So, again, what does it feel like not to have a mother?
It feels like being hungry. Desperately hungry to be touched, and fed. So hungry it makes you want to curl up and cry, and sometimes you might even feel like dying, because you want it to stop and it just won’t.
It’s an aching hunger somehow stays, stuck in your body, and comes back to haunt you when you are tired. It may show as a chronic craving – for food, for sex, for simple touch and affection, or perhaps for something else. This might be the root of an addiction.
After a period, perhaps many years, of searching and wondering and doubting – after periods of depression and self doubt, punctuated by doomed love affairs (doomed because, without realising it, you were, always searching for something that noone could ever give you) – after enough of this, you may start to recognise these feelings for what they are. This helps. Actually, it helps a lot, because (perhaps this is almost unavoidable when you are young) the worst thing is – feeling this, but not knowing that you are feeling it. This moment of self-realisation might actually be the moment that healing really starts (even if there is still a long way to go).
Does that sound strange? It happened like this for me, because that traumatised feeling was always a part of things, so I thought that it was normal. I thought that everyone in the world had it. I think that I thought, at times, that this is how things normally work between people, how they were supposed to be. Then, bewildered by rejection, or cruel laughter, or simple insensitivity to what was going on inside me (but how could they have known?), I discovered, painfully, that it was not so. That actually, I was different and driven in a way that I could not control (we will come back to that), and I often felt unable to connect in a way that others would understand.
It was a lonely place.
Of course, as a young man, the time came to want to know women and to make love – and naturally that craving gets mixed up with it. With it came painful shyness and a lot of fear – the dark terror of being abandoned again although I often could not name it as such. Unfortunately, love and fear do not sit well together. Many times, I began to fall in love, but as I did so, fear kicked in, and with it my dreams were died. Women are very observant and sensitive towards men they are attracted to, and some lose their desire when they smell fear. This is nature, unavoidable, but caused me to relive the bitter agony of rejection, many times. This was deeply painful and often left me angry, doubtful and confused.
This does not mean that we cannot have relationships. I married and started a wonderful family. My ex-wife saw me go through huge emotional turmoil, helped me as much as she could, and we stayed together for ten years. But – somewhere, under everything – the shadow of the past was always there, and it tested us both. Eventually – we needed to let each other go. For myself – I needed to grow and move on. But love is an amazing thing, and I think that the experience of family has helped me a great deal.
If you are lucky, and also quite strong, and if you can survive the repeated pain without becoming a monster or an emotional cripple, you will begin to see yourself more clearly. Clearly enough to be able to give your history a place where it is neither hidden away in secret (this does not help, for it will not remain so), but also not destructive. The past will not change, and nor will the damage that was done to you. The pain may not go completely. But perhaps we can avoid being blown around by our own reactions, and it will be no greater than it has to be.
That is something that is so worth trying for. And it is possible. The question is, how to get there.
Perhaps – our car analogy – it is time to try to consider how the “engine”of our emotions works, and how it might be repaired if it is damaged.