When I was growing up there was generally one person who did all the talking when we were around others - my mother. And, as time went by this would include my sister, which meant that my father and I didn’t get the chance to say much.
It was no different when we were at home, either, as my mother would typically speak and my father would do most of the listening. Also, if my mother wanted to talk to someone at home she would rarely go and find them – it wasn’t uncommon for her to shout for them.
I Kept Quiet
On one side, I didn’t see the need to talk as there were already two people who would do that, and on the other, I didn’t feel safe enough to express myself. Now, this is not to say that I knew this at the time; this was a time when I was just reacting to the experiences that I had had up until this point.
Deep down, I wanted to be seen and to express myself, but this was something that was far too painful for me to handle. If the attention was on me, I would often feel very hot in my face and experience a lot of fear.
It was as though someone had just turned the heating right up, and this made me want to run away from everyone. I now realise that the reason my face got so hot was because I would experience a lot of shame.
This shame, along with the fear that I experienced was how I would feel before I was hit by my mother or father as a child. If the attention was on my as a child, it would often be a sign that I was about to be harmed.
As a result of this, I came to associate being seen with being harmed, and this was the last thing that I wanted to experience. I faded into the background and made sure that I was always around people who were comfortable with attention.
This would mean that I wouldn’t be expected to say much, and this would stop me from feeling as though my life was about to come to an end. The years went by and I felt as though I was invisible.
Out of Touch
Yet, as I wasn’t aware of what was taking place within me, I believed that something out there was stopping me from receiving attention. I felt powerless and as though I had no control over my life.
This was then similar to how I felt as a child when I was neglected; however, as I only felt safe when I wasn’t seen, it meant that this need had to be ignored. But even if I did speak, I would often find it hard to speak clearly - the main reason for this was that I would often experience a lot of tension in my throat.
Interestingly, just about every member of my family had something wrong with their throat. My grandmother, my mother’s mother, had a dry throat and had to use this spray; my grandfather, my mother’s farther, had swallowing problems and was often clearing his throat; and my mother would often have to clear her throat and my father was the same.
I would say that the reason my mother had to speak so much and shout so much was because she also grew up in an environment where it wasn’t safe for her to express herself. I’m not sure about my father, as he didn’t really talk about his upbringing and I didn’t get the chance to spent time with his parents.
This was then a case of someone being abused at one point in time and being abusive at another. Due the level of awareness that she had, it would have been a case of identifying with how she felt as a child and feeling powerless or identifying with the person who abused her and feeling powerful.
Nevertheless, I didn’t want to talk over others or to overshadow them; I simply wanted to feel safe enough to express myself and to be seen. In order to do this, I had to work through a lot of layers of trauma and to spend time with people who I felt safe with.