Splitting & Childhood Trauma

Warning… This post is long but significant to my “recovery”.  It contains graphic details of physical abuse of a child…..me.

When we have any type of psychological assessment, there is the likelihood that we will plunge into an abyss of emotions – hurt, anguish and self-hatred, to name only a few..  We may well be living with all these destructive emotions throughout our life, but we usually only think about one or two particular sections at a time.

I think assessments are dangerous because there is no follow up and, particularly on the NHS, someone can then wait many months before seeing a therapist again.

Until fairly recently, I didn’t have a name or any kind of reasoning for my ‘splitting characteristics’.  There has always been awareness for the ‘Jekyll & Hyde’ side of my personality and I have loathed it as much as the people or situations that I’m demonising.

My Splitting episodes usually involve everyone and everything at the same time.  The longer a distance lasts between me and whoever is being “split-black”, the deeper those negative emotions run

Of course, with childhood high on the agenda, there is currently a soul destroying splitting episode directed at my parents.  Only today, I realised the ‘good’ and ‘evil’ splitting characteristics I apply to my relationship with them.  I tend to see all of the bad and seem to forget the goodness.  If I write of them here or anywhere else, I paint them as monsters, child (physical and mental) abusers, and seem oblivious of their good points.

I’m trying to understand Splitting.  I believe understanding through education is the key to healing/conquering this ‘mother’.  I’ve been doing a little research on the net and much of it is repetitive and seems so simplistic.  However, so far, there isn’t much that looks hopeful of bringing about a change of perspective.  A couple of statements strike a chord with me. One I’ll share here, the other in another entry.

“At the very heart of BPD ‘acting-out’ is core shame, the leftovers from a childhood fraught with neglect; confusing messages and abuse, which left them doubting their lovability and true worth”

A few flashback images I regularly get during a ‘parent-splitting-episode’ are being around 5 or 6 years old.  Through whatever reasons -probably feelings of being unwanted – I had become a very unhappy, destructive and disobedient child.  My Mum, not renowned for patience, was having problems coping.  On the outside, she is your model parent, a bit of a snob, but behind closed doors, her vicious personality can erupt on a daily basis.  It was more unusual to get a few good days.  Depression seemed to be at the heart of the others.

You fucking wee bastard, I wish I had never had you”, she would scream in my face, before beating me repeatedly on any part of my body within reach of her slipper. “Wait ‘till your Father gets home” She would add, knowing full well this thought would terrorise my little defenceless mind.

I had already had a few severe “leatherings” from Dad.  He worked a manual job and I can still feel his power today, as he would lift me off my feet, hold me down on the bed while he plummeted my bare buttocks relentlessly with his thickset hands.

He would later complain about how much this hurt his hands and then continue to tell me in detail what would happen the next time I misbehave.  It is this threat that haunts my childhood days, but oddly enough, it’s never enough to frighten me into complete submission.

As Mum starts to prepare dinner, I realise it is nearly time for Dad to get home.  My stomach is in knots and I even try pleading with Mum not to tell Dad.

What do you think he will do to me?” I ask in a soft, almost whispering, voice.  I feel petrified, trapped, and helpless.  This will probably be the day when he carries out his threat; I’ve blown it this time.

Mum revels in my passiveness, “You’ll just need to wait and see what happens….

I disappear to my room in terror and reach up to the door handle to shut the door tightly.  Maybe if I stay in here quietly, I’ll escape my fate.  I hear Dad come home and pray to God on my knees to be saved.

The bedroom door bursts open.  Dad’s large stature looms over me; his face looking like it will explode from the rage for my disobedience.

The living room, NOW!”  He hollers, with a bright red face.

I shuffle past him with my little legs, he suddenly moves to follow and my hand automatically shields my face as I cower from him.  This makes his anger worse; he grabs my t-shirt and marches me up the hallway to the living room, where Mum awaits in her armchair.  Dad sits on his chair and I am left standing in the middle of the room, knees trembling, with my head bowed low.

Have you’ve been disobedient to your Mother AGAIN?” he asks in an angry tone.

My head stays down.  I know he’s looking for an answer, an admission, but I’m too terrified to give him one.

What did I say I would do to you the next time you are disobedient to your Mother?”

