I have discovered another pattern in my life. Another telling pattern. Don’t know what to do with it, exactly, or if there is anything that can be done with it. But it’s one of those things that bears mulling over in the quiet moments of the evening when one is alone with one’s thoughts. I “mull” frequently, usually on the wrong types of unhelpful things. I’m not sure if this is a helpful or unhelpful insight. But patterns usually indicate something. So I’m planning a good “mull” session soon to see if I can sort it out.
What I have realized is that I continually find myself at the mercy of powerful men. And I really, really, truly, honestly, absolutely despise it. I can most easily identify this pattern in business, but I have difficulty with controlling pastors of churches too. I don’t react well when someone dictates. Guess you could say, in a nutshell, I have a problem with authority. I don’t do well if I’m under it when I don’t have any say in what happens to me or if I don’t have control over the way things happen, at least to some degree. I have to have a level of authority too. Some say over my destiny. A modicum of respect. If I don’t have that, I get angry. I tell people where to go (in my head) and have ugly thoughts about them. I can’t sleep at night. I get agitated and become frustrated easily. I’m stressed to the max. I feel hopeless, scared, filled with anxiety. Vulnerable. When I feel like I’m being used. When I’m under a powerful person who doesn’t give a rip about me.
Why does this keep happening again and again and again? I mean, seriously…I know people who work for leaders who are fair and caring and who do the right thing by their employees. They don’t lord it over them. They build teams and consensus and value input. They may have had a few bad bosses from time to time, but their overwhelming experience has been much more positive than negative. Not me. I’ve only worked for two people who were good bosses for very short periods during my 25+ year career for possibly 2 years total. The rest of the time, I’ve been saddled with controlling, demeaning, weak, uncaring…even bullying…bosses. Abusive in some ways. You know…abusive…like my mother. Like my father. It hits all those weak, painful spots and sets me off. Pushes me over the edge, even if I don’t let it show (much) on the outside.
My ex-husband was not overtly aggressive, but he was very passive-aggressive. So even during the 22 years I was married to him, during which he technically had authority over me, there was this undercurrent of rejection and disgust. He was crystal clear on the fact that he didn’t love me. So even if the authority figures in my life have not been outwardly aggressive, there has been this overarching withholding of approval that has plagued me. No matter how hard I tried to measure up, I haven’t been able to meet the standard. Because in some way, I’m defective. Not because of what I do or don’t do, but because of who I am. At least, that’s the overriding message I have received.
I know it started with my abusive father. But it’s much more painful to explore the root than it is to deal with the branches. So I avoid the root. But it may be necessary to go back to where this all began if there is any hope of untangling and understanding what it has done within me.
Back when I was 4 or 5. Back when I adored my father. Thought he hung the moon and the stars in the sky. Wanted to be just like him. I was his fishing buddy and his bird dog when he went hunting. I imitated him and my heart swelled with love for him. Back then, he was my daddy…not my father. Daddy.
Then all hell broke loose.
I don’t have any vivid memories of those early years of abuse. I remember horrible fights between him and my mother. Fights that involved things getting thrown and my mother being knocked to the floor and both parents leaving for hours at a time as I tried to clean up messes and take care of my little brother. I remember my father’s explosive temper that was often aimed at me. He used his belt to punish back then. Or his fist. But at some point, he started coming to my room at night. I was so little, I created another world in which to escape. I created a caravan of desert dwellers who traveled with their camels, dogs, children, treasures, food, tents. They passed through my bedroom each night and initially, they terrified me. I would lay frozen on the bed with my eyes tightly shut during much of their journey through my room, especially as they walked my mattress from the foot to the head of my bed. Occasionally I would take a peek at them. Eventually, they fascinated me, these miniature people riding perfect camels. They had bells on their fingers and toes that tinkled as they walked and they laughed and chatted as their children ran and played while they progressed in their journey. They walked through my room almost every night until I was 7 or 8. And then they stopped coming.
I believe, although I can’t prove it, that my father stopped sexually abusing me for a short period of time when I was around 8 years old. That’s when the caravan stopped coming. I know I was being sexually abused because I had almost every classic indicator…compulsive masturbation, early sexualization, sexually torturing and mutilating my dolls…things that most little girls growing up in mid-America would never think to do or would never know about. But when the abuse resumed, I was a little older and could no longer totally blot it out. I needed more sophisticated defense mechanisms, like disassociation and denial. I have very vivid memories from 9, 10, 11 through age 14. But they are tinged by darkness. I often remember the first part, but not the second part of the incident. Somewhere during the event, I would shut down and go away into the darkness. In my mind, it’s as if I rolled over into black. Into nothingness.
There are many times that I can remember begging my father to stop. Tears streaming down my face. Pleading. It was as if my words made no sound. They had no impact whatsoever. I was nothing. An object made for gratification. And this, I believe, is the root of my deep distrust of authority. This is where I learned that powerful men will screw you every time, no matter what you do. One is nothing to men like this. Men like my father. To them, it’s all about the power they hold over you and using it to get what they want. You are a tool. A means to an end. And there is absolutely nothing you can do about it. You don’t matter. At all.
Can anything be done about the way I am continually disregarded? Is it in my responses to authority that the door is opened to abuse? Do I attract the type of people who are abusive to others? Am I an easy mark? If I responded differently, would they be less inclined to hurt me?
Questions, but no answers. This is why I need a major session where I mull over the implications. Try to dig at that root a bit. See what I can uncover. Try to understand what it has made me. The one thing I do know at this point is this: I am tired of being used and abused by powerful men. And I’m hoping there is something I can do that will make a difference going forward. I can’t change the past, but if there is to be any hope for me at all, I have to find some way to change the future. Otherwise, I’m going to keep getting screwed. And I’m very, very tired of getting screwed.