Betrayal In Four Acts #3
“We live in a world where most people still subscribe to the belief that shame is a good tool for keeping people in line. Not only is this wrong, but it’s dangerous. Shame is highly correlated with addiction, violence, aggression, depression, eating disorders, and bullying.” ― Brené Brown, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead
My mother was incredibly intelligent and tragically anxious. By any measure and most definitely through the lens of cultural norms, she betrayed me (see Johnny can you hear me). I think the technical term would be neglect. She also loved me and I question whether neglect is an accurate word to describe a family structure built around curiosity and exploration (Roger Hart - Environmental Psychology & Children).
I believe many children are consistently finding new and creative ways to injure themselves as a result of world exploration. I was one of those normal kids…and both of my parents encouraged me and my sister to explore. It happens that what I stumbled into was LSD. My mother found me tripping on acid on the kitchen floor and had to make a very hard choice. Her choice, most likely driven by fear, was to take me to the hospital. The result of her choice was the loss of custody of her son. Moral judgement aside, I can only imagine how horrible this must have been for her and my father.
In my opinion this is where the story goes from being interesting to being conflicted. Ingesting LSD at five was probably strange and intense…maybe delightful. Frankly, I don’t remember the experience being disturbing until everyone around me decided it was disturbing. I actually believe it was enjoyable up until my mother found me and got upset. Then she did the “right thing”, she scooped me up and off we went to the hospital with tears and tubes and terror.
What I learned from my experience would alter my life for the better. What I was taught after the experience would ultimately be the source of confusion and pain for years. The loss of custody turned into this cauldron of shame and guilt…in the eyes of society my parents, my mother in particular, had failed me.
You will notice this story has little to do with the feelings of a curious five year old boy. My feelings about the experience and about my parents didn’t align with what the doctors and the nurses and the social worker wanted me to feel or see or believe. It is at this point a conflict must have emerged within my child brain…how was I to “know”? I loved my parents and they loved me but it sure felt like they had done something “wrong." So what might have felt like bliss to me was transmogrified into this dystopian carnival of negative attention from well intended but conflicted adults. I walked away with the message, “What you know isn’t true.”
I fondly think of my predicament at five as my first lesson in existential terror and the requirements of heroism.