FATHER FORGIVE THEM FOR THEY KNOW NOT WHAT THEY DO
I feel pressured to write this blog because I have been dealing with a father who against all odds managed a few weeks ago to regain his three children. He was the usual casualty of a cruel system that judged him a wife beater and child terrorize with no evidence at all. He was thrown out of his house and barred from seeing his children. Fortunately he was tenacious and very slowly fought his way back. I won't tell the whole story because it is up to him to write about it if he wishes but I do encourage fathers and some mothers to make public their winning these cases but if all we hear is the hopelessness of it all it makes it harder for others to fight back.
My role in this father's life was actually to sit on his shoulder like a very large parrot and remind him that he must at all costs play dumb. This is where I so often see men fail before they are even faced with the first hurdle. Let me say at this point my daughter works in child protection. I also have friends who are good caring social workers but in all these agencies there is no screening for psychological damage and therefore many of the decisions made in these very delicate family matters are done by people who have a personal axe to grind. Good preserve you all from the 'walking wounded' male or female. They have had bitter personal experiences of their own which they bring to the conference table and judge anyone harshly who shadows their own experiences.
I see the problem for men in the first instance in our feminised lobotomized western countries that they are victimised because they are men and therefore guilty of all forms of violence. Men faced with a problem want to 'do' something. They are used to voicing their disapproval or dislike of situations that seem to them to be unfair. Faced with prejudiced accusations from agency people a man will roundly defend himself - big mistake. Agency workers do not like to be challenged. He does not realise that the moment he raises his voice or even makes a statement that contradicts the agency person he will be deemed 'controlling.' This label will be hung around his neck as he is passed from one agency to another. I think men are more likely to find against another man because they have very little if any training about the delinquency of women. If a father is extremely lucky he can find a good solicitor who will keep his back male or female and it is legal team that matter most in these cases. As far - and this is a generalisation - I know and I have worked in the family courts for the last forty years - there is institutional bias against men throughout the system. First because there is the presumption of guilt because he is a man and secondly because a man under stress is more likely to fight against the injustice. If a man raises his voice he is violent if a woman raises her voice is because she is stressed.
Women because they are women face the agencies as the innocent party. Women when faced with a tense situation are far better at negotiating they use sweet reason where men tend to shout. Most of the men I deal with spend many hours studying their position and reading up on cases on line. Very few women I come across bother. They tend to leave everything to their solicitors. All agencies hate to be questioned on their expertise by anyone and it is usually men who asks the questions and make themselves seen as 'difficult' and 'uncooperative' when all they are doing is legitimately trying to have a dialogue instead of being treated as a moron.
My advice is from a Chinese sage who suggests that 'when the wind blows the reeds bend.' Faced with an obnoxious not very bright agency worker hold your tongue and wait until your anger has subsided and then contact your solicitor and let him or her make your point. Chose a calm friend and sound off on the friend rather than the agency worker. Accept that through no fault of your own in so many cases you are branded as a perpetrator and however outrageous this is recognise this is not only a personal battle but also a political war and make your plans accordingly.
THATCHER MILK SNATCHER - 07.01.2012
I can still remember the fury I felt when I opened The Guardian and read that Margaret Thatcher then the Education Secretary was going to abolish free milk for children. Many local children played in our garden in Hammersmith and I was well aware that for many of them school milk was the only sustenance they would have until their school lunch.
I wrote to the Conservative party and asked for her picture and was rewarded with a photograph of Margaret in a twin set, pearl and a halo of cemented hair. I took it round to our local newsagent and they helped me make a wanted post. ‘WANTED MARGARET THATCHER MILK SNATCHER’ it read. I cello taped two of my posers to my car doors and as I drove my children to school I was amazed by the amount of cars that honked and gave me a thumbs up sign of approval. She also deregulated school meals so that all the budgets were cut and the meals were mostly chips and fried food.
