I wrote half a post yesterday and wandered off. Who knows if it involved any useful ideas. My head is a jumble today. My friends are at the march, and I am all achy and stayed home. Maybe I shouldn’t have, but here I am.
I had a chat with sister’s younger half-sister this morning about boys, and she said C has a “lover.” I don’t really know what it means when people use this kind of vocabulary in Country X. The girl didn’t either. She is 13. C is 15. C knows what it means, and has told me this means they are having sex. I don’t think C actually is. The thought is alarming to me, but my alarm doesn’t make it more or less real. I actually just don’t know.
I do think C is deeply ashamed of her sexuality, and it is likely to be split off from the rest of her personality, which makes her vulnerable and less likely to be aware of other things she thinks and feels when she is having sexual feelings. That scares me, but I can’t do anything.
This connects to something more important about attachment. When we have an attachment, that person’s view remains a part of us all the time. Sometimes we want to connect to our attachment figure because we want to check that the “I” we feel when we are with them is still there. We are not checking to see if they are still there so much as checking we are still there in their minds.
This is something I have been thinking a lot about.
I know I do this with C, and if she had the courage she would reach out to me for the same reason. At its most basic, the “I” I connect to in her mind is one that is loveable. Early on in our relationship, I was struck by how she came running full-tilt out of her classroom with math work to show me because for three days I had been reminding her I wanted to check it.
To an extent, I was just doing what I considered to be my job. She had a question, I tried to answer it, the success of my communication around her question lay in her work and I had not seen it. I needed to follow up and see if the communication between us was a success.
That’s me. Just trying to do my job. Taking kids’ educations seriously, because each child is important. That feels good. She came running because it felt good to matter like that. I didn’t take this in at the time, but what is there to be understood from her behaviour is that I am loveable. When I reconnect to C, I reconnect to C’s view of me—that I am loveable.
I have to wade through a lot of stuff to actually feel this, of course, among them the sense that this can’t be possible and that I can only be an object—that someone can be happy with me only when I behave as an object. I have to deal with the distortions as they come up. But that sense of myself as loveable is there underneath it all, and in every interaction with C, I have to confront my loveableness in some way.
It is hard to bring this back to the first idea—that attachment creates resilience—because it is so painful. When I try to hold C’s view of me in my mind, that I am loveable, and I juxtapose it with my dad’s sexual abuse of me, I feel so much grief it is unbearable. Her view of me, as someone loveable, makes it clear I should not be exploited or used or treated as an object. She does sometimes treat me as an object, actually, because she is trying to get her own needs met and lacks the ability to trust you need to go about this directly. I don’t mean to idealize our relationship.
Still, exploitation is basically incompatible with the warm feeling of being loveable and likeable, and it is in sharp contrast to someone who might see you as a means to an end. So I want C to have my mind in her mind, and I want her to see her sexuality as positive, so that she does not have to put me and her feeling of being a loveable person out of her mind when it comes to issues of sex. I want her to have that feeling with her as she matures: if someone treats me as an object and ignores her inner world, then something is wrong with that person and that relationship.
I grew up with the opposite: if I cannot allow myself to be an object, if it is so painful that I rebel or resist, then I am wrong, or maybe if I am treated as an object, then something is wrong with me. I know C did too—whether she has been sexually abused or not, she has been treated as an object whose inner life is bad and wrong.