My Redemption from Self-Blame

by Colm Daly
(Reading, Berkshire, England)

I was 13 and shared a bed with my elder brother of 17 as was our custom coming from quite a large family. I was awoken one night to discover my manhood being interfered with and feigned sleep as I desperately tried to figure out what was happening, but coming from a strict Catholic family I didn't know where babies came from. The more it prevailed over the next several months the more embedded my feigning became. I had learned in the meantime if I was awake to shuffle or turn over to prevent its re-occurrence, for by now penetration was occurring. Awkward questions arose about my own complicity for indeed sometimes I became aroused myself and this cast confusing shadow over it. It was as if I got on the wrong train going in the wrong direction and couldn't get off.

The next station where I could alight came in the form of my mother transferring me to her father's farm in the country to help them cope after granny died. I fervently believed for the next 30 years that my mother knew all along about it and that she was saving me but have since realised that I needed to artificially believe this or my world would crumble. In doing so I was ignoring the fact that she pampered him and shunned me, and being expendable and seeing my eagerness when she asked for a volunteer to live in the country she nominated me, and I spent the next 6 months there.

The contrast between the county and the city was equalled by the contrast between my anonymity in family life and being given near adult status in the country. Also the contrast between my city schooling where I was loitering behind a year in a no-hopers class compared with my small village schooling could not have been wider apart and I began to excel. I hated my return home and dreamt of some day going back to the country and although the sexual abuse had stopped I had now to resign myself once again to the mental, emotional and physical abuse that was now so evident to me. This remained my depressing lot for the rest of my teens.

I had learned from an early age to submit to punishment whether rightly or wrongly administered, just submit and it will not be half as bad. Corporal punishment was the order of the day whether at home or at school, and if that weren't enough gangs beat you up and self-blaming religion the only redemption. I was once abducted by an older boy who forced me into some bushes and molested me. Another time a gang of older girls flung me to the ground and pulled my trousers down and prodded me. As an altar-boy I received undue attention from our supervisor.

Harsher lessons were to be learnt later in teenage when my Dad on two occasions knockout me out cold, and also a teacher knocked me out cold in class. Life appeared to be about taking what was meted out and trying to be smarter next time in avoiding it. I also seemed to become a target for paedophiles, like the cinema incident where a man next to me fondled me, or being trapped twice when hitch-hiking by the same man a year apart whereby the passenger door handle was removed and I could not escape, or several other occasions where strange men took an over-friendly interest in me. Throughout my teens I could not make friends of my own and friendships with girls were non-existent. In short, I was a perfect candidate for sexual abuse; had not my unloving home and brutal schooling prepared me well for the opportunistic predator?

I have since led a varied life full of twists and turns, but have never found inner peace. I am surprised I have survived at all and count my blessings that I have two wonderful daughters. Then very recently I had a dream that blew me away, for it offered a key to inner peace. Before the dream I was very tired having driven home from West Wales after spending a week away visiting my remaining sibling family in Dublin, and I needed some restful catching up to do. Paradoxically, unlike my awakening to discover I'm being molested, I awoke noting that in my dream I was also awakening and slowly becoming aware that I lay strewed not just alongside, but physically snug up against somebody else, as cubs would snuggle up in a basket for warmth. I felt like a kid again in the shared beds of my youth, and I could feel that glow of bodily warmth surround me. Unalarmed I became slowly aware that this somebody was matter-of-factly my foreboding abusing brother. When I was fully awake I was dumbstruck at this. I might have dismissed it as an aberration as often senseless dreams are, but I said no, I must not fear any part of myself and must interpret it. I don't usually have memorable dreams, and I certainly never had a dream like this before.

Because I left home some 40 years ago and I live in a different country I fortunately don't have to suffer the perpetrator's company often. Despite my strong urge to expose him I dare not, instead I contain my abhorrence of him for family reasons and for this reason I have never challenged him on his abuse. I continuously struggle to not let my rage and anger dominate my life, but it has, and I have become tired of it, tired of hating, tired of labelling myself a victim, after all who wins if I carry on acting as if I am a victim throughout life while he continues to brag and boast of his worldly successes? So from where does this dream casting him as an angel come from?

From a mental and physical point of view I was back and secure in my own bed after being a week on the road as it were so I was feeling relieved. Also on an emotional level I had met him three times on this trip and for a change I found his company un-irritating, as if he had changed from being the narcissistic bore to making a fair stab at being a nice guy. But also that on our final encounter and shaking hands to say goodbye he made his grip firmer than usual and looked me hard in the eye, as if to say he knows of my predicament and no hard feelings. In retrospect I doubt if this was what it meant, but the fact is that by countenancing it I was opening my mind to other possibilities besides just hating him. It kept popping back up in my mind throughout my extended journey home, but so what, am I not still the lifelong victim of anxieties over relationships, of low self-esteem, panic attacks, depression and anger, all as a direct result of that bastard fucking me, so what could change that?

By coincidence I had been glancing through a book at a friend's house in Wales the day previous to my dream, which was all about the child-self within us all, and I am aware that it is now fashionable parlance to ascribe three components to our inner selves, our child, parent and adult-selves, what I call our Holy Trinity. Although I only glanced through the book to kill time the subject matter was fresh on my mind. The dream itself might be interpreted a million ways but with all these factors converging I believe I have had a breakthrough, certainly one that lift's the burden of self-blame in a surprising manner.

In interpreting my dream the pieces all fell together. My Holy Trinity consists of three different Colms, who when put together make up for who I am. For instance, consider the child-self a free spirit, inspirational and creative, but also can be cantankerous and self centred. The parent-self is caring and nurturing, but also can be scolding and punishing. The adult is the questioner, the analyser, but also can be cold and unaffectionate. They are all present in us from birth, but throughout our early years development they each have separate times when their individual roles are most important. Obviously the adult-self's analytical role can't be played out until late adolescence. Not surprisingly our child-self will start out being the first dominator and will resist giving away easily to parent-self domination, not unless it needs help. As help is always needed the child-self soon sees the benefits in relinquishing to the domination of the parent-self, simply for an easier life. Seen as our parent-self is instinctive and doesn't care much for rationalisation, its period of domination should bridge the span between our child and adult selves and then relinquish to the dominance of the adult-self. All three are always present and ideally will acquiesce to the domination of the other if that is the best survival tactic, but what if one refuses to acquiesce?

According to my Holy Trinity my child-self was gravely wounded and in the absence of a developed adult-self to rationalise it all my parent-self intervened to make the necessary corrections. But the wounding happened while under the parent-self's watch if you like, and being itself under-developed through lack of nurturing, laid down an regime of self-blame on the child-self. The fact is that my parent-self knew what was happening at the time the damage was being done but did absolutely nothing about it, being scared is no excuse, parents are meant to forsake their own safety to save the child. So I could have struck my brother with my elbow and ended it before it started but didn't. When my parent-self should have intervened it failed to, and it is this which is the crux of it, for it then proceeded to cover up its own weakness by doubling up on security, ringing alarm bells on the most minor of issues, and punishing my child-self by grounding it to its room. Not just satisfied with that, it then fenced off all interventions from my adult-self who after all might find out the full truth.

This dream put my parent-self back in its box and gave me an inner peace I have longed for all my life.

Darlene's comments to this Child Abuse Article titled "My Redemption from Self-Blame" are at the link below.

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Mar 11, 2008
Inner peace...
by: Darlene Barriere - Webmaster

Thank you for sharing your own personal journey, Colm. May your inner peace continue, and may enlightenment be a part of all of your days to come.

Darlene Barriere
Violence & Abuse Prevention Educator
Author: On My Own Terms, A Memoir

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