It has turned out to be that the core of my trauma was related to the specifics of my father’s madness. I don’t blame him for going half-mad. In fact, it was the decent and honorable thing to do. To fail to react to maddening situations would have been even more maddening. I would never have realized the truth behind the madness of life had he kept up a veneer that everything was fine when it wasn’t.
My father’s madness involved a reversal of typical parent-child relations, where I was held responsible for all sorts of things that seemed to have gone wrong, in the eyes of my father. I didn’t know what these things were. It has taken me about twenty years to find them out.
I remember when my father was yelling at me, attacking me, with one term of abuse after another — it finally dawned on me that he saw me as impervious to any insult, not matter how hurtful. From then, I realized he wasn’t really talking to me personally, when he got into a rage. Rather, he was addressing an adult, omnipotent figure, from the point of view of angry two-year-old, who knew no limits to his rage.
This, in turn, explains my own lifelong preoccupation with not being pushed into a role where people took out on me their undefined or barely articulated aggression. I’m afraid of that undefined aggression — the demand for my unconditional approval of another’s feelings, at great cost to myself. When people complain that their emotional expectations were not met, I never know how to address that, least of all in a workplace setting, where the implicit threat of losing my livelihood hangs over me. My understanding is that these demands are potentially infinite, unless someone in authority steps in and draws a clear line as to what is expected from me. For the reasons I’ve just outlined, this is why I prefer typically “masculine” work environments, where my ability to cater to others’ emotional needs is not assessed as a feature of my ability to do the job at hand.
They cannot be satisfied by any act on my part. It expresses an infinite source destruction, always in opposition to any form of reason. That was how I had experienced my father’s rage, growing up. It had increased exponentially the moment there was no hope for “Rhodesia”. My father’s faith in the established order was shattered. His ideals of permanence and stability — the ideals he’d sacrificed for — were suddenly gone from the realm of possibility.
So it went on from there. I was trying to grow up, but in many ways I had to play the role of the parent. This was exacerbated for me as the eldest child of new migrants, who expected me to teach them the ropes. My parents lent on me for support, but became embittered at any turn away from narrow, conservative values — those of family, God and Church. I was being exposed to more liberal values, thus the tension.
The problem at the core — well, there were a few. The main one was I was ill-equipped to be my father’s mother in a culture which I couldn’t understand, whilst I was still trying to grow up and make adjustments of my own. The secondary problem was patriarchy. Yes, it exists and the reason I know that is I couldn’t get any help in dealing with my father and his strange ways. He burdened me into feeling guilty for his negative emotions. He leaned on me to play a mothering role. I lacked the necessary emotional and intellectual resources to appease him. Nobody I turned to would believe there was any sort of problem — except, perhaps with me.
My father had certain ideas about people who depart from conservatism “going off the rails”. I think he sincerely believed I had “gone off the rails” due to making an adjustment to a more liberal culture, which Australian culture seemed to be at that time.
Nobody ever assisted me, morally or otherwise, in relation to my father. Judeo-Christian culture maintains the men are rational and women just aren’t. This is the theological structure of its belief system — I only found out how pervasive it was by turning to various people only to find them repeat their version of the “men are rational; women are emotional” formula. That is how it went. Into the “too hard basket”. As for my family, it was more convenient for them to maintain the pathological state of relations, because blaming the family’s new migrant difficulties on the only atheist in the family hid a multitude of sins.
My father’s psychological problems did give me insights into a wide range of human behavior, in particular how authoritarianism is structured on the basis of finding a scapegoat and projecting. It is quite clear, people actually aren’t aware that they’re engaging in this pattern of action. My father’s madness gave me the basis for understanding that one can’t simply adapt to one totally different situation after another, willy-nilly. To expect people to do that is inhuman.
His reactions also formed my character in giving me an extreme aversion to playing the role of anyone’s pre-Oedipal mother. I won’t play the part where anyone unleashes their tantrum at me and expects me to help them deal with their anxieties, just because I’m female. I have a completely traumatic reaction to this kind of attitude. I realize I’m doomed and that I can’t cope with it no matter what forms of reason or logic I bring to bear. After all, I’d tried to notify people of my father’s attitude before, using only cold logic and reason — and this hadn’t worked out.
I don’t like babies, I don’t like the irrational forms of human expression that are invested in consumerism and its “virtue” of complaining. I don’t like the fact that being my gender makes me responsible for the aspects of people’s lives they don’t feel capable of being responsible for.
In general: I don’t like the female gender role under Western patriarchy, and I refuse to play it.