My tummy turns in fear and trepidation

“Look at me when I’m talking to you”, he shouts in his deep booming voice.

My head stays low but my eyes lift slightly, trying hard to find the courage to look at him.  He repeats the question but I don’t want to tell him that I know my punishment.  It feels a bit like handing the hangman your noose.   Maybe, by pretending I can’t remember, will buy a reprieve.  I shrug my shoulders uncertainly as there is a fine line between forgetting and lying and either could reign down punishment

His big hands smacks under my chin, pushing my head up and our eyes meet.

“I told you the next time you are disobedient to your Mother, I will strip you naked, tie you up on the bed and whip you with the leather belt until you bleed…. Didn’t I?”, he adds as a question.

He might as well be asking if I want to live or die.  Anything is possible here, my innocent mind has no trust, and there is no safety.  I imagine every child gets leathered for disobedience.  I never would have guessed it any other way.  This was normal.  It is all we knew.

I believe with all my heart that it will be happening this time, I’ve had too many escapes from this punishment.  In that moment, I hate my Mother.  I feel abandoned, deceived.  The nerves are getting the better of me.  I start to cry as my knees begin to buckle under the nervous pressure.  In that moment, I have a gut-wrenching hatred for both of them.  My shaking is as much from rage as it is utter terror.

“Didn’t I?” He screams at me again, staring angrily, waiting for my response. “Go to your room now, strip naked and I will be in shortly”, he orders me.

Without hesitation, I run to my room crying in the full belief I had reached the end of my reprieves.  I wanted so much to be away from them.  Mum used to threaten to put me in a home for bad children and I prayed hard to God that she would send me away.  But, for now, I was trapped and about to receive the most terrifying, humiliating and painful punishments imaginable to a little 5 year old.

I sat at the edge of the bed naked, shivering from cold and fear; I hardly noticed my tummy rumbling from hunger.  I can hear them having dinner.  Every step or noise and I fear the time has come, but Dad never comes.  No one does.  I slowly start to realise that I must have escaped the ‘leathering’, but I’m too afraid to leave my room and ask for food.

So, to repeat the earlier quote that took me on this journey

“At the very heart of a person with BPD ‘acting-out’ is core shame, the leftovers from a childhood fraught with neglect; confusing messages and abuse, which left them doubting their lovability and true worth”

This is the first I have ever told anyone.  I’ve had to keep myself hard throughout writing.  If BPD starts in childhood development, then this sort of upbringing surely shaped who I am today.

Maybe a Non-BPD might be able to see past these incidents and view the larger picture; it wasn’t all bad.  Largely, my sister has.  However, the problem with a person with BPD, is the ‘all or nothing’, ‘good or evil’ mentality and it is therefore difficult for me to see past the hard-handed-discipline and find forgiveness in my heart.  They have forgotten these incidents, they happened 45 years ago.  One of my quotes…

“We forget the things people do and say

But never how they make us feel

There were many more incidents, which I will share at some point along the way.  This is what assessments do to us.  I didn’t even discuss childhood last week, but it always inadvertently calls up the memories that I would so love to learn to forgive.

I don’t like living with anger and hatred.  I detest how it lives dormant for some time and then haunts every waking hour.  I have seen my Mother once in 13 years but never my Dad.  It’s difficult to want a relationship when these horrors are still lurking in the dark recesses of my brain.  It’s even more annoying that they have no idea why I never see them and think it is all my fault.  Mum usually doesn’t talk to me for large periods of time because I won’t see her.  People within dysfunctional families are the last ones to notice, if ever at all

This post has gone on long enough, much more than I would ever usually intend.  It might put people off reading all of it.  However, it is quite an extraordinary event for me to admit, even on an anonymous situation.  It needs to come out in therapy, I can only hope, and pray this journal is empowering me to do just that.

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21 thoughts on “Splitting & Childhood Trauma

  1. shaz1964

    Oh Cat. I read this near to tears. Its truely awful. I can’t put into words how I felt reading this. Just want to give you a hug. I am always here. S x

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  2. Frank Charlton

    I hesitated to click the “Like” button, but I have. Not because I “like” the content as such, but because of the courage and self-awareness it took to sit down and write this, especially so early in your blogging life. Cat my friend, I am gobsmacked. This is one of the most heartbreaking and yet affirming pieces I’ve read. Why affirming? Because despite it all, your personality shines through it. Despite the horror, you come across as one of the most human people I’ve yet to meet. Honestly, I’m in awe of the courage it took to do this.

