Love and Hate
Wednesday April 22, 2009
Dear Dr. Miller,
Thank you for your thoughts on my letter of April 15. My main point in writing was to describe how it was eventually necessary for me to feel anger and hatred toward my parents before I could be cured of my depression, and how I intellectually avoided those feelings for years because I “knew” that “they loved me and did the best they could.” I did not clarify what I meant by using the word “love.” I’ll try to do that now.
When I was young I thought my parents were perfect. Later I realized that they were not perfect, but I believed that they were still the best possible – no one is perfect, after all. After my first short therapy and after reading Drama 20 years ago, I realized that my parents had been very flawed, but did I not get angry at them and still felt that they had “loved” me.
Now, after I have gone through my period of anger and hatred, I still believe that they “loved” me in the sense that they intended to love me and thought they loved me, but they did not love me in the sense that they often treated me in unloving, harmful and hateful ways. Some of the ways they treated me were truly loving, some were not.
When I was a child, I had goldfish in a bowl. I liked those fish a lot. One day, I decided that it would healthy for them to get some sunlight. So put the bowl out in my back yard on a sunny day — this killed the fish. I also had a puppy. Out of a delight in my power over that puppy, I would make him sit, roll over, lie down, grovel and beg for food. Sometimes my parents treated me with true love. Sometimes they treated me like that fish– a horribly mistaken act done with good intentions. Sometimes they treated me like that dog – their actions driven by an unconscious need for power, control, attention and revenge.
As I wrote earli er, my parents, especially my mother, had childhoods that were emotionally and physically brutal. As parents they made a conscious effort to raise me better than they had been raised. So they tried to love me while in fact treating me in ways that hurt me and should at the time have aroused anger and hatred. They were responsible for hurting me but were not intentionally harmful, the cause of many of my problems but not in a moral sense guilty.
Fortunately, I have a therapist who did not ask me to understand and forgive. The goal of my therapy is not to reconcile with my parents or to free myself from negative feelings about them or anyone else, but to solve my own problems. For me, that meant mainly learning to feel all those “negative” feelings I had repressed for so long and deal with others based on the discovery of my true self. Now I see my parents in some ways as strangers, people I have lived with but who are very different from me and who in some ways I dislike. My “love” for them is not a feeling of warm, emotional delight. It is an understanding of them and compassion for them that is now safe for me to feel. Before therapy, my “understanding” and “compassion” caused me to blame myself and avoid my true and justifiable feelings toward them and how they had treated me. Now, I can approach them as an adult more secure in my own self, see them as distinct individuals and with a mixture of positive and negative feelings toward them.
AM: Love is a FEELING and it is not the same as LOVING, CARING, AND CONSCIOUS BEHAVIOR. A pedophile can tenderly caress and fondle a child and pretend that he loves him but stay careless about the future of this child who will be damaged by the abuse and the betrayal that will cause this damage. If he is ignorant and not aware of what he is doing he will maintain that he had the best intentions. You repeat in both of your letters that your parents had the best intensions and I don’t doubt that it was true but they were prisoners of their own childhoods and obviously could not avoid beating you and sell you this behavior as for your own good. You must have been very scared by their punishments, as you are still defending them. You even say you put your goldfish to the sun with the best intension too. But not every child has the need to do that if he was told that the fish can die in the warm water. Maybe you have unconsciously repeated the blind behavior of your parents, and nobody understood your attempt to showing your plight. To me, to love and hate the same person for the good and the bad sides is a psychoanalytic construction, it is a way of understanding healing that helps to cover up the truth about the cruelty endured in childhood. This philosophy hinders the survivor of abuse to recognize the cruelty and to react to it apropriately in therapy.