Like many social activists working with the very vulnerable I was quickly aware of the many mentally ill patients that were tipped out of the big Victorian institutions supposedly into ‘Community care,’ care that did not exist and I saw them walking up and down our high street screaming at passing people and endangering themselves by running into the road. I knew that Margaret Thatcher didn’t care.
Actually I recognised Margaret Thatcher as a type of woman who was completely divorced from the real world. She lived in her own solipsistic little universe. Within her kingdom she was omnipotent. If anyone challenged her they immediately felt the might of her rage. Unfortunately she was encouraged to behave as she wished by her charming but weak husband Dennis. He was her ‘enabler’ and he turned a blind eye to the damage she did not only to her children but also to her country.
Who are these people who are advocating a State Funeral for this woman? She was the most unpopular Prime Minster this country has ever known. She destroyed out council housing police. She gave away our rail system, our gas and electricity and our water to anyone who would buy them. The North of England was fatally ignored by this woman because her main lust in life was to link herself with powerful men.
The list is endless. You could start with the men in her womenless cabinet – (she didn’t like woman) men like Sir Keith Joseph a right wing Conservative and Enoch Powell who encouraged her to announce that ‘We are being flooded’ with immigrants (at that time there were more people leaving England than coming in) She pursued Ronald Regan with a teenage passion. She saw him as the most powerful man in the world and when she stood next to him she was elated to feel her share of that power and the brutal dictator General Pinochet whose feet were ankle deep in the blood of his innocent people.
When she did become Prime Minister I wrote to her to ask what she intended to do for victims of domestic violence. A minion wrote back to say that ‘Margaret Thatcher is not interested in women’s issues.’ Then came the Falklands War; an island that originally she said that did not interest her suddenly became her rallying cry and her step ladder into number 10.
I would feel devastated if for some political motive Margaret Thatcher Milk Snatcher is give a state funeral – she did so much more damage than snatch milk – she broke the back bone of this country. A Prime Minister is supposed to love and care and serve the people of this country, she did no such thing. State funerals are for our heroes and heroines not Margaret Thatcher.
HOW MOTHERS CAN DAMAGE THEIR CHILDREN - 02.01.2012
New born babies are bonded in the womb to their mothers by very powerful chemicals. These chemicals ensure that normal mothers will not only emotionally be bonded to their children by love but also their pheromones and other chemicals will help the mother respond to the needs of her baby and the baby responds to the mother.
We know now that babies can also suffer not only physical stress while in the womb but also emotional damage as the mother’s hormones pass through the placenta and are shared with the baby. This means a depressed and anxious mother can find herself trying to deal with an anxious highly aroused new born baby. There are some mothers who completely fail to bond with their babies and the rejection and the neglect will have a life long detrimental effect on her children. I was always very aware to the effects of trauma on new born babies because I visited all my pregnant mothers who had been living with violent partners in hospital and I could see how the babies reacted to any noise or any sudden movement by shaking and crying loudly. Some even more of a worry just lay passively in their bassinets as if their experiences in the womb had been so traumatic that the only way the baby could survive was to switch of and fail to thrive. Fortunately once the mother moved into the refuge with her new born baby the child very quickly responded to the safe environment.
Normal women navigate their way through the early childhood years hopefully with the help of a full time partner. Those bone shakingly difficult years gradually ease and the mother can begin to get some sense of her own life back. Normal women know and are happy to accept that part of their job as a parent is to allow their children to grow through the family stage and then branch out and make a life of their own. Unfortunately far too many women are not normal and are unable to let their children break away from their inappropriate emotional and physical need for the child or their children.
I was lecturing at a Child Welfare Conference in London. I was talking about incest and after the conference broke up a young couple came up to me. I could see that the woman was unhappy to be dragged by her partner to come and talk to me. ‘Tell her,’ he said. ‘That squirting cream on her nipples when she breast feeds our son is not normal.’ The young woman was very embarrassed. ‘He’s right,’ I said. ‘Squirting cream on your nipples is something you do for your husband not you child. Why don’t you both go and see a good family councillor.’
