I’ve come across countless people who lament and long for the past, for a simpler time without sadness and worries. Maybe it’s because I’m 23 and I don’t feel “old” yet (although sometimes I do!) but I find it difficult to relate to this. Maybe it’s because I’ve spent time weeding out the realities of my tumultuous and confusing first attachments and have long forwent my habits of fantasising and idealising to cover up pain. Actually, I still do this but rather than idolisation of my father I now use sexual fantasy to cope with inevitable endings of relationships or difficult triggers – a pattern that has inspired much of my songwriting.
I rarely promote my music on my blog but I thought it was appropriate!
In terms of idealisation of childhood, here’s why I don’t adhere to this form of escape. Children are not happy all the time. The care-free and uninhibited nature of children is balanced out with tantrums and an inability to effectively process or express emotions and needs. Kids cry a lot. I hear them screaming in supermarkets all the time. It’s confusing being a kid, it’s difficult. There’s no sense of perspective or real understanding about what’s even going on.
I remember being completely overwhelmed with the feeling of boredom as a child – really suffering with the fact that I felt there was nothing to do! Of course, I was completely disregarded by my parents because in their minds this was a non-issue – but to me it seemed completely unbearable! I stood in the living room with my chubby arms folded, sticking out my bottom lip and huffing ’til there was no air left in me. What a sight I must’ve been!
Adults think that children don’t have a care in the world – they don’t have to worry about work or taxes or housekeeping (if, like me, they were lucky enough to have a privileged upbringing) – and many of them wish they could forgo adult responsibilities. But children are very busy and preoccupied in other ways – in developing their ego and a moral compass, learning to speak and express themselves and dealing with the introduction of discipline and boundaries.
In becoming an adult, our preoccupations and responsibilities change. I’ve lived alone – I get it. You have to sort out council tax and electricity and everything that goes with running a house. You have to work full-time. At first it feels unfair and difficult but along with all these new responsibilities comes expansion on an emotional and spiritual level. You grow and you learn to be grateful for the little things like having enough money to heat the house in the winter or knowing you’ve got something in a Tupperware to microwave when you get home from work. You make mistakes (I’ve exploded many a poached egg in the microwave!) and sometimes everything seems so bloody difficult. But it means that when you get something right and you live a little while without struggle, it’s so rewarding.
This kind of perspective (and I’m still very much at the beginning of my journey) can only be obtained through growing and the passage of time. And that’s the paradox. Being able to be truly grateful for life without struggle, happiness and contentment can only come through a little adversity. And although we are confronted with difficulty and confusion in childhood, the ability to emotionally process it and fully understand it is just not there. What this means is that we are unable to be appreciative of our seemingly “care-free” existence as children. The phrase “living within your means” can also apply to emotional capacity.
“Youth is wasted on the young and wisdom is wasted on the old.” – Unknown
I think the antidote to this paradox is simply gratitude. Practice it wherever and whenever you can.
But what if we have experienced real hardship in childhood, causing us to fixate and psychologically regress? Psychological regression is something I have been researching today.
“The defense mechanism of regression, in psychoanalytic theory, occurs when an individual’s personality reverts to an earlier stage of development, adopting more childish mannerisms” – Wikipedia
I felt prompted to research this topic after spending time with my mother whose energy I was finding really difficult to be around. She stayed with me over the weekend and although I enjoyed our time together, I also felt completely drained both throughout and after her visit. Sometimes it feels as if the roles have been reversed and that I am responsible for placating her and making sure that she is okay. Her overall neurosis is something that I find very difficult to be around. She’s on top of the world and over-excitable with an attention deficit then adopts denial as a coping mechanism for low mood. She tells herself white lies and is irritable and defensive if you so much as bring rationale to the table.
In the spiritual community, we are told that connecting to and listening to our inner child is very important and actually intrinsic to self care. What I believe my mother does is take this one step further and psychologically regresses. It’s exhausting and difficult to explain. She avoids adult responsibilities wherever she can and cries and breaks down when things blow up in her face. In the moment, it’s irritating and infuriating because I can see the pattern clear as day. But after the fact, it’s completely understandable because my mother experienced firsthand neglect as a child.
“I don’t want to talk about it! Everytime I think about something nice, you remind me of bad things. I only want to talk about the nice things.” – Jane, in the movie Whatever Happened To Baby Jane (1962)
A few years ago my mother and I watched this film in the cinema together and I remember feeling uncomfortable when she told me she related to this quote because it brought home the aspects of her behaviour I found so difficult to deal with.
Now I’m a bit older, I’m starting to understand the psychological regression and the very real adult manifestations of abject childhood neglect. It’s a struggle for me because my mother’s history of neglect has obviously had a knock-on effect on me and at the moment I’m working on moving from a place of acknowledging my own mistreatment and understanding of my own childhood to seeing the bigger picture behind all of it.
At one point, when my mother was in the throes of alcohol dependence, I was unable to feel any sympathy towards her because any capacity for that was buried underneath layers of pain and confusion. But now I am thankful for my expanding awareness and emotional capacity. I’ll take that with the adult accountability over blissful ignorance any day.
Thanks so much for reading. 🙂
– SMUT. ❤ xxxx