Anger and Shame

The shame that I felt over the things I did, the things that were done to me, morphed into anger. But not anger at my father, or even my mother. There was anger at Them. But mostly, it turned into anger against me. There was this violent feeling that I was desperate to alleviate. I felt darker than a black hole.
While I was there, I expressed that rage by forcing myself to approach them. I purposely encouraged sexual activity as a preemptive move. But, I think, that meant that there were times there was sexual activity when there might not have been, if I hadn’t teased, touched, and generally initiated it.
My therapist insists there is no way I child can be held responsible. And I understand that. The fact that I physically touched them. That I teased and aroused them should not have mattered. Even if I did all that, they should not have responded. Most adults would have pushed me away. Put up limits.
Except that I knew they would respond. They started it. They showed me their buttons. Fairly demanded that I push them.
It was what my father wanted me to do. No question. He taught me the skills I used to seduce them. He taught that sex was this wonderful, wholesome thing. For children and adults. For every- and any-one.
There was no question in that little Me’s mind. I was the problem. So, I kept trying and trying. Not only to be safe. Not only preemptively. I wanted—I needed—to master this. Why couldn’t I be the person he wanted me to be? What was wrong with me that these things made me want to die. Made me want to punish myself. Made me run away into that swirling colored spot way deep in my mind.
There was anger. And fear. Focused on my father. I would never have admitted it. Would ever even had dared think it.
I didn’t let myself remember the violence from when I was very small. But whether it was the anger in him or the anger in me, every so often that fear reared its head.
One day, in Shirley, my father decided we were going on a family outing. For reasons lost to the vagaries of time I did not want to go. At some point I ended up under his desk. He was yelling, I was screaming.
He stood there in the doorway, sternly demanding that I put on my shoes and get in the car. Under the desk, I sat holding my breath. I started to feel lightheaded, and no less angry, or scared. To defy my father meant defying his perfection. A belief I had to believe.
I sucked in a deep lungful of air and scooted out from under the desk. Before he could move or react, I was out the door and down the stairs. I ran out the front door. The tiny rocks biting at my feet. I could hear him behind me. My heart was throbbing in my ears. I reached the barn. And impromptu haven. I found myself up in the hayloft, looking down from the open doorway to the gravel filled area below.
Then I heard him coming. Up the ladder. For the briefest of moments, I hated him. Within that moment I felt my full fear of him, as well. The certain knowledge that I was not safe. I simply did not know what he would do should he catch me. I was unwilling to capitulate. So, I stood in that doorway, surrounded by hay bits. I held onto the side with one hand. My screaming had turned into growls of rage. Where there words that he could decipher? I don’t know.
I do know he backed down. He was cooing calm words that I was in no frame of mind to decipher. Finally, he left me alone there. Without further conversation, demand, or request, he packed everyone up and drove off.
How long did I stay there? How long were my mind and body numb? How long did I stay abandoned there?
I know, eventually, I came down. The house was empty and quiet. I knew I had won, but I felt no elation. I felt certain there would be a price to pay.
The cold yet burning knot inside me turned it all on myself. I had been wrong. I had betrayed him. If I were just a better kid, it would not have happened. What if he didn’t love me anymore?
I had exposed a moment of impotence. What would happen if it caused someone else to deny, or defy him? And, tiniest of all, what if he never came back?
Though I didn’t remember it then, there was a reason for a fear so profound I would jump put a hay loft to avoid him. When I was quite small there was a day when I went to my daddy’s den to say good night. I’m sure I bounced in there in some cute little night dress. When I opened the door there was something wrong.
He didn’t smile and hug me. Instead, he seemed to growl. When I moved, said something, he turned. Another tentative step and he stood up. Some tiny voice in my tiny head yelled run. So, I did. Towards my mother. She grabbed me and threw me into my room, demanding I stay put as she slammed the door.
I was confused. I was scared. I could hear my daddy screaming. My mother’s voice softer, cajoling. I could hear things breaking. Finally, there was a dull thump. Then, nothing. I didn’t dare move. I didn’t understand what I had done wrong. How could I have understood about drug use and violence. I couldn’t.
I don’t know how the story ends. It is simply a little vignette floating around free. I know the thump was my mother’s head sitting the hearth. Other than a confirmation that it happened; I have nothing to connect it to.
Does that violence explain the fear I felt that day in the barn? Is that little girl’s belief it was her fault what caused the shame I felt that day?
In both there is a sense of betrayal. Of causing my father to do something bad. That ever-growing shame. I was, simply, wrong.

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