[[BB Church offered an excellent analysis of , "the unethical (and quite possibly criminal) conspiracy of the "A Child is Waiting Adoption Agency" to deprive Stephanie Bennett of her daughter Evelyn. You can find it at www.bbchurch.blogspot.com. ]]
What, exactly, is the False Self?
Sure, I understood it in a theorectical
way, but I couldn't quite figure out what kind of False Self I'd
created in response to being adopted and raised by a controlling adoptive mother and a narcissistic a-father. This bothered me. Until I could identify the contours of my False Self, I couldn't discover the Real Me trapped inside.
Until last night. I was rereading Alice Miller's, "The Drama of the Gifted Child."
This is the quote
:"With two exceptions, the mothers of all my patients had a narcissistic disturbance, were extremely insecure, and often suffered from depression. The child, an only one or often the first-born, was the narcissistically cathected object. What these mothers had once failed to find in their own mothers they were able to find in their children: someone at their disposal who can be used as an echo, who can be controlled, is completely centered on them, will never desert them, and offers full attention and admiration."
In that one neat paragraph, Alice Miller summed up my adoptive mother. When I was a young child, she was happy. I was compliant and cuddly. At the advanced age of 13, no doubt terrified at the looming prospect of my independence, she bought us matching outfits. Later, when I expressed more of a preference for hanging out with friends and boyfriend, she reacted with fury. This became a period of bitter recrimination: "After all I've done for you," and "You are so ungrateful," and finally, when I announced I was leaving for college, "Good luck. Don't bother asking for a single dime because you're not going to get it."
But what of The False Self?
It isn't exactly what I imagined. It's more of what I hold back
. What I couldn't or dared not express to my adoptive parents. So much was taboo. Opinions. Feelings. Expression was extremely limited. So much was threatening. Strange things. Even my preference in cars.
I never realized, until the other day, the stilted pattern of conversation that took place between us. If I said anything they didn't like, they resorted to either ignoring me or, worst, mocking.
For example, I had a chat recently with my a-Dad, which is a repeat of of talks we've had over the years, just swap out the car models. It goes like this:
Dad: "Did you know your big car (Ford Explorer) is a gas guzzler?"
Me: "Oh yeah. It's a guzzler all right. But I don't drive it much. We just use it for camping and hauling stuff to the dump."
Dad: "You should sell it."
Me: "No. We still need it."
Dad: "You should trade it in for a Focus."
Me: "No, I don't think so."
Dad: (Bristling w/indignation). Hey. I had a Focus and it was a great little car. (Mocking tone now). Oh, that's not good enough for me. I'm so special."
Me: "I didn't say that. We just don't need a new car. That's all."
Dad: "How about a Suburu?"
Me: "No. I don't want one of those either."
Dad: "Then what the hell do you want? Oh, I know. A Mersaydeeeze. --mocking in girly voice--Oh, look everybody, I'm driving a Mercedes. Oh brother, you women are all alike."
That pretty much sums up every conversation I've ever had with my parents, whether it be cars, politics or my feelings. Say something they don't like or are uncomfortable with and one is likely to get the roll of the eyes, the mocking tone, the long, cold silences and, in the case of my mother, refusal to talk to me for weeks and once, several years.
So this False Self? It's not what I thought. I became a Yes Girl. Sometime long ago, I learned that all I could do was to be there, smile, listen, nod and ocassionally say, "Huh Huh." I basically stopped talking. Oddly, they didn't seem to notice much. I became a Living Ghost of Myself. Luckily, I was free to talk at the law firm where I found my first job out of high school and later, at college. But this Not Talking set me back. It takes much, much longer to find your True Voice/Self and when you finally do, you feel Guilty. Major delayed development.
So that's my False Self, a sort of negation. Would love to hear what yours is like.
And to those of you who've been so supportive in what seems my never-ending struggle w/my narcissistic a-father, your advice has finally given me the courage to take a break from him. I didn't talk to him all of Monday and I feel calmer and much more myself today. The experts are right. The only way to survive such a self-absorbed parent is with distance.
Labels: False self; Alice Miller; narcissistic parent