Saturday, May 3, 2008

Sticks and Stones

As an adult, it seems the most prevalent memories I have from my childhood are negative.

I'm not sure if that's because the majority of events that took place were negative or if it's because the negative makes a bigger impact on memory than good? I think I remember hearing years ago (I'll have to research it) that for every negative experience a child is subjected to, it takes 4 times as many positive experiences to compensate - to provide a balance, if you will.

I've spoken previously about the physical that's gone on and while that's an important part of the person I am today, the things that had the much bigger impact on me (and I'm sure on my siblings as well) was the verbal messages we received. Every day.

At least the physical violence didn't happen every single day.. but the verbal (dare I say) abuse happened daily.

I tried to explain to my husband years ago, when we sought marriage counseling, that just because he tells me that I'm smart, beautiful and a good person... I wouldn't automatically believe it - he had to show me.. which he never seemed capable or willing to do.

Adding up the negativity of years and years of being told:

  • You're stupid!
  • You'll never amount to anything!
  • What am I raising.. a slut?!
  • Whore!
  • Dumbass! Jesus H. Christ you're stupid!
  • You are so irresponsible and lazy!
  • Pig!
  • I can't believe how stupid you are!
  • You know how much you embarrass me!?
  • Once again, another disappointment from you....
  • I wish you'd never been born...

This was and is, very hard for him to grasp. I'm not a person unworthy of being loved - or am I?

I've lived my entire life trying to "make" my parents be proud of me. Just to take back one of the things they used to say daily.

I had been working at a bank. A man came in to make a deposit to his account and I recognized him. He was a man that had worked with my dad for years. I spoke to him briefly and didn't say much more to him.

Fast forward a couple of weeks and this guy came back in and came right to my window. He told me he had mentioned to my dad that, "I ran into ********* at XYZ bank a couple of weeks ago." My dad told him, "Oh yeah... that was my first mistake."

I finished waiting on him and had to excuse myself. My supervisor looked at me and knew something was wrong.. she had said all the color drained from my face. I promptly locked myself in the bathroom... and cried.

Even in my adult life, I have sought to try and gain some kind of acceptance - especially from my father. In the process, I feel as though I don't really know myself. Which to me, is the worst thing of all of this.

I look into the mirror and have no idea of the core that makes up *me*.

The next time someone uses the children's saying:

Sticks and stones may break my bones --- but words will never hurt me.

Tell them how wrong they are.

It should be:

Sticks and stones may break my bones ---- and words will surely haunt me.


Fran said...

I understand what you mean, I have bean insulted and humiliated so many times, and I haven't heart only a compliment from "my parent". When she had to buy a present she brought me the most ugly bag she could find. And I said nothing.
When I was 30 my father talked to me like he used to talk to his dog, my mother wanted to have sex with my man .
I can't forget too, but I made peace with the little girl I was.And I don't see them anymore.

Fran said...

Big Hugs and Have a nice weekend with your husband.

Shiv said...

Sadly it definately seems to be the bad things that stick in our minds. I have a phrase for this: smiles soon fade but scars stay forever.
I feel ya on the verbal abuse, my father was completely full of it! What has helped me so far is to speak to lots of people about what he said and just hear over and over again from them: "that's just not something a stable parent says to their kids!"
Remember, you are what you make of yourself not what they tell you :)

The_Mrs said...

Fran.. again I thank you for coming by. You and me, like so many others have had things done and said to them that we didn't deserve. You have a heart of gold and are a good friend. Thank you! You have a wonderful weekend as well for Monday will be here soon enough. Ugh. Mondays are yuck. XOXOX

@shiv - It does help as I get older and people give me compliments on many different things I do... and the nagging little voice in my head isn't as loud as it once was... but it's still there. Thanks so much for your words of encouragement!

Karen ^..^ said...

Yeah. What people, even abuse victims dont realize is that while this is going on, these are kids that are absorbing all of this negativity from the people they love, look up to and learn from the most. Thier parents. Parents are supposed to be there to trust more than anyone in the world, and when that trust is broken through violence and abuse? It is much harder to heal that sort of hurt. We are taught these negative stories during a time when it doesnt occur to us to doubt what it is they are saying. People think we should "get over it" but how can you unlearn what you learned in your most formative years? It's ingrained. But you can relearn. And you can learn to trust. It is a difficult process, but it can be done. Great post as usual.

I wanted to smack your father upside his head for what he said to that guy, but then again, why did the guy feel the need to share that with you? Was it just that he was so incredulous that your father would say such a thing? Your father must have shown his ass more than he ever realized, because to say such things to acquaintances, is really kind of out there.

The_Mrs said...

Karen - I believe his co-worker thought he was joking as he had a puzzled look on his face when he saw my reaction. You see, to everyone outside of the family, my father was a hard working, respected family man. His children were well behaved, he was married to his high school sweetheart who was a good wife, his house immaculate and his life, from the outside world looking in, was perfect.

Only problem is, we knew better. We just didn't talk about it.

timethief said...

I can identify with what you have written here. In most cases is the father or both parents that are abusive. But, in my case my mother was the emotional, psychological and physical abuser. My father was never abusive towards us children however, he worked away from home so he wasn't even aware of the damage being done.

Know that you are good stuff. You are a quality person and nothing and no one can change that. I'm sending you a HUGE HUG.

JafaBrit's Art said...

