I’ve been doing a lot of talking recently, mainly at my counselling sessions. What have I learnt?
Philip Larkin was (almost) right… A lot of the conversation has been about my parents (plus their siblings/family and my grandparents). In particular what their behaviours and interactions were when I was growing up and therefore what role modelling I have been subjected to. The layers of generations and layers of psychological fucktitude that I have inherited.
I have found it particularly enlightening, because I was rather under the impression that I had rather an uneventful, benign childhood – I wasn’t abused or deprived. Yes, there were certain members of the family that were difficult from time to time, but I never felt directly unwanted or unwelcome. And yet…
It seems that there are a lot of subtle things happening all around in the interplay of family members that one doesn’t really understand as a child but some of these seem to get taken on board and shape attitudes and behaviours in unexpected ways. So, for example, my mother could be slightly uncomfortably clingy and overly affectionate when I was a teenager – which I found embarrassing and awkward and therefore pushed back. If I thought about it at all I had just thought it might be her not wanting to accept eldest child growing up growing away and reacting to that. However, I can now see another possible reason for her clinginess was perhaps something lacking in her relationship with my father, which was being subverted. My father being, like me, not particularly emotionally literate or aware his actions were distancing, leaving my mother rather looking for affection elsewhere. So I had not only the poor role model of my dad’s distancing emotional behaviour, but also developed a resistance to being emotionally pushed.
There are two main things that I’m working on at the moment in relation to all this. Firstly, is that I don’t give myself space to think about these things. At work I’m busy on work stuff, at home I distract myself with web and TV, and on my commutes I like listening to podcasts. So, one thing we’re trying chez nous at the moment is an evening per week free of TV and internet. It’s only been a couple of weeks, so far – so possibly too early to assess any beneficial effect.
Secondly, the realisation that I’ve never really had to work hard at things or been forced to practise stuff. Nobody made me do my musical instrument practising as a child, I found exams at 16 a bit of a breeze (to get relatively good grades), A-levels similarly not difficult study-wise. University was a huge step up and I struggled a bit there, but manage to scrape through without too much effort.
I’ve been relatively fortunate career-wise with a few lucky breaks and only one sticky patch without work (which May would attest left me rather bereft). I’ve also usually been able to do the things I enjoy at work and not so much of the things I didn’t like/have an aptitude for (again there was a time when I really hated my boss/job for a while and again May will tell you how I was completely incapable of dealing with it – however, luckily again, I was able to find a sidestep out of it so I didn’t have to really ever deal with it properly). Likewise my family and relations didn’t seem to put much effort in to practising anything really. So, when May says to me ‘yes, emotions are difficult – you need to practise expressing/acknowledging/dealing with them’ I have no frame of reference as to what that means or what to do.
This of course spills over uncomfortably into working at relationships and of course working at trying to have a child… it hasn’t been easy and I’ve certainly not been prepared for the hard work and persistence, which has, of course, upset May on occasions when I’ve been lagging.
I realise that it’s only ‘half the battle’ to identify some causes – finding how and fixing is not going to be any easier, especially if I have to work at it…