Love in Disguise
“One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.” Carl G. Jung.
In my family growing up there was no hiding from the darkness, the shadow of addiction, abuse, narcissism and self-hatred. This was at our family’s core. The abuse that was being played out within my family dynamics kept me awake night after night, knowing I was going to be bullied or victimised. Sharing a home with adults who hold the power and responsibility but who care only about themselves creates a dynamic of co-dependency as the backdrop to the day to day life.
Co-dependency is rife. Globally children are held hostage to parents who have usually been the victim themselves of ongoing abuse by their own parents. The cycle continues until it is brought out into the light.
The child in a co-dependent household doesn’t or isn’t allowed to be the child. The child’s feelings or needs are less important than those of the adult who are infact dealing with their own broken inner childhood. The children of co-dependent families operate from a place of ultra-high vigilance, or hyper sensitivity, tracking every moment and movement of the adults within the home in-case they need to shape shift and become someone they need to be to get through the next catastrophe within the home.
I was sworn to secrecy by my mother about my father’s Bi-polar disorder. I was also threatened that anything that went on in our home was our business and not to be shared with anyone else regardless of its impact. Luckily, I didn’t agree with this and told children that I trusted. I was in the minority living daily being persecuted at home. The other kids in my primary school suffering would come in bruised, sad or depressed, crying, or using alcohol and smoking as early as 6 years old to cope with their parent’s violence. Often it is the case that children who are bullied at home go on to become bullies themselves.
Bullied Becomes The Bully
I will admit to this process happening to me. I was constantly bullied and learnt this behaviour and then became a bully myself. My first week at secondary school was hell. I was a timid, fearful kid who lived in a big house. I had no older brothers to take care of me, I was a sitting duck. I was targeted by other kids at school to be broken. Each day during those first weeks someone wanted to fight me. Each night I would fight for my life after school and it just so happened, I kept winning. This went on for several years. Eventually I became the toughest kid in my school. I remember as a 12-year-old being beaten up by the toughest kid in another local school before I went to see my girlfriend. I waited 7 years before I beat him within minutes of his life for what he had done to me years before. I’m not proud of this, but this was the man I had become through years of abuse.
Light Bulb Moment
It wasn’t until I found myself in jail one night from a fight in Wolverhampton, England that I decided I wanted to change the paradigm I was in. I was 19 years old, my two friends and I had been let out of the police cells at 6am with a warning and no police caution. I had those precious few hours to myself in the police cell to reflect on the nature of violence and the life of crime I was hurtling towards at a rapid pace.
I wanted to be a teacher and I had been accepted to work at Trails End Camp in Pennsylvania, USA, on a scheme called BUNAC. You couldn’t go with a criminal record. The light bulb went on thankfully in that prison cell… this life that I had become part of through the upbringing I had had needed one person to change it…ME… On the bus home I vowed to my two best friends I would never fight again. They laughed at me. That was the beginning of a new life for me. I never hit or fought another person again after that night in the police cell. I went on to teach children and adults for the next 24 years. I am very grateful I chose and fought to overcome the violence and abusive lifestyle I had become accustomed too.
Choices To Speak Out
“There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but one must take it because one’s conscience tells one what is right.” Martin Luther King Junior.
This is exactly why I’m telling my story of abuse. The abused and the abuser are one and the same. By telling my story if it frees one other person as well as myself to speak out and make a stand for themselves then it’s worth me telling my story… Fear of ramifications of telling our stories comes with the baggage of “what if” and fear of being “ridiculed” for something that has deeply affected our lives… why would one not tell their story if it had such a huge impact, good or bad it’s the legacy that person has had to carry.
Regards to my own family those before me and those after me in the blood line will inherit the karma consciously or unconsciously of our family. There is hope though, if one person makes the stand to say NO to abuse then there is a chance for real change and new possibilities to occur in the family constellation. Change is not easy though and demands our full attention and determination as old patterns are hard to undo.
We are currently in May 2020 and into the second month of most countries being in lock down due to Coronavirus mania. I feel for all those unhealthy families and children who will be suffering at the hands of their parent’s abusive actions. There will be many who will be scared for life during these weeks of lockdown. I cannot think of a worse scenario for children who are unhappy within their families.
The Beating Of My Life
I was 11 years old. One Friday night I had some older boys around to my house as my parents always went to the pub with my grandad. We drank some of my father’s alcohol which he had brought back from Spain. They all left by 11pm I had tided up and left no trace in the house. My father and mother would be back around 11.45pm. I was tipsy lying in my bed, nervous that they may find out but also feeling happy. I was very good at covering up my tracks so as not to upset my parents. I had been regularly taking alcohol from their cupboards for years without them knowing.