I did an art piece related to the issue of sticks and stones because I am in total agreement with you about the power of language.
My feelings are that when someone dismisses an insult, a rude/demeaning comment with the sticks and stones it is a way of invalidating others. It suggests either an indifference, or an ignorance of the power of language, or an unwillingness to address it or they agree with it.

It is the meaning behind the words that can be so detrimental, but some just don't seem to get it.

timbury said...

I hate reading posts like this because I can relate and it makes me sad. I want to reach out to you and I don't even know you. I have no words of wisdom. There's a song I have loved for almost 10 years now, "Good Enough" by Sarah MacLachlan. If you don't know it, please find it and listen to it. Because you are "so much more than good enough." Peace.

SSB said...

I can so relate. My fiance tells me all these things smart, beautiful... and I blow him off I think it irritates him. I think when you are able to talk about it you are ready to heal. May you days be filled from this day on with happiness and sunshine.

Jillian said...

I can't imagine someone not feeling at all bad or guilty about what they put you through. Argh.

Untreatable said...

When I talk to my mom about my childhood I always seem to focus on the negative which bugs the heck out of her. She questions whether I remember anything positive and for the most part I don't. That is not to say there was not any but it is the bad that my memory is focused on.

The old self harm saying of "If you think the scars on the outside are bad then you do not want to see the ones on the inside". Take care

sueke said...

About 3 weeks ago, I got the vacuum out of the hall closet for a little manic cleaning in the early morning. Sounds simple. Right? Well, about half way through my panicky cleaning spree the vacuum began to smoke. The burning smell reduced me to a small scared child. It brought me back to the small dirty apartment that I scrubbed and cleaned under the scrutiny of my step-father while he brutally criticized my every push and pull of the vacuum. Pointing out the places I had missed. The uneven lines I left on the carpet as my small clumsy hands wrestled with the roaring machine. As the vacuum in my own living room continued to smoke and choke all that I could hear were his words "you could fuck up a wet dream". At 30 years old I was actually waiting for him to come walking in the room and berate me for my stupidity. After drying my tears and airing out the house I finally admitted to myself that yes I do believe the things he said about me. This is major step for me I have always held on to the idea that he was a cruel and sadistic man and that I did not believe a word he said. The truth is I did believe him then and still do. My inner child, or core self, is still trying to prove him wrong. Every word i say write think is permeated with the negative messages I was sent as a child. However I am learning painfully and joyously that I do not need the reassurances from others to prove him wrong, I dont need to prove him wrong at all. I don't have to prove him wrong. He was and is wrong. And one day I will know that in my soul as I know it intellectually.

peace love and empathy

Tory said...

Oh, I know what you mean! My abuse was more mental than physical. The physical didn't bother me, I was a tough little native kid and could take a beating standing on my head, but I just don't really know who the core of me is. If you're told something all your life, it's hard to just forget it. My feelings always come back to..'If your own mother can't love me, who can?' This phrase used to go around in my head a lot. But these days I have piece of mind and good relationships. The down side to this is that I feel secure enough to fall apart, knowing my family will love me no matter what. When nobody loved me, I was tough as nails and I needed no one. Weird eh?
Take care
Love Tory

Anonymous said...

Sounds all to familiar. We accept we're damaged. We learn to live with it. Or we don't. Not much of a choice really. It's lose-lose.

Mushy said...

I'm so glad you are getting this all out.

It took me years to realize I was the only one I must please.

jOolian said...

so dreadful yet yer rawwwk'n through... yes, you are hitting it head-on and prevailing. ...always know you will prevail. you have surely proven so. best-o-best mrs.

Mike1MB said...

God, this so sounds like my wife. Her parents ruined her. she still says her father told her in his last words to her, "you're my biggest disappointment." I guess we're made for each other, because I lived up to all my father's expectations, never can do anything right. He's been dead almost 40 years and I'm still fighting with him. Hours with shrinks explaining why "I don't want to" and "there must be some kind of ambition button, that I was born without?

I don't guess any of us will ever get over it. But the rest of my family (all sisters) have developed a phrase over the years:



Dee said...

Jesus this made me so angry. I never lived with my father and when my friends were living their traditional family (mom, dad and kids) life my mother always told me to be happy I didn't have him around. She was right.

Never mind we are here. did you read what CNN said about blogging. Blogging can be Group Therapy

The Blogger Exposed said...

I've been catching up on your blog tonight and must say this is an amazing post. Well-written and so very true.

Kerry said...

My father was more of a mental abuser as well, but I found a way to combat it. Basically have self confidence in yourself and believe that your father is a no talent piece of shit who gets off on seeing pain in others. If you take this realization and continue to deny him the satisfaction of seeing such it gets easier on you over time.

Of course it is also easier if you replace a lot of the hopeless feelings with anger at the abuser. Now that you are grown you have to realize your dad was just ignorant, so try not to hate him too much unless he still is as ignorant. If he still is limit the amount of contact you have with him. Counselling may help as well.

In my personal case I confronted my father when I was 12 and told him he can either play nice from now on or I would kick his ass here and now if he keeps up the BS(I was a big kid). He said he didn;t realize what he was doing and tried to play nice most of the time(it still came up but just not as badly).

Glen said...

I tried for many years to please my father. When I realized it would never happen I focused on pleasing my self.I'm the one person that I have to live with til the day I die.
we all want a parents approval but some times they may have their own demons to deal with.