Sunday, September 02, 2007

A Visceral Hostility

My whole family was dysfunctional, and I think I was affected by that. It was not simply that my mother was neurotic and that my relationship with my mother warped my development. Every member of my family was neurotic in one way or another. My sister was seemingly normal, but if you dig just below the surface you begin to see her intense vulnerability and fragility. She's always been like a delicate vase. The vase is whole, but it's in constant danger of cracking in the face of the slightest nick. My sister's daughter, my niece, started seeing a psychiatrist at age seven and at age 11 began seeing a psychoanalyst three times a week. That must say something about my sister and the dynamics of the family that she helped create as an adult.

Development does not take place in a vacuum, nor does it take place in relation to a single caretaker. Much of the developmental literature sounds as though the early development of the child was a matter of his interaction with the mother -- to the exclusion of other influences. This is particularly the case in regard to descriptions and analyses of the child's developmental experience in the earliest phases of development up through the early years when the child begins to take the first tentative steps toward independence. When the child is about four or five years old, the father is then added to the cast of characters. Common sense suggests that this is not the case at all. Development takes place within a family context -- from the very beginning.

I had a . . . I hated my family life. I hated it. I had a very visceral hostility to the circumstances in which I found myself growing up, and I think I detached quite early . . . I didn't enjoy it when my parents were fighting at all. I was horrified and traumatized by it . . . To some extent you get used to it. My mother was incredibly frank and direct about everything, and it was all very -- raw. My father was always slamming doors and yelling and screaming and threatening to leave, and my mother was always complaining and yelling. I mean, this was on and on and on, and I think a part of me just sort of withdrew from all of that and saw it as a spectator sport, but part of me was also extremely traumatized by it. But whether you're traumatized or not, it's where you're at home. Even if it's a horrible trauma, this is what the therapists tell you, and I think it makes a lot of sense. Even if it's deep unhappiness, it's your unhappiness.

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