Little did I know that one of the bottles of alcohol had been smashed on my dad’s driveway… My father minutes later charged into my room smashing the door off its hinges. He then smashed my TV, radio, all of my drawers. He literally smashed everything in my room. I was frozen in my bed… sitting up watching this whirlwind of a man in my bedroom. The bedroom is a place most people regard as a safe place. He threw me against the wall and started punching me in my head with his fists. He knocked me unconscious for a few seconds before I recovered to hold my head and protect myself. He continued to punch me in the back of my head. I was completely numb by the time he stopped. He started to cry telling me how I had made him do it. That day cemented a deep sense of loss for me. I felt I had lost my father or the part of a father I had grown to love. The relationship could not be salvaged. The next day my head was badly bruised with lumps all over the back of my head. He sat me down on the sofa down stairs and lectured me with my mother sitting listening and the topic he chose was trust. He warned me that if I let anyone in the house again or stole anything, he would call the police on me and have me taken away. I agreed to not do anything bad again. I hadn’t slept at all that night; I had laid in my bed in terror all night long. A few months later the back of my hair turned grey and has stayed grey for the rest of my life. I dowsed the reason for my hair turning grey. It did indeed point to the reason for my hair going grey due to this rampage of violence from my father. The abuse over 10 years from 3 – 13 years old was relentless in my family. I could tell countless stories that would indeed make your hair stand on end. But I feel I’ve wrote enough for you the reader to have a flavour of what it was like to survive the tyranny I suffered.
As I reflect on why I am telling this story now, this is how I see it. Bullying and persecution in my family was the norm. I went into life as an adult in fear. The fear becomes an embodiment of how one sees the world through fearful eyes. It took me 20 + years of personal growth and self-discovery to work through the karma of my family. I don’t know what I have done in previous lives but my thought Is it must have been pretty horrific to get dealt the hand I was given. I have done everything I personally can to release myself from the shackles of suffering I experienced as a child. This feels like the last move for me in speaking out my truth without fear of being sanctioned or persecuted for it. As we move into the age of censorship as the norm, I vowed to have my say. I have chosen to love my family from a distance as I grow old. We are on different paths. Years in therapy has taught me this – we are only able to change our own actions and our own behaviours. Banging my head against the wall trying to get others around me to change was both exhausting and pointless.
My family have shown very little willingness to understand the impact of their behaviour. Why would they… They know only what has been the norm, the status quo. My parents are still alive and well, I’m happy to say, and regardless to what happened with them I love them very much. My intention is not to hurt them but to free all of us from the abuse that happened within our family for so many years. Collusion around family secrets and what goes on behind closed doors can be a deadly poison that often takes the whole system down with it. I whole heartedly believe that bringing my story out into the open long term will only serve the greater good for my family structure and for those that read this, helping them to also find their voice. Suppression and repression lead to the same place. Our back stories have to come out in order to wake up and make significant changes, so why not do it with love and integrity at the core through radical and unflinching transparent honesty…this is my way.
Creating safe and supportive boundaries are key to living well in the wake of families full of toxicity and co-dependency. My family’s behaviours have marred my life through the lenses of narcissism, physical, phycological and verbal abuse, as well as mental illness and alcoholism. Those boundaries I require for ongoing communication and building a new paradigm of relating with my family needs to be strong and resilient, with the possibility of the light to shine through if the dynamics of a new way of relating is to follow. I am hopeful but not fixed on the possibilities for real change. All I wish for myself and my family is to be respected on my own terms of what’s ok and not ok. Ultimately only I can decide that for myself as a 46-year-old man who has survived a tyranny of family abuse. Anything else propels our relationships back into the place of me being the victim and a relationship that is indeed in the old paradigm power struggle of the parent and child abusive relationship. I’d prefer and will choose an adult way of relating from a place of respect, being honoured and treated with dignity. My niece a 15-year-old having her own inner struggles recently said to me, “Neil I’m the child why are you behaving like this?” Maybe if she can take the time to read my story with an open heart, she may be willing and able to understand that the child within all humans regardless to their physical age can be damaged possibly for a life time… I’m hoping my message is received as it was intended; to be supportive, to educate, to open doors to healing. By sharing my story my hope is for more compassion, empathy and understand for all.
I am grateful for the life that my parents gave to me.
I am grateful I am still alive.
I am grateful I can choose how I respond to life.
I am grateful I can be myself without feeling guilty anymore or wrong for being myself.
I am grateful for the choices I have made to work with families in a healthy way to heal myself.
I am grateful for the life lessons I have had.
I am grateful that I have my own life in my own hands.
Gratitude, Love and Acceptance.