannot ignore how things that happened to me as a child, growing up, have affected my adult me.
The last thing I want is to try to pass the buck, blaming others for my own failures, inadequacies…, to offer excuses for my selfishness and weaknesses. I am not judging anybody, myself included.
Many of my previous posts have examined my earlier life.
My parents, of a certain age, came from a different time, a time of different circumstances, opportunities, cultures, expectations and emotional behaviours. Things were different then and different for them.
Within my upbringing my parents often found themselves (just) coping rather that nurturing. Mum was perpetually ill, not capable of much more than basic care, sometimes not even that.
Others, (Dad, Carol, little Ant) were expected and did do much of mums ‘work’ for her. Dad had served and survived active WW2 service. He never talked much about his past, his parents, his childhood nor the war.
He never really talked about himself at all.
He couldn’t/wouldn’t/didn’t reveal himself? Certainly not to his children and I suspect not to his partner.
Mum treated him badly, abusively sometimes violently. Somehow, he put up with it (for our sakes)? Despite this, I believe that he maintained his love for her? I Base this upon his reactions, his emotional state after she had died and when close to his own death.
Has any (all) of this, my parents, my life growing up, affected me, in my life my now, and throughout my life, my emotional (and physical) well-being?
Yes, I believe it has
Neither of my parents ever told me that they loved me? Those words were never uttered to me (or my sister). Mum often told me I was unintended, unplanned ‘a mistake’, ‘I didn’t want you, you know’? Usually followed by a drunken rendition of ‘My Boy Lollypop’ expressing her undying love for me!
This would usually take place at the bottom of the stairs, late at night, Mum, drunk after returning from the pub, highly emotional, broken and lost. Disturbing mine, Carols and Dads sleep. I hated it. It made me cry and when the crying stopped, angry.
Close friends (its hard to ask just friends), friends of a similar age to myself, friends who also have older parents of a similar age with similar circumstances to ours…. some of them say the same, that their parents never told them they loved them? A characteristic of that generation? War wounds? Or just plain old failure on their part?
Come to think of it, growing up I never once remember mum and dad displaying any open affection towards each other. Not a single kiss or a cuddle.
However, despite never confirming it (saying so) I know, ‘beyond all reasonable doubt’ that they loved me, loved us. I know this from their actions. Love is expressed in many ways? Actions speak louder than words?
Some normal, expected things did not happen for me in my childhood. Other things unexpected, not so normal, did, sometimes terrible things. Arguably, some of those were unavoidable, beyond anyone’s control. Dictated by circumstances. Ill Health. Uncontrollable, self-determining, poor health. Savage and cruel as ill health does not only affect the afflicted.
Learnt behaviour – Emotional Ignorance (neglect)
‘Eventually’, we all become our parents? To a certain extent this is true? I, now, recognise so much of my dad in me, and even a fair bit of my mum (based upon what others, family, Carol have told me about her)?
Physically, it is beyond doubt, I have become my dad. At least a version of him, he was much more handsome, especially in his younger years. Unfortunately, the dominant things I seem to have of mum is her poor health.
Family life is essentially a rehearsal for the next generation. Each generation is another piece in a long chain of life we inherit and pass on to our children.
As humans, we are relational beings.
While you cannot point to the specific behaviours of your parents (or partner) that makes you feel unloved and affect your self-esteem; not being attended to, or responded to appropriately and in a timely manner affects both children and adults.
Inadvertently, the lack of attentiveness and responsiveness, speaks volumes if your feelings and emotional needs don’t matter? In children, this translates into ‘you don’t or didn’t matter’. You are a mistake.
Emotional ignorance was common for ‘our’ parents
Born out of a World War. Young children forced before their time into becoming adults. Young adults who suddenly had to be more strong, more responsible, more resilient, emotionally impenetrable, simply to survive. Right or wrong there were more pressing priorities.
Emotional neglect is not exclusive to my generation or my parents generation. It happens within families today. Relentless pace of life and lifestyle, huge (unrealistic) expectations residing within a cruel, judgemental society.
Most parents love their children?
Most adults love their partners?
It is not about love or the lack of love. It is about bringing to the forefront something that we may not be aware of, and about acting it. I failed as I never came to terms or considered my past and that has affected my partner and my children.
Can LOVE be wordless?
My parents never said ‘I love you’ because they were loving me since the day I was born with their ACTIONS. It was not even a conscious thought or decision, it was automatic, intuitive, reflex and unlimited.
To them (Dad) actions spoke volumes and expressed their love much louder than any words. To them I was their pride and joy. Mostly, everything they did for me was because they loved me.
It is certainly true for myself, no amount of words can fully express the love or the joy I currently FEEL for my new-born grandson.
