I wrote a post about a month ago perhaps about my dad’s murders, and how I had come to understand them as an attempt at communicating his inner state through his actions. His lack of mentalizing created a dead world inside him, devoid of people or relationships. This lack of development made it seem to him as though only actions could speak, and also that if he controlled the actions of people around him, he could understand their intentions.
His inner wasteland made him crave the relief of connection and intimacy, and so he needed someone small and unthreatening to communicate to, someone he could create an illusion of communication with by controlling their actions.
His stalled mentalizing development occurred because of the malignancy of his first object–his mother, who was schizophrenic. He could not think about her mind or later minds, because it created an untenable loop in his head: she wants to hurt me, but I don’t want to comply and be hurt. And yet I need the support of an alliance.
I feel he was expressing his inner states in other situations as well. I came home tonight and I began to react to coming home, which I seem to be doing lately, and I wanted to reach out and immediately felt a sense of disgust.
I thought, “I am bad.” The thing is I used to be unable to stay with this, because it’s such a horrible way to feel. This is what I mean by “lack of symbolic control.” I was not able to consider my feeling states. I could move past them, but not think about them.
So this time I thought about it, and I thought this is what I expect: I expect if I move closer to someone, they will do something that will make me feel ashamed or disgusted. I thought about one reader’s comment about expecting exploitation. Yes, that would feel shameful and disgusting.
This felt like my dad. There may be “mother” connections to this to0, but it first felt like my dad. I thought there may be many reasons men sexually exploit and abuse their daughters, but I think he was communicating by making me feel what he felt. He was communicating a sense of disgust and evil within himself. This would have come from his own disorganized attachment–I don’t know how what transpired exactly with his mother–I do know his father verbally abused him, but he was very focused on young girls. I think he wanted to tell his mother how bad he felt.
When a caretaker is unable to “mark” their expressions in such a way that the baby understands it is his own emotion being mirrored, rather than his mother’s, then distortions in mentalizing develop in the child. Feelings seem to be like magic, just spreading into other people by virtue of his having them. This is psychic equivalence. Thoughts are real.
If the child is distressed, and this distress appears to magically jump to the parent, rather than being acknowledged and moved on from towards helping, then the baby may form distorted view of themselves as being capable of inflicting pain on other people via his very existence. He feels both powerful and evil. This will especially be sustained if this is how feeling states seem to the parent–if her own mentalizing ability makes her unable to see her mind as an arbiter of her own experience.
That’s what my dad was communicating to me: a sense of being both evil and all-powerful, but also disgusting and unwanted, which I think probably had to do with his mother’s rejection and contempt for him.
You might think it wouldn’t be helpful for me to consider my dad’s intentions in abusing me, but it makes a difference to me. It puts things to rest in that way you can stop humming the same tune because you finally remember the rest of it. It also makes the “badness” not me, but something I felt. It reduces it from identity to information.
It makes my dad’s actions something like words: I can read words and not have them become me. I can remember the blood all over me, and understand the blood wasn’t me. I won’t ever forget how it felt to have the blood there on me, but it lightens its sense of permanence.
There is something about horror which feels permanent: it is so cognitively overwhelming, so confusing, so emotionally powerful, it feels impossible to move on from. The image of it happening springs up and you feel rooted to the spot in shock all over again. But it does feel slightly lighter now.