Emotional manipulation can be subtle, persistent, and cruel. It is only when a person who is being abusive is struck by remorse, or guilt, that finally the truth can come out and healing can take place.
Christmas Day 2018 may have marked an important turning point in my life and in the lives of my family members. It was significant because I felt I couldn’t cope any more with what has been a lifetime of my father aggressively manipulating me. On Christmas morning I had a choice – it could be one more day of pretending, or I could muster up every ounce of courage I had, and tell my father how I was feeling, and walk out.
I know Christmas is a difficult time for so many families, because it is a time when repressed tensions and emotions can surface, often in the form of superficial bickering that fails to reveal the underlying emotional pain and deeper issues of emotional hurt and disorder that family members may be experiencing.
This Christmas there were three of us; my dad’s partner, my dad, and myself. After a night of disturbing dreams on Christmas Eve, I woke early on Christmas morning with a dread about how the day would unfold. I knelt down and said a few prayers, asking God what I should do. Should I put on a brave face and try to stick it out? Or should I leave and head back to my flat in London?
God indicated that leaving would be the best thing to do. After a few minutes I packed up my things and gathered my courage. I could hear my dad walking about downstairs, and I resolved to explain to him in a calm way how I was feeling. It was a terrifying feeling, but not as terrifying as the prospect of sitting through the charade of present-giving and playing happy families for another year.
When speaking honestly with my dad, there is always a tremendous fear that he will react defensively and aggressively, as he has done throughout my life whenever I have found the courage to share my feelings. On this occasion I felt no different. But, thankfully, the years I spent attending psychotherapy have given me some courage, and the ability to express myself calmly even when under pressure.
I explained to my dad that I felt angry, stressed, and upset, and that I didn’t feel I would be able to cope with another distressing Christmas. I said I was going to head back to London. My dad responded with what I believe was probably mock surprise – perhaps an attempt to make me feel guilty – and then briefly tried to keep me under his control, but thankfully, I made it out of the door without any drama.
The extent to which I have suffered at the hands of my dad for my entire life cannot be condensed into a short, or even a fairly long blog post. In the coming months I will share with you how events unfold, but for the time being I will simply share a few thoughts concerning what my dad has done to our family.
My mother became ill with cancer and died following many years of my father angrily and aggressively abusing her. I believe she died as a result of this abuse and my dad’s unwillingness (or inability) to empathise with her.
I believe everything I’ve experienced in terms of mental health problems is attributable to my father. I have felt as though I’ve been trapped in a prison for my entire life, because of my dad’s own mental health problems, which he has never admitted to, and which I believe may constitute a personality disorder.
My father is completely in denial. He never talks about anything to do with my mother’s suffering or her death. I have been fortunate to have processed a lot of emotion surrounding my mother’s death in psychotherapy, but my dad has never opened up about what happened and I believe he suppresses the truth, perhaps due to feelings of guilt.
My dad seriously needs psychological therapy. His house is in a complete state and he has an entrenched fear of any kind of change and of talking about anything other than what is very superficial.
My dad needs to cry. He needs to open up and confront the past. It doesn’t have to be difficult. I’m not angry with him at all, but I can’t be happy unless he heals, because his unexpressed feelings impact me every day. He needs the help of a therapist with emotional expertise.
I have never been more optimistic that healing can take place in our family. As I expressed to my sister recently, I believe that everything that has been hidden in our family will come to light, and as long as my dad doesn’t remain in denial, everything will be okay.
I know I’m not perfect and that I’ve made some mistakes in my own life. When I have made a mistake, I have always apologised and tried to make things right. When my behaviour has been erratic, I hope those who know me will be able to understand that it’s due to not having had the love and support of a father that every boy needs. Perhaps my father never had that kind of support either, but he has never talked about it, so how would anyone know?
Thank you, blogging family, for your prayers, which I have no doubt God has heard. Your support is deeply appreciated and I hope to get back to writing about my big passions of philosophy and theology before too long.
Wishing you all a peaceful and blessed 2019!
Love from Steven x