Tuesday, 22 April 2014

I Think About Smacking

I've been reflecting on my strong reactions to the threat of violence prompted by watching Shaun of the Dead yesterday evening. 

My psychotherapist, peace be upon him, taught me to recognise that strong emotional reactions are rooted in childhood experience.  I'm still slow to catch on to this, so it took me twelve hours to realise that last night's fear of zombies linked directly to my fear of my father.

Growing up, I lived under the threat of smacking.  The terror was not in the smack: physical pain sucks, but my father never delivered anything that left a bruise.  I lived in a state of wariness, of trying to work out whether his anger was on its way.  He would rarely lash out - the punishment was delivered as ritual:  "Come into my study, repent and say sorry, bend over.  Thwack."  There was a zombie-like, slow, deliberate inevitability about it all which terrified me.

I can understand my father better intellectually now I'm older.  He needed to work at home.  He was tired.  Four children create a lot of noise and energy.  He was hemiplegic.  That doesn't negate the ongoing impact of my experience.

People talk about forgiveness as a solve-all for the injuries of childhood.  It's never worked for me.  I think awareness of ourselves and our emotions, and compassion for ourselves, is where it's at, and where we can move on and grow.  The rest follows.

Once, I played deliberately noisily outside my father's study with one of my brothers.  I think we wanted to provoke his anger so that we were in control for a change.  We bounced balls, sang songs and jumped down the stairs, and sure enough, he emerged to tell us off.  I can't remember if he smacked us on that occasion, but I felt triumphant.

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