I dream about my dad. I dream I am servicing him, and while I do that, I am telling him how worthless he made me feel as a child—that I was just this thing to perform certain actions. That it affected my life.

I wake after that, and I am terrified. I don’t know why—it’s 2:30 in the morning, and it takes me a while to sleep again. But I do sleep, and I sleep well past the alarm.

In the morning, I have waves of the same worthlessness, but it’s more productive. I’m rested, and now I can think.

Worthlessness is just a perception. It’s not a fixed thing. It’s not blueness or tallness. It’s not a quality that is innate to someone. It’s just a social experience. When I remember being abused, I remember that perception. I remember I was worth nothing to the people who hurt me, and the emotion tied up with that is sadness. It is deeply saddening not to be valued, even when you have come to expect it. So what I have to process is just those two things together, the sadness and the perception that I am worth nothing to someone.

It’s not really more complicated than that, but I grew up being told I couldn’t perceive that. My mother was in therapy—I suppose she got it from that and I got it from her, but maybe it’s just in our culture. Maybe it’s just in the air. I grew up being told I had to have confidence, that I should never let anyone make me feel “less than,” that I should believe in myself and if I believed in myself, no one could make me feel unworthy.

If you do that, it is like being unable to see blue. It makes you blind to a certain experience, and in my case, it made me blind to an experience that was happening an awful lot. I couldn’t process it, because I was not allowed to see it.

But, in fact, there are some people who just don’t value others. For them, the entire rest of the species is like a bunch of machines. Human beings are of interest only to the extent that they are able and willing to serve them. Some of these people are really dangerous—like Yuri—and some of them are just petty. I grew up with people like that, and there are always going to be people around me that are like that. Not as many and hopefully not in positions of power, but they are dotted here and there. To those people, I am always worthless. Everyone is.

So my experience of being worthless to my dad and to Yuri, and to some extent my mother, is just a reality. I was worthless to them. It’s like knowing I was abused in my bedroom, that my bedroom had yellow wallpaper. It’s a fact, and it’s part of what happened and part of what needs to be known and understood.

The difficult part is maybe the emotion of it, the sadness and the vast confusion of it. How can I be worthless to them? I’m two years old or six years old or 12 or whatever. What have I done to have no value?

I don’t even like killing spiders. It makes me cry. How is it that they keep almost killing me? So there’s a confusion to it. A total cognitive breakdown, because my mind is just not like that. I have a fully functioning empathy system, and I cannot completely grasp what it is like to be someone who doesn’t have that, whose empathy system is a little bit broken or, in Yuri’s case, entirely broken.

And there’s also a very deep sadness to it. My dad is like that. My dad doesn’t value me. He’s my father, but to him, I’m basically a coffee pot. There is no relationship on his end. I mean, I wouldn’t call that a relationship.

But that’s all.

What I mean is all I have to deal with are those two feelings: sadness and confusion. Then, it’s going to be fine.

Throughout this process, I have learned if I can be with the feelings long enough and at the right “temperature,” with both systems of my brain fully engaged—the “slow” track and the “fast” track—things sort themselves out. There is nothing particular I need to do but monitor the temperature. My brain will come to conclusions that lead to equilibrium and contentment. It seems to be wired to do that. Left to its own devices, when everything is working properly, it will find a way to be happy. The problems happen because things aren’t working properly. The temperature is wrong, and the two systems get disengaged and don’t work together anymore. I stop being able to think, or I think in the absence of emotional information. But if I can keep the temperature right, I will end up content at the end of it. My mind will find a way to be happy regardless of the dreadfulness of the material.

So my dad didn’t love me, and it’s saddening. It’s confusing. But that’s all it is. That’s all I need to do: let the sadness sort itself out, let the confusion sort itself. My dad’s a psychopath, but what I have to do is not more complicated than feel what I feel about the reality of that.