Can LOVE be wordless?
Yes, but why should it be? Why not say it? It helps, it helps everybody if you say it? If you find this hard, then learn? Learn how to say I love you, say it often and say it like you mean it. Mean it.
I fear that my own emotional inadequacies will affect my children and their children. The way families transmit their traditions and behaviours is through ‘family script’s.
Life Scripts describe the acceptable ways to behave, speak, and even think. It is essentially the shared expectation of how life should be. Scripts can be as specific as the preferred way to wash the dishes and as big as how we fight or how we express intimacy, disappointment and extreme anger.
Generally, there are three types of scripts:
replicative, corrective, and improvised.
The replicative script is one you repeat from your family of origin, consciously or unconsciously. For example, the way you clean your house, cook Sunday dinner, make ‘Scouse’, the family policy around TV watching and so forth.
These are usually behavioural scripts that are experienced as preferable or positive when we are children. Other times, people replicate behaviours or attitudes they originally disliked, often as an unconscious way to be “loyal” to their parents: by replicating their family-of-origin script, they are essentially communicating to their parents that their behaviour is so desirable that their children should replicate it, too?
For example, many people find themselves saying things to their children that they hated to hear as children. ‘oh my, ‘I am turning into my dad’, or ‘turning into my mother’!
Corrective scripts occur when a person consciously chooses to do things very differently, or even as far as the opposite from the scripts they experienced growing up.
Others act out corrective scripts by “running away” geographically, religiously, or economically from where they grew up. People try to “run away” from their inherited scripts in many ways. They may move to the other side of the world. They may change their names. They may even convert or become more religious. Some even cut off ties with their family altogether.
Improvised scripts are born out of necessity (new reality or new technology) or out of curiosity. They are not a replication or a correction of the past. They are new and often spontaneous, intuitive. In these scripts, each partner must withstand anxiety and uncertainty as they initiate a new script for their family life.
No matter how much we think we are “not like our parents” or you will do things differently, scripts, the scars of and their influence on us don’t (easily) go away. Most of our relationship behaviours are inherited. The best way to change our behaviour is to own the scripts you inherited and improvise on them.
I was very late to the party with this.
Being a parent who is enmeshed (emotionally lacking), whether this was due to my own past, conscious or subconsciously means that it’s (more) possible that your own children will grow up learning certain things from your focus and behaviour that you would never want them to learn? In the extreme, your children could feel empty, lost inside because they never learned how to take responsibility for how they were feeling?
Emotionally inept parents (for whatever reason) whether it be by consequence or circumstances often refuse, or are not able to take responsibility for their behaviour or their feelings. … Even though you want to defend yourself against it, inside you may secretly still feel responsible for things that had nothing to do with you. Those ‘bad’ things happened to you because you ‘deserved them’.
This can lead to mental health issues and other problems later in life. For example, I have had times in my own life when I have considered whether it was my fault that mum was sick all the time, was I a bad baby, did my difficult birth damage her, is that why she didn’t love me? Was it all my fault?
I don’t believe mum was consciously (emotionally) neglecting. She was (just) unavailable for much of the time, (both physically and emotionally). Eventually, she did not have the capacity to even be a mum?
Ultimately, she wasn’t able (or willing?) to pick up on cues for attention, for love? I do (did) blame her for that. She also lacked the ability to communicate on any kind of an emotional level unless she was intoxicated and then she did not say the things she meant to say, at least in any kind of reasonable and constructive way. An area I have struggled with myself.
Over time, as I have matured, encountering challenges in my own life where I have questioned myself, my emotions, my decisions, my mistakes and the hurt I have caused others by my actions I have accepted the impact my early life has had on my emotional well-being. Not an excuse, we all have choices and I sometimes made bad choices but, a factor.
Within the wider context – in and outside of our life scripts, some families have access to much more refined scripts than others. For some their scripts, their life opportunities are low, some even lower than that! The prospects of too many people are still too closely tied to their parents’ social status, ethnic origin, colour, race rather than their own potential.
Increases in (access to) education and health care and opportunity, from generation to generation have grew over the last half-century but now are beginning to stall again which has real consequences for growth, inequality and poverty today and for the next generations. We are seeing worrying signs of a return to elitist only access (especially to education), but also; housing, health care, employment and social security.
Doesn’t everyone deserve a (fair) chance?
My boy Lollipop
You make my heart go giddy-up
You set the world on fire
You are my one desire, Oh, my Lollipop
I love you, I love you, I love you so
But I don’t want you to know
I need you, I need you, I need you so
And I’ll never let you go
I Need you, I need you, I need you so
‘I love my mum’
Thanks for reading.