‘The only sexual satisfaction I have ever had is when I breast fed John.’ This startling confession took place one lunch time. I knew this to be a true statement and I also knew that this woman’s subsequent cannibalisation of her son’s body and soul would destroy his ability to have a normal relationship with any other woman in his life.
‘I can only make love to a woman from behind so I don’t see her face. If I see her face I see my mother’s face superimposed when I orgasm.’ This is a statement from another mother damaged man. This case had a happy ending. His mother I will call Maria was very suspicious and angry when she discovered that her son Jonas was seeing me without her permission. As we worked together over weeks she felt that her hold over her son was weakening. He no longer came rushing to see her whenever she telephoned with one of her dramas. He began to believe that he had the right to keep part of his life and his business away from her. What had been a highly inappropriate interference on her part in every aspect of his life was slowly being curtailed. Her threats of pills and suicide no longer made him feel wracked with guilt and then one day she disappeared.
This was her big mistake. For the first few weeks Jonas came to see me looking distraught and feeling desperate. For the first time in his thirty six years he was out of touch with the one and only permanent relationship in his life. His father walked out on the family when Jonas was ten. Jonas admitted that his father was furiously jealous of his son’s relationship with his mother and that Jonas rejected his father at an early age aware that any approach to his father enraged his mother and was seen as gross disloyalty. His few girl friends didn’t last long. His mother saw them off with a mixture of bile and interference. Now she was gone and he stopped eating and was unable to sleep. He was addicted to his mother and his need for her as much as any other addict.
He tried reporting her as a missing person but the local police told him that she had been in contact and she wanted nothing to do with him. To Jonas’s surprise as the weeks went by he began to enjoy his newly found independence and by the time she decided to come back into his life he was cured of her. Her mistake was giving him time to emotionally grow into a self determining man. Jonas was not bitter but he recognised that he could love her as his mother but keep his distance.
I have always been uncomfortable with the song ‘Tea for two and two for tea a boy for you and a girl for me.’ In the case of incestuous mothers the damage is very rarely obviously sexual. The stroking and caressing of the child’s body is quite normal for both parents but when the mother uses the stroking and caressing as a way of sexually bonding herself to her child it is anything but healthy. Children often share the marital bed in their early years but for some women it soon because obvious that they have no intention of allowing their chosen son to sleep on his own. One man described how their mother instigated ‘tickle games’ in her bed with both her sons. The young boys romped around with her shrieking and laughing until she collapsed semi naked on her pillows. This man was not her ‘chosen child.’ He was what I called the ‘on looker’ in the relationship and the rejection stayed with him all his life.
Most parents pop in and out of the bath or shower with their children and there is no harm in that. In Jim’s case he felt very differently. He was aware when he was six that his mother always liked to share a bath with him. He explained to me that when he was around this age he didn’t want to tell her that he wanted to bathe alone. His father had stopped him sharing their bed the year before and Jim was glad that he had. His mother liked to sit at the plug end of the bath with her legs apart and he sat between them. What particularly disturbed him was the fact that she had a very large amount of unruly pubic hair that reached her belly button. He was frightened of this sight. He had come to see me because he found himself unable to sustain an erection and the only sexual satisfaction he experienced was if played the part of an onlooker. His mother had been dead for many years but he was still struggling with her corpse like so many men I know.
Men find it almost impossible to admit their mothers might be the cause of their inability to form warm loving relationships with other women. I can understand how frightening it is for a man to feel that the woman who carried him in her body and gave birth to him can also destroy his childhood for him. If she is incestuous she will also see to it that he can only have very peripheral relationships with anyone else. His father will portrayed as a monster and a danger to both mother and child. Billy told me on his first visit that he hated his father. He never showed his son any affection and most of the time he stayed out of the house. He heard his father shouting and his mother and he remembered her crying and shaking whenever his father came home. A few weeks later when we deconstructed Billy’s home life, Billy recognised that far from being a rejecting father his mother made sure that his father was banished from the charmed circle of herself and her son. Her ability to ridicule his father and to belittle every attempt he made to reach out to Billy very soon cast him out of the family so that his only attempt at any attempt at a life for himself was to stay away as much as possible. In Billy’s case he was able to accept that his mother was a dangerous Narcissistic Exhibitionist who was unable to love anyone but herself. Before long the huge anger against women that consumed him was gone. He left me determined to make a relationship with his father and eventually with himself.
