If You Are Still Not Sick to Death With Affirmative Consent | Clarissa’s Blog:
My conditionioning to only have mild or positive emotions was much more extreme than most. My father used to get visibly distressed if I expressed the mildest degree of negativity or hestitation. Perhaps that is one way to look at my life. When I’ve previously tried to relate this in writing, so that I could understand it myself, people automatically sided with him, it seemed, because if he said I was being cheeky to him, people concluded that this was so. It wasn’t though — I was always incredibly mild. And I didn’t know how to read adult emotions, because I wasn’t exposed to the due depths of feeling my parents had about anything. I experienced sometimes an overheating of their emotions, second-hand, but never had anything explained to me in rational or even conventional language.
For instance, when I was betwen primary school and high school, the regime in my country changed. Many families began to leave the country at that point, and my friends were not around so much anymore, although I didn’t really notice it since I was very used to amusing myself during the holidays.
But what I didn’t understand is that my parents wanted to buy Christmas cards for their friends that still had the word, “Rhodesia”, on it. At least, as you might see right now, I am attempted to furnish their behavior with a rational explanation.
In any case, they were going up and down the aisles of the charity warehouse and couldn’t seem to settle on any particular pack of cards, so I got weary. It seemed like they had been up and down there for almost an hour. So I asked if we were going yet as I was getting tired.
My father glared at me and asked whether or not I had friends I might like to send cards to and I told him that at the moment I didn’t have such friends that I could send any cards to (this was factual).
He then flew into a rage and threatened to belt me for my insolence. I was about 12.
Now, people might think that conventional emotions are a closed book to me, and for a long time they were, because I was always getting threatened for the mildest responses I gave to parental questioning. I really had no idea how others thought, especially my parents.
And this was very bad, because they eventually taught me to feel guilty for saying literally nothing at all. That was considering demonic and viewed as me emanating bad vibes and bringing down the standards in the house.
For a long time, then, I was silenced. And then things reached a tipping point after I was bullied at work, and I realized I had to do something to save myself. I figured out since I had been implying yes all the time, I should just start saying no. After that, whenever anybody demanded that I go along with their program, inside my head I just said no. I had no knowledge as to whether my declination of demands was reasonable or not, but I knew that it was now a matter of saving my life to be able to become habituated to saying no. I was learning the other side of the dialectic, that would enable me to live an adult life.
Unfortunately, though, I was still extremely naive, plus another unfortunate thing — I’d had some education by now (my BA). My education wasn’t working for me, because I would speculate or hypothesize as to why my parents did as they did. But once you start to try to make sense of it, you furnish them with reasons that seem rational enough, because of course you are trying to find a rational explanation for the poor behavior. But by furnishing their behavior with possible rational meanings, you give others the impression that you already knew that your OWN behavior was out of line because it makes it seem (wrongly) as if you implicitly understood the parent’s point of view, but disregarding rational reasons in any case. The more I tried to explain the dire situation I was in, the more I made their strange ways seem justified.
That was terrifying. Like sinking deeply into quick sand. The more I struggled, the deeper I would sink.
The only way I could prevent myself from being totally swallowed up was to extend my ability to say “no” to those who had heard my story and had automatically taken my parents’ side. That was really hard to do, as I was losing friends and allies, but I knew that I was saving my own life and so I had to do it.. That was really hard to do, as I was losing friends and allies, but I knew that I was saving my own life and so I had to do it.
Talk about character-building.
I did free myself completely though, although at the cost that my whole life was absorbed in this struggle primarily, for at least a couple of decades. It would have been nice if feminists, at least, had sided with me. It would not have cost them all that much.
I did escape from the conditioning you get under an extreme right wing, militarized culture, but that was because I had begun to suffer so much that my circumstances had become unbearable enough for me to have to act decisively.
NB. I was physically absent from Western culture for the first 15 years of my life, but that can give the impression of not noticing important things – as if you were actually present in person, but preoccupied with yourself. I still insist that between 1968 and Jan 1984, I remained in Africa.