August 8, 2014
I have learned from my work in the child welfare system, from my conversations with people who have suffered childhood abuse and neglect, and from reading the research in the field of brain development that people generally tend to love their parents no matter how poorly the parents may have treated them as children. I have seen people abused severely, treated in shocking ways by their own parents, even from infancy, yet unable to resist a strong feeling of attachment and need for the parents despite the terrible things they did to them. I have seen children make efforts to turn away from the parents who mistreat them, and still be unable to control that feeling, that draw, and that need to see them and to be with them, to “come home” as they tend to call it. In fact, these patterns become re-created in people’s lives in adult relationships when they cannot resist the attachment to a person who treats them terribly in a relationship context.
When I recently read by this powerful article written by a woman who was sexually abused by her own father in childhood, I was deeply moved. As an adult, she reflects on her father after his death. She reflects on the confusing and bittersweet nature of the fact that she loved him, that she has some good memories of him, that he was her father no matter what, and that he violated her innocence and took advantage of his position of control and power in a horrific way. It is sad how prevalent the sexual abuse of children is.
I strongly recommend this article. I think it can make us all (even those of us who were not abused) reflect on our own perceptions of our parents, their imperfections, their complexities, their flaws, and how that affects us throughout life.