Mother damaged men I often feel should have a government health warning stamped on their foreheads. The rage they dare not unleash upon their mothers they use against any other women in their lives. Because they learned early to dance attendance upon their mothers they are highly manipulative to other women. Because once he leaves his mother he is unaware that he is erotically bonded to her he is usually sexually dysfunctional. This can bring problems of impotence. Some men become fixated on the smell and the putting on of make up. Others have shoe or rubber fetishes. Some need to inflict pain on their partner just as the mother inflicted pain upon them when they were small and helpless. Many of the men become serial philanderers and the more women they can string along the happier and alive they feel. It isn’t the sex that attracts them it is the feeling of omnipotence they need while they are chasing down some poor hapless pray and then once she is unwise enough to tell him she loves him he turns on her and leaves her bereft and bewildered.
My advice to all women is to check out his mother. Some men do indeed transcend their damaging mothers and they are strong and better partners for it but many do not.
LEAVING AN ADDICTIVE RELATIONSHIP - 15.12.2011
I believe that of all the possible addictions that this life has to offer an addictive relationship is the very hardest to break. A bottle or drug doesn’t promise to love you and most people who are in addictive relationships have come from physically and emotionally dysfunctional childhoods and are desperate to find someone to love. For normal people coming from loving and kind parenting witnessing any sort of dysfunction or violence is abhorrent and they try to stay well clear of abusers. People who have grown up in abusive families have no warning signals to tell them to stay away and they are the ones who most often end up in the arms of an abuser.
For non violent people often the trigger that cements the abusive relationship can be that the abuser presents as a badly damaged person who is willing to go to the ends of the earth to make the changes to gain the love of the new partner. Jenny explained that even though she had never been attracted to a man who was as obviously damaged as her partner Simon, this time she fell for his stories about his terrible childhood and the beatings he suffered in the hands of his father. I often wonder if normal people suffer from ‘survivors guilt’ when they come across people who have been brutalized as children and almost feel they owe comfort and succour to those who have been abused. That is certainly how Jenny felt.
In the honeymoon phase of the relationship she did have a few moments when she glimpsed that there might be an abyss behind the loving façade that he offered her but she buried the thought because like so many people she believed that if she loved him enough he could transcend his background and be the person he so much wanted to be. She very quickly became aware that he seemed to spend a lot of his time at work fighting with his boss. He was working in a big IT firm and many evenings he came home tense and angry. After a while she noticed they no longer shared a couple of glasses of wine but he always finished the bottle and then opened another. He excused the pressures of work as an excuse for drinking and she learned to even make a suggestion that he might learn to compromise instead of arguing made him angry.
At first her family were very welcoming. He said he had no family as he had been estranged from his parents and his brothers and sisters for years. Janet also noticed that whereas she usually spent Sunday afternoon with her parents walking their dog in the park, Simon after the first few months preferred to stay at home. Even though she had misgivings she decided to let him move into her flat and she was wracked with pity when she saw the very few possessions that he owned. It became obviously very quickly that Simon had no interests at all except to watch car racing on television, sleeping, smoking and talking. At first Jenny loved their long luxurious talks. He spent hours describing the fights that happened regularly between his mother and father. He blamed his mother for not leaving his father and often his face contorted when he described how on the occasions she did leave with the children she always went back. After a while Jenny tried to suggest that he put some of his memories behind him after all he was now living in a happy relationship with a woman and family who really loved him.
