It’s an odd day. I almost feel like it’s time to stop processing and begin doing. Then I think about the backlog and I sit here and ponder more.
I was reading about attachment styles the other day. I haven’t been a fan of that kind of view in the past. It’s terribly simplistic and it’s also sort of a dead end. It has a “Now what?” quality to it. But I have always figured I have a disorganized attachment style. I had an eight or nine year disaster of a relationship that began in college and I spent a lot of time trying to revive something dead from the first three months, but our attachment styles played a part in the couples therapy. No one ever said I had a disorganized attachment style. It seems to me the therapist always assumed mine was anxious-avoidant, but that is not it. I have been thinking of it partly because of C and partly as a revisit of my life now that I have a new perspective. You know, so that there are fewer disconnected ideas and experiences in my head. It speeds things up later when your life is partly pre-digested.
Anyway, the disorganized one develops when no particular strategy works in maintaining connection to the parent, and you mainly do weird things. The thing about this style is it is terrifying to your children. This was my mother’s own attachment style. She threatened suicide, screamed, threw things, hit people….She abused me and my sister physically and emotionally, but she was also simply dramatic and unpredictable and scary.
I suppose I was reminded of it because of my memory of the terror of my dad’s fake “surgeries.” I was so terrified I was disorganized in my response. Well, it seems my mother probably was too. I do not know what her particular trauma might have been in childhood—clearly she had some trauma issues—but she lived with a psychopath who did all manner of bizarre things to us. Something was up.
I was also thinking I have noticed that I get scared of something and sometimes, if C happens to be on my mental horizon, I get controlling. I feel anew my responsibility to protect her. I (unconsciously) start worrying about pieces. I start thinking I have to protect her more. It’s creepy to me actually, but usually it plays out in a way that she is protected from. She does not know it is happening. But it seems to be part of human nature. You feel scared, you try harder to control.
Sometimes, as you try harder to exert control, the person you are trying to control also feels threatened and responds aggressively or at the least rebelliously. I’m thinking of me as a child with a frightening, unpredictable violent mother. She feels frightened of something, gets controlling, I respond to the control by defying her or even verbally attacking her. She is scaring me. I respond to her as though she is a threat. She is now more frightened, and reality really begins to slip here for her. She goes deeper into a dysregulated state, and becomes angry and then punishing towards me or towards herself.
That was the dynamic. Two dysregulated people. One of them in actual danger (me). One of them in imagined danger she can’t regulate herself out of responding to.
I cannot imagine doing to a child what she did to me. I would get all the help I could get until I started to being able to cope well enough to stop frightening the child. But she is not evil in the way my father was. She lacks, maybe, the motivation or the conscience to really take the steps she needed to take to get better. She lacks something I have, because I behaved badly with C and said never again and intensified my efforts to tackle the trauma. Maybe she lacked a realistic sense that you cannot just annihilate yourself and start fresh. You are stuck being who you are, issues and all, and you’d better just work on them if you have people who depend on you. I don’t know.
I understand this one thing: the dysregulation. Maybe I even understand being so angry you want to annihilate yourself.
But the other stuff? No, I can’t grasp it. I can’t understand her either.