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    1. Cat Post author

      Thank you for those very kind comments, Frank. I’m not so sure my recounting the past is as much courageous as it is desperation to exorcise the demons from the closet. It is certainly proving to be cathartic.

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  3. Ellen

    Wow – this breaks my heart. What a vivid story. I’m glad you were able to write it down – hope that helped a bit with the emotions. No wonder you don’t want to see your so called parents. IMO saying ‘it wasn’t all bad’ is denial and a wish that these things had never happened. I prefer your path of speaking out and processing the past. Best.

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    1. Cat Post author

      Yes, Ellen, thanks for your comment. I do tend to feel that saying things like, “it wasn’t all bad” or “it didn’t happen too often” are a bit like protecting the abuser. Maybe even making excuses for their behaviour. On the other hand, cutting off from the “good times”, makes it all feel very bitter and I cannot find peace in that position. I find it is more difficult to feel unease or anger towards people than it is to strive for peace and forgiveness.

      My goal in exorcising the demons is not to confront or even hurt them, it is purely for my own peace. They will probably live with their own memories and they’re much too old to be going through family therapy now – not that they would ever think they need it

      I’m at the beginning of a long road – writing is proving cathartic – and there is no telling where it might lead me.

      Thanks again for taking the time to read and comment, it means a great deal.

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  4. releasing lunacy

    Cat, I’m so sorry you experienced so much pain and terror as a child at the hands of your parents. You’re right that people living dysfunctional lives are usually the last to be able to see it. With my mom, she felt she was breaking the cycle of abuse because she wasn’t as vicious as her dad and because she tried so hard to do lots of things right. But, she still hurt me badly. And, in her mind, I should just get over whatever did hurt me childhood because my childhood wasn’t nearly as bad as hers.

    My nephew is 2 1/2 and I can not stand the thought of him in the situation you were put. He’s such a sweet precious baby! I’d want to rip the arms off anyone who hurt him!! And, I want to scoop up the little boy you were and take you away from that terror. You did not deserve what happened to you. It’s obvious your parents were angry, unhappy and frustrated people who took their discontent out on you.

    You know there’s nothing wrong with allowing yourself to remember good things about your parents and/or childhood. It definitely won’t negate what they did -the bad things. But, it might bring you a bit of peace to remember some happy time, if there was one. I know how easy it is to get lost in the pain and confusion of looking back at the past. While you’re back there, it’s nice to have something good to hold onto and revisit in your mind -kind of an anchor.

    Take care,
    rl

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    1. Cat Post author

      RL…. Many thanks; you have actually touched on a couple of issues that were on my mind, post writing this. I remember clearly my Mother talking openly about the hardship and abuse at the hands of her drunken father. He was alcoholic but, even though he must have been drinking, I never actually remember him as a drunk. Anyway, in retrospect, she was justifying her own violent behaviour with the impression that our punishments were never as severe

      The image of you scooping up that lost child is touching, thanks.

      My sister has 2 boys but never laid a finger on them. My parents had an issue with their behaviour and it was sickening to realise they would do it all over again, if they had the chance. I doubt they ever take responsibility for the fact their grandsons never visit them. The boys are now 18 and 20 and still happily living at home, which my sister should be proud of, IMO.

      It is odd, but I seem to have a mental block to the good times. I am aware of deliberately creating most of that. I avoid remembering the better times in fear of renouncing their bad and abusive behaviour.

      I seek peace in my quest and that can only come through forgiveness. I’ve tried all sorts of “thinking-therapy” and, even made attempts at laying it to rest without actually coming to terms with it (if that makes sense?) Talking about it here – getting it out in the open – is my endeavour to not only find peace and forgiveness, but also the will or inclination to have some kind of relationship with them before it is too late.

      It means a great deal that people are sharing that journey – thank you

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      1. releasing lunacy

        Cat, It’s pretty amazing how so many of us can relate to one another. The details may be a bit different and the circumstances, but so much of human behavior seems the same. I definitely think blogging and reaching out to others will help you sort through stuff. If nothing else, it reminds us we’re not all alone.