Gradually Jenny realised that her life was becoming chaotic. James only acted on the spur of the moment. One minute he could be flat on his back in bed and then within a few seconds his mood changed and he was telling her to get dressed they were going out to the pub or anywhere else that suddenly attracted his interest. She did try to remonstrate with him and point out that she had other plans but she realised that made him angry. There was only one plan and that was James’s plans. Once she refused to go with him and he disappeared for two days. She was frantic. She had no where to look. She had no idea if he had friends and his work place said he’d phoned in sick. When he did come back he pretended nothing had happened but Jenny realised that in those twenty four hours that he’s been away she felt completely without control. She wept down the phone to her mother who tried to reason with her. She telephoned all the local hospital and police stations and spent both evening walking round to all their usual haunts and pubs. One he was back she was so grateful to have him back in her life she promised herself she would try and be a better partner.
‘I was consumed by Simon,’ Jenny said. ‘After we’d been together for six months I was exhausted. Simon stayed up most of the night watching awful violent films on television or he was on the computer playing war games. He never came to bed before four a.m. and then he was always complaining about being tired. I very quickly realised the only way we would have any peace is if I did whatever he wanted and that included very slowly not seeing my family very much and never seeing my friends. Simon was very jealous and if I was out with him he was always sure I was making eyes at men. He could make a scene anywhere and before long my local pubs weren’t happy to have us there. Simon didn’t care because he said he only lived for me and then I got pregnant.
At first he was delighted or so he said but then as the baby began to grow he got surly and made remarks about how I’d throw up over once the baby was born and I realised he was jealous of our child. He couldn’t bear to touch me once the baby was obvious. He couldn’t even hug me or give me a cuddle on the night I went into hospital he disappeared and didn’t come until the next day. When he came into the hospital he hardly glanced at his new baby son and he was cold and distant.
Once we were home he resented me breast feeding and every time I’d finished he’d take the baby out of my arms and weight him and then tell me he’d only had a few ounces and I didn’t have enough milk. He was angry most of the time and the drinking was getting worse until one day I realised I’d have to get out. I went back to my mum’s house with Peter our son when he was four months old.
I’d often told my mum that I wanted to leave but before I had Peter I knew I wouldn’t stay away but once I had Peter in my arms I knew every time James screamed at me and I saw Peter’s hands go up into the air and his little body shake that I couldn’t let James do this to my child. What I hadn’t banked on was the huge effort it was going to take to get away from James. At first it was a charm offensive. Huge bunches of flowers and tears down the telephone and however much it hurt I didn’t give in. There were guilt trips about how I was refusing to let him see his own son. How selfish I was. What a bad mother I’d become. James was afraid of my mother which is the only reason he didn’t come to the front door. A lot of the time I was torn between feeling guilty because Peter was our baby and the fact that I knew that James had broken something inside of me and that was the addiction. The longer I stayed away the more sure I was that I didn’t want to go back to that horrific roller coaster life.
Jennifer asked for my help to get through the final stages of getting out of James’s life. Fortunately for Jennifer James made very little effort to see his son. A solicitor’s letter made James leave the flat and once he recognised that Jennifer was no longer to dance attendance on him he stopped ringing and took himself off to find some other unfortunate woman to trap in his abusive web. It took Jennifer a long time to regain her trust in men but she had come from a warm and loving home so she knew what it was like to live in peace and harmony unlike so many other people who coming from violent background know nothing else. Her father died when she was a teenager but she had wonderful memories of him and of his care and protection of her. What she needs to remember is that nobody can help anybody else unless that person wants to start by helping themselves.
For women who have always lived in violence the refuge is their first taste of normal living. Hopefully they are surrounded by staff that are kind, warm and patient. Learning to make loving trusting relationships with the staff and other women in the same situation is the beginning of being able to break away. ‘Until death us do part,’ need not be an epitaph for a violent obsessive relationship but alas in far too many cases it is.
IS IT LOVE OR ADDICTION?
‘He’s like the Pied Piper if I hear his voice I’ll go back to him,’ she said. He didn’t find her for a year but then he found her address by accident on a court paper and he telephoned her late at night at the refuge. She went back as she promised and she died.
