Thursday, April 12, 2007

Unintentionally Cruel

For this adoptee with the bad luck of being placed in an extremely dysfunctional family during the evil closed Era, the writings of psychoanalyst Alice Miller are a revelation.

My adoptive parents were unintentionally cruel and abusive.

I spent most of a year blogging, getting it all down, writing about my a-parents behaviors before recently discovering Alice Miller, thanks to an adoptee on the Chosen Baby forum. It has been an enormous relief to chronicle the bits and pieces of my childhood and adolscence that I can remember. There it is, in black and white, for me to reread and for others to comment on, providing the witnesses or neutral third parties that failed to step forward when I was a child. Not one blogger who has so kindly taken the time to comment has ever said, "Oh, but they loved you." Thank God. It is this response that makes me crazy with frustration. "Weren't you listening?" I want to cry. But I don't. It's better not to talk about the past with certain people because of the unquestioned belief that parents always act in the best interests of their children, even when they do not.

So brainwashed was I that I never thought of my adoptive parents as cruel, unintentionally or not. But according to Miller, they were. But what's even more important, my body and all my behaviors and reactions tell me that they were.

My a-mom was only capable of conditional love, as that is the only kind she received by her cold and domineering and deeply unhappy mother. When I did something to make my a-mom unhappy, she would refuse to look at or speak to me for days on end, pretending I wasn't there. Any expressions besides happy and grateful seemed to threaten her very existence. I was once slapped and sent to my room for "scaring" my mother because I cried when my boyfriend broke-up with me. I was not allowed to ask questions about my adoption or my first mother because my a-mom liked to pretend I was biologically hers. I was forced to play this pretend game, too.

My adoptive father is also incapable of empathy. He is a narcissist. I am in my mid-forties and he's never allowed me to talk or express my opinion without mocking me. He is not capable of anything else because he was horribly abused by an alcoholic father and is still tortured by the knowledge that his beloved mother did nothing to prevent the beatings. My a-father could not parent because he was still a child in desperate need of attention. He is still that child. He is 80-years old.

Of course, they were not all bad. They did not beat me or starve me. They laughed, took me to Disneyland, drove me to high school functions, let me choose my favorite take-out. And then reminded me of it all later, as if I owed them for parental duties performed. As if to say, we didn't enjoy any of these things, we just did them because we had to.

I am no longer confused by all this. It's all out in the open now. My adoptive parents were unintentionally cruel. They were ignorant. I no longer wonder why I'm not a better daughter, why I didn't love them more. There is nothing wrong with me. I did the best I could. Under the circumstances. I don't have to feel guilt or shame. I forgive myself. I am working my way toward figuring out to do with all the anger and resentment that has built up over the years. But it is beginning to seep out, to be released. I am not in any rush to do this. It is, I believe, important to experience all those feelings that had to be bottled up.

Alice Miller, your work is a gift.

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20 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm adding your blog to my reading list right now...

1:00 PM  
Blogger Nina said...

Thank you, anonymous. May I ask, are you....a member of the triad? child of a narcissist? both? Just curious.

1:43 PM  
Blogger suz said...

So funny. Must be Alice Miller week. I saw one of her books on Julies blog. It just came today and I am enthralled. "Drama of the Gifted Child..." is what I am currently reading.

3:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The triad? Oh yes, the triad. Good old triad. Still a member. Just to refresh my memory, what triad *exactly* are we talking about here? So many triads you know...

child of a narcissist? Yes.

5:31 PM  
Blogger Nina said...

Suz...Oooo...maybe we should make an Alice Miller week! In honor of Alice. She is enthralling. Very good way to describe her. Must have something to do with the freshness of questioning authority and the prevailing thinking...an admiration for someone who is very brave.

Anonymous. Yikes! Meaning...me. Meant the adoption triad: adoptees, adoptive parents and first mothers/fathers. But of course there must be many triads. Child of a narcisisst. I AM sorry. It so painful. You are not alone although it must have felt like that for so long. Until consciousness. One of the most unsettling discoveries I've made on Blogpatrol is that most people link to my adoption blog using "narcissistic parent" as a keyword. My blog is a bit of both. Accidentally, of course. Dammit. I hate narcissism almost as much as I resent adoption gone bad. Which isn't always the case.

8:31 PM  
Blogger LeRoy Dissing said...

Nina...your one comment stuck me as that of an abused child that I have heard many times.

"Of course, they were not all bad. They did not beat me or starve me. They laughed, took me to Disneyland, drove me to high school functions, let me choose my favorite take-out."

They met your basic physical needs just like zoo keeps do with animals in their care. And I know you are not trying to excuse the emotional neglect/damage they did to you. Its that mixed message we have in our heads that say, "They did the best they could with what they had." and somehow that exornerates them from all the other crap you/we had to put up with. Of course no one is perfect and perhaps no one is totally evil either yet the conditions in which you were raised in were far from adequate. And the sad thing about it is that your aparents will NEVER take one ounce of responsibility for anything they did or didn't do that caused you all the pain you've gone through including hours of therapy. And you know why? Cuz it was your fault or someone elses. So sick and so twisted!!!

I know you have tried to tell your adad many times how you feel but he doesn't care because he is so wrapped up in his own wants/needs. Next best thing is to write your feelings down for others to validate just like you do here. Even we might not totally understand everything you went through but we listen well and I do think the bloggers here care a great deal about you.

3:58 AM  
Blogger Nina said...

Thank you, Leroy...
That was interesting...child as animal kept in a zoo attended by zookeepers. Which reminds me. You'd once mentioned Stockholm Syndrome...that I seemed to experience some of the same symptoms...and I did some research and need to blog about it. And yes, I did try talking about my feelings w/my adad but it is impossible because people like that have no absolutely no empathy.

9:53 AM  
Blogger Mommela said...

"Of course, they were not all bad."

Yeah, they were bad. Good parents don't pull the crap yours pulled on you. Could they help it? I don't know. But they were that bad.

2:18 PM  
Blogger Possum said...

Yeah - LeRoy is right - you're loved & cared for HEAPS here in Blogland!!
Sending you hugs dear friend.
Poss. xxxx

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