        I’m glad your sister’s sons were kept away from your parents, since it seems your parents hadn’t changed. I, my sister and my nephew are all still very much a part of my parents’ lives. My parents ADORE my nephew and my mom has settled down some through the years. She takes medication for depression, and she no longer drinks. Still, her thinking is screwy sometimes. She doesn’t see how her behavior can be harmful to my nephew. My therapist says I tend to act as a buffer to smooth things out. Of course, she’s never yelled at or hit him. He’s safe. But there are things she does that can bruise his little sense of self. I keep a close watch.

        It sounds as though your mom, and likely your dad, are broken people. If your mom was raised by an alcoholic father, I guarantee there was some degree of dysfunction and difficulty in her life. Is it possible your grandfather had stopped drinking by the time you were around? It doesn’t take away her responsibility for the way she treated you!!! But, if you would like to attempt some sort of relationship with your parents, it might help to remember your mom was hurt as a child too. Perhaps, she is mentally ill. We just can never know what life was like for another person or how situations affected them. Again, this does NOT remove her responsibility to protect, love and nurture you as her little boy!!!

        I hope as time passes you’ll be able to recall some happy times during your childhood. You may not want to focus on time spent with your parents, but maybe time spent with a friend or other relative or even time spent alone in a place you really enjoyed. Was there a toy you really loved or a cartoon? Did you have a favorite childhood snack? Did you go to a park or an amusement fair? Did you ever pin a towel around your neck and pretend it was your super hero cape? Did you ever go to the movies and get popcorn or candy? Little things. It’s these little things you deserve to allow yourself to remember and enjoy. You aren’t letting your parents get away with anything. You’re giving yourself the gift of whatever little bit of happiness you may have felt during childhood. Children are amazing and imaginative. Even in the midst of horror, a child will be a child. He will think it’s fun to catch a frog or chase a butterfly or collect sticks and rocks. It’s just the beautiful way children are made.

        Just some random things to think about 🙂

        Take care,
        rl

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      2. Cat Post author

        RL… Yes, both my parents are from dysfunctional and abusive background. In my more balanced moments, I do remember where they are coming from.

        The more I learn of BPD, the more I see my Mother. Even her behaviour today is consistent with “BPD-unleashed”. I detest the BPD traits in myself and deplore them in her!

        I remember many happy times as a child, but few include my parents. Perhaps my recent post tonight might explain one of the reasons why they are so ‘split-black’ today.

        Thanks for your comments, they do mean a great deal and give me something to think about.

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  5. borderlionblog

    I agree that it’s bad when we are assessed and then just left. It brings up so much and they just leave us to deal with it ourselves.

    My family has been silent on our history and I’ve never tried to broach the subject with them. I know the routine with them is to label me a troublemaker and deny anyone else has feelings.

    Take care.

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  6. Grace

    I’m truly sorry for what you had to endure, Cat. It’s terrible. I wish I could take that pain away from you and the boy you were back then. xx

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  7. dharmagoddess

    I am amazed at the emotional reactions I had while reading your post. Your post hit not “close to home”, but *in the home* for me. I wish neither of us could identify with what your wrote but that’s not our reality. Confronting these things, to me, is like peeling away the layers of an onion. Or maybe something really prickly and nasty, I don’t know. It must be done or we won’t get to the good of whatever is inside. I’m going to remind myself of that several times today.

    Thank you.

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    1. Cat Post author

      Unfortunately, these memories haunt us and it doesn’t take much to trigger a full-blown flashback. What you say about peeling layers of an onion is very true; it is necessary if we are to make peace with the demons.

      Thank you for dropping by my blog.

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  8. cristina

    There are certainly a lot of details like that to take into consideration. That is a great point to bring up. I offer the thoughts above as general inspiration but clearly there are questions like the one you bring up where the most important thing will be working in honest good faith. I don?t know if best practices have emerged around things like that, but I am sure that your job is clearly identified as a fair game. Both boys and girls feel the impact of just a moments pleasure, for the rest of their lives.

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    1. Cat Post author

      Cristina, I do apologise but I have just noticed this comment tucked away in my spam folder. Until tonight, I didn’t even realise I had a spam folder!!
      Many thanks for your comment

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