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More Destructive Than Lies


James lives in an upper middle class neighborhood. He is provided much in the way of material wealth, but emotionally he is deprived. His brother is put in a glorified role, and many expectations are placed upon the brother. The father is emotionally abusive and often distant. The mother makes excuses for the father or tries to reshape the events that James has experienced. The mother is a master at mystification. In the community, they present a good ‘public image.’ The brother begins to rebel, and automatically he begins to be defined as ‘the problem’ as the mother seeks to find out why he is so angry and depressed and has him put on a psychiatric drug. James begins to feel that a lot of the attention, even if negative, has been diverted to his brother, so he begins to act out. He experiments with his brother’s psychiatric drugs, and then it moves on to experimentation with other drugs. He seeks to fill the empty void in his life with the drugs. The parents, particularly the mother, begin to worry about how they will be perceived in the community by their ‘unruly’ sons. They decide that it would be good in order to preserve the ‘integrity’ of their family to send James away to live with other relatives. They do not relate to the relatives the circumstances of James’ challenges and they dare not say to their friends and neighbors why he has left. Instead, they say, “Oh, James, is going on a vacation for awhile, he is visiting his Aunt and Uncle.” Feeling lowered esteem and it plummeting even further by being sent away, as well as the impact of much drug use, James enters into a psychotic state. The aunt and uncle have no idea of what to do and they call the parents. The parents and the aunt and uncle without James being aware arrange to have him admitted to a psychiatric hospital. The cycle of psychiatric hospitalizations continues, and each time the story remains that he is ‘on vacation’ or ‘visiting someone’. In the interim between hospitalizations and in his confusion, he indulges himself in superficial relationships, having unprotected sex, and engaging in more drug use with so called ‘friends’ because he has felt abandoned by his family and has become alienated from the world around him. Eventually, the ‘vacation’ story has worn out its usefulness and as questions begin to arise from family, friends, and neighbors, a new story must be developed. The family stumbles upon a new and wonderful story- let us make him ill. If we can say that he is ill, then people will take pity upon him and upon us. So, from that day forward, James is said to be ill. James has a terrible break-up with a girlfriend and in this goes into a rage, becoming suicidal, arguing with his mother, and entering again into a psychotic state. This is said to be his illness. James himself begins to like this idea of being ill, as he finds that he can manipulate situations, excuse himself for poor choices, and escape from difficult and challenging situations by saying he is ill. So, ill he remains. As the questions come from the outside to explain this illness and as some carefully guarded details become known, James is left flustered and devises means of escaping these people and these questions. He has educated himself well about his illness and comes across to others as an ‘expert’ on all matters pertaining to it. If he cannot just plainly escape, then he can present this ‘expert information’ and hope that it leads persons off the track. He talks of wanting to be apart from his family, of stepping away from the typical societal expectations, however remains attached to his family solely for financial reasons. He does the talk of wanting to be apart but really cannot live without his ‘things’. So, James too projects a public image of being this person desirous of a Bohemian lifestyle, but in reality happily receives whatever the parents offer him financially.

And so it is with the entanglement that we create. It may be very easy for individuals to separate from the person or persons who have contributed to their distress, but is this separation to be called liberation? The liberation only comes when we are able to face up to the truth, to confront our experience, and to unlearn all that which was said to said to be and all the messages of who we were said to be. Then we can start life anew, this is not an easy task.

abusive father, adoptive mother, adoptive parents, biological parents, brother, civic projects, closed doors, community functions, cowers, experiences, financial incentive, foster care, foster parents, madness, material wealth, mental anguish, middle class neighborhood, myths, religious community, suffering