I hadn’t intended to write two posts back to back, or even to address the subject of child abuse any more than I already have in this lifetime, but now I feel compelled to. Damn these foibles of mine, and the unresolvable conflict I have about this subject. I don’t know that the person for whom I’m writing this wants to be mentioned, so I won’t. But hi there, person I’m not mentioning! 😀
I believe with every fiber of my being that how an adult who was once an abused child deals with his or her abuse is entirely a matter of which traits he or she was born with rather than a matter of will. If the child was born with sufficient resilience and empathy he or she might break the cycle, otherwise will perpetuate the legacy. It cannot be simply a matter of will, as if it were child abuse would be a rare thing and in steady decline. Every abused child repeatedly swears an oath that he or she will never treat his or her own children as he or she was treated. Every one of them swears that oath, many times over the course of a long and painful childhood. I know this: I grew up abused, and as a result my natural peer group was other kids who were abused, kids I could relate with. We all swore that oath, we all talked about it. NEVER would any of us abuse our own kids. We said it with deep conviction, sometimes even fury. We meant it.
But every abused child says it and means it, and many still go on to become abusive parents themselves.
So, gosh, it’s not a matter of will but is a matter determined by the genetic crap shoot over which none of us has any control. That almost makes it sound like I’m making excuses for the abuser, doesn’t it? In truth, that’s precisely what I did for about 46 years regarding my own abusive parents, but not for any others. I was born with that resilience and empathy, and I knew deep in my being that my parents were simply incapable of anything other than being abusive parents in the aftermath of their own traumatic childhood experiences. They didn’t have what it took to overcome it because they weren’t born with it. They couldn’t become resilient and empathetic by willing themselves so any more than I could go out and break the world record in the 100 meter dash just by training my ass off. I’m not built for it and nothing can change that. I wasn’t born to be a champion sprinter, and they weren’t born to be decent human beings in spite of their rotten childhoods.
But that doesn’t mean I’m making excuses for them. It means only that I understand them.
It’s probably true that the legacy of abuse that ended with me began in an ancient cave somewhere, perhaps even before the emergence of our species. Some Homo habilis kid got dropped on his head as a child and it fucked him up and made him violent, maybe. But that’s no excuse for what my parents did, because it wasn’t some long dead Homo habilis dude who beat me and psychologically abused me. It was two modern day humans, as much as I hate to refer to them as human, whose names I know and who are still breathing in and out. They are personally responsible for their actions, even if they were unable to control themselves because they’re fucked in their heads. They did what they did, and that’s that.
So there’s my conflict. I know they were incapable of anything different and they lost in the genetic crap shoot just as I did, but I still hold them personally responsible for what they did. It was not holding them personally responsible that was my downfall, and why it took until I was 47 years old to finally lay claim to my own life. Four years, seven months, and 29 days ago.