Somewhere on the West Coast, JS writes: You mention that some of your family members don’t acknowledge the extent of the “epically screwy” parents. Their response seems not that uncommon, but it’s hard to fathom. What is your take on why people seem unwilling/unable to face reality, or they seem to think that victims should just “get over it?” 

It’s called denial, JS.

When I am  feeling charitable—which is not often; I am not that nice a person—I focus on “unable” over “unwilling.” People use denial as a way to continue living in the face of an intolerable reality. The people whose denial really hacks me off are generally related to me. That, or the specific instances of their denial trigger in me a reaction that has more to do with the child I was than the adult I have become. I do my best to ascribe to them as much pain around their issues as I feel around mine. I pretend that individuals who want victims (and I will add: survivors) to get over it are not hopeless assholes. I make up that they are in the most denial, and therefore the most pain. So much, that I cannot expect them to acknowledge my pain. They don’t acknowledge their own.

If I can’t stay in “charitable” around them, I give them at least ten feet. When the Anglo-Saxon expletives threaten, I leave.

It is important for me to remember that everyone has the right to believe what they want to believe. As long as someone is not physically or emotionally abusive, it is my job to be polite in public. (As I am responsible for small children, it is also my job to protect them from abuse until they can do so for themselves.)

If I cannot seem to let go of the fantasies where I drill this one in court or denounce that one on their deathbed, well, that’s a good time to open up a blank Word document. Job security!

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