Another woman said: ‘I can’t leave him I love him.’ Her left eye was purple and swollen and I had a photograph of her upper arm where he kicked her so hard there was an imprint of his shoe clearly visible.’ You can’t call that love,’ I said aghast.
For such a long time I was puzzled by the forces that bound these people into horrific abusive and dysfunctional relationships. There seemed to rhyme or reason as to why anyone would choose the degradation that came with these relationships.
As a child I watched my mother and father abuse and destroy each other with no thought to the damage they were doing to their three children. They had money, servants, cars big houses and no excuses but they never left each other. My mother died horribly under terrible circumstances and even then my father claimed he only ever loved his Pat. When he died two wives later he demanded that his ashes be taken to my mother’s grave in Axminster and I watched the wind blow away the remains of a man I hated and feared. I still didn’t understand.
One day I came across a prophecy written by Freud. He said that he believed that one day all emotions will be found in chemicals of the brain. That made sense to me. The powerful chemicals of bonding are there to make sure that babies and their mothers and fathers bond to each other and that men and women are also bonded while they take care of the fragile business of bringing up children. When you fall in love you feel those very powerful chemicals. You can’t be without your lover. To be without them is painful and normal pastimes like eating and sleeping suffer. For most people those powerful chemicals do their work and gradually fade away. The couple begin a life together and bring up their children. However, in some people the chemical bonding mechanisms are faulty. They don’t just fall in love – they become addicted. The people they become addicted to are often dangerous and violent sometime physically but always emotionally and the results are disastrous.
Many women came to the refuge after a series of violent relationships others found to their absolutely horror that with no history of violence in their background they inadvertently had become enmeshed in a violent relationship. Although I was a child of violent parents I had always prided myself on the fact that I never found myself involved in one of these nightmare relationships until one day a man walked into a room where I was sitting and I looked across the room at him and then I understood. The French call in a ‘coup de foudre’ a lightening bolt. I think that is a very good description. It was a salutary moment for me. I was lost and made a food of myself for a very long time. What saved me from utter degradation was that I knew this was a dangerous addictive relationship and no good for either of us. I never admitted any of my feelings to him or to anyone else. I just suffered dreadful painful withdrawal symptoms when I wasn’t with him. My addiction made me understand what drives stalkers and how the pain of rejection can cause a relationship addict to commit suicide. There is no way I can describe the terrible physical pain caused by the feeling of abandonment in the addict except to say it is like having your heart torn out of your chest. The chemicals in the brain that addict alcoholics, drug addicts, gamblers and racing drivers to where they are willing to die to get their fix are no different to the chemicals that cause some people to become addicted to other people. We need to understand addictive relationships and treat them with the same sort of therapy as we do drug addicts and alcoholics. At the moment the relationship addicts often end up in court. They are issued with injunctions and other legal prohibitions but until such time as they begin to understand their condition the addiction drives any sense of responsibility out of their minds just as it does for other types of addictions and court orders just makes the addicts more dangerous to their prey.
I worked closely with women in the refuge who admitted that they realised that the relationships they were in were damaging and dangerous. My first job was to get rid of the word ‘love’ to describe a woman’s sense of loss when she was without her partner and to begin to get her to think about the fact that she was addicted. Then she needed to recognise that like any other addiction the only way forward was to go ‘cold turkey’ on the abusive partner. For women and men who were ‘innocent victims of their partner’s violence,’ by that I mean they had by accident fallen into a seemingly loving relationship but very quickly discovered that their lover’s was wearing a mask of sanity and once the mask slipped they found themselves hurtled into a nightmare world, getting out of the relationship was painful but not difficult. For people who came from violent and dysfunctional backgrounds the break was much harder.
The innocent victims had a whole world of good loving relationships behind them but the violence prone person had often only known abuse. For them what they was experiencing was ‘normal’ even if they knew in their heart of hearts it was dangerous and abusive. Addictions like violence can be generational but the first step back from the abyss is to identify that the relationship is not about love but all about addiction.
My second blog is about leaving an addictive relationship.