22 March 2007

Blindness Descends

The news story of the little boy who was killed by a convicted sex offender and his family reminded me of a day in my own life. Luckily, no one was murdered in my case. (My therapist would disagree with that conclusion.) I've mentioned before that my parents were sexually abusive, but the abuse was psychological, not physical. The events of that day fill me with such shame that I'm unable to even revisit it except in a fleeting, looking at the scary monster way. The shame has nothing to do with me other than that knowledge of my parents' amorality. Or at least my dad's amorality. I can't really speak to my mom's motivations.

I wrote a post several days ago in which I said that I always believe that people are doing the best they can. One of my friends commented,

"Nobody you know, nobody you don't know, in all the world, has ever done less than their very best, at any time? All around you is perfection and excellence?!"

The answer is that things have been so far from perfect and excellent in my life that hanging on to that belief is the only way to see around the dark center at the heart of my childhood. Do I believe my father was doing the best he could? I have no idea. Most people would say he wasn't. It just all gets very confusing to me, so I choose to believe that which is, in some ways, easiest.

What I do know is that I've been judged and found lacking based on people's inability to see what motivates me. That was one of the great things about Mrs. N. She understood that I was, as a human being (not a student), trying to do the best I could when there really hadn't been any model of moral and ethical conduct I could attempt to emulate. In fact, that's one of the things she gave me: a moral compass beyond that which a 15 year old could formulate in a vacuum.

My therapist and I have had many conversations about people doing the best they can. She's pointed out to me many times that my Inner Fascist was born, in part, out of that struggle to transcend my family's moral sickness. IF cracks the psychological whip much too hard so that I could ensure that I never even approached the road to moral decadence. Children who parent themselves invariably create their own Inner Fascists; it's a survival skill.

However, my therapist, like everyone else I've ever spoken to about it, strenuously disagrees with my theory of human behavior. I understand that position. For me, the things that motivate other people are mysterious and unfathomable. If a parent you love regularly engages in conduct that is terrifyingly abusive, a kind of blindness descends that prevents you from seeing their motivations. If the motivation is simply to enjoy hurting someone else, that blindness is kind.

I've had many sessions with therapists over the years trying to come to grips with my father's sadism. The longer away I am from his suicide, the harder it becomes to understand how I can continue to love him. Obviously, he's the only father I'll ever have. Equally obviously, the best he could ever do was destructive beyond measure.

I don't know. I do the best I can based on where I am at any given moment and I choose to believe that everyone else does, too. As in the case of the six-year old boy, though, sometimes what arises from that "best" is horrifying and maybe even inhuman. The darkness at the center of my life was built around that horror. I've spent the rest of my life trying to see around it.

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