Updated: Dec 14, 2019
Growing up in a household where the rule "children should be seen and not heard" was very much to the fore, was definitely not a confidence building experience.
To be honest, this well known phrase should have been "... seen and not heard and preferably, not seen either!"
This would be a much more accurate representation of reality.
As is always the case in these situations, there were numerous reasons for my parents actions. Reasons that other relatives where happy to support, but which nevertheless left an innocent and vulnerable child in a permanent state of feeling rejected.
In fact, the dysfunctional nature of our family unit started before I was even born and yet my very existence might be said to account for a significant portion of that stressful circumstance. It wasn't until my 26th year that I discovered that the man I considered my father was not in fact my biological one. Less than a year after getting married, a third person had entered the frame and "assisted" my coming into being.
As time moved on, my father became more and more distant to the extent that he acted as if I weren't there. And on the rare occasion that he chose to converse with me, it was merely to scold me or bemoan the fact that I hadn't amounted to anything. The core message being ...
As for my mother, she moved from continually silencing me and sending me to my room, to using me as a surrogate partner as things started spiralling out of control.
Whist this is a digression from the main thrust of this article, it provides what I believe to be a useful background that many will be able to connect with and helps to explain how it's so easy to feel attached to something that - to be brutally honest - is toxic.
It wasn't until some 30 plus years later that I came to realise, from this tortured childhood, that I had learnt how to accept the role of a victim extremely well. This certainly manifested itself in school life where I was routinely bullied. Leading a fundamentally asocial life with lots of periods in "solitary confinement", school was an opportunity to interact with others and feel a part of something larger than myself. On the flip side of course, I had to walk to school each day not knowing if it was going to be "one of those days".
The reason I mention this is that this "victim state" also manifested itself when I was with relatives of my parents generation. By-and-large, they too were thoroughly unsupportive and felt it their duty to explain how I should not be so lazy, support my parents more, not be so selfish ...
And here we come to the crux of the issue. This applies to some of these people if not all - despite not being able to recall a time when a good word was said, I've spent decades holding onto these relationships and trying to become a valuable person in their eyes - never receiving the "You're ok" that would have released me from my bonds.
Despite having some awareness of my predicament, I continued to fight against the tide attempting to become "a worthy person".
I've now crossed the bridge to the other side of life - I've passed 50 years of age. Yet, only recently have I come to realise that I had been holding-out for better relationships with these people for a ridiculously long period of time.
I don't understand why it has been so hard to let go, but I do realise that I'm still playing the victim to the best of my abilities.
There are two components to this "letting go": first, the letting go of people who don't support me, and second, the letting go of this blanket of "victimhood" that I have become so accustomed to wearing.
It's time to let go..
My parents served as excellent role models - as all parents do. That is to say, children model their parents behaviour almost to perfection.
I've sadly come to realise that I often set very high bars for those around me (including myself) and then complain when they don't achieve the heights that I myself have prescribed upon them.
Life repeats ...
until the chain is broken...
4 months after writing this, I find myself reading it. The part where I discussed "seeking their approval" seems foreign and totally wrong. It would have been better to talk about how their view of me became my own view of myself...