Friday, June 29, 2012

Toxic Shame: Lost Love

How can anyone love him? Including his mother, sisters and girlfriend?

I am responding to the above question that was recently asked by my friend. He described a scenario at an outdoor café involving a young couple. In my friend’s words, the man was a thuggish guy in his twenties wearing a tee-shirt with cutaway sleeves, the mandatory tattoos, for this 'sub-species '. He had a beer belly and a convict style haircut. He had a bull terrier on a leash.

Apparently the man was displeased with the food and he wanted to express his anger towards the cook or the manager. His girlfriend begged him not to.

My friend witnessed the exchange of one syllable words laced with cussing and shouting and he became disgusted. In fact he was so disgusted that he asked me, how can anyone love him?

Well, I would like to address this.

I can only guess that perhaps no one really did love him, at least when he needed it most during the first five [crucial] years of life. With the crushing number of one parent families and the loss of the nucleus of intact homes, it is evident that many of our children have grown up with attachment and abandonment issues.

Many parents are so embroiled in their own drama; they miss the fact that their children need them at all. Children do not only need a parent every other weekend or to be along side of a parent whilst he/she talks on a cell phone or checks email. They need your undivided attention, at least most of the time. Children need to be the focal point; they will be gone soon enough and then you have lost your opportunity to guide, love, nurture and teach them.

I don’t mean that they should rule your life and become tempestuous, controlling monsters. No. They need nurturing, guidance and discipline. They need not be shuffled off to play video games, plunked in front of the television or other sophisticated electronic devices, which can be another set of problems if the gateway to the vast world of information is left unguarded.

Without considering the internet and wireless devices, there are simply too many distractions. Our ‘disposable’ society has basically abandoned the children and thrown the cohesive family unit under the bus. It seems that the children themselves have become the distraction.

I learned a great deal from my experience as a mother who navigated divorce with children. It is important for me to share what I learned from this. The main point is that children who live with a set of loving parents have a substantially better chance of being more grounded and secure in their adult lives than those of one parent homes. No matter how hard either parent tries to make up for the other, whether it be physical absence, lack of financial or emotional support, or the fact that they are not living together as a complete family anymore; the pain and turmoil exists far beyond the reaches of the initial experience.

It has become very clear to me that no matter how hard I loved them [my children], the other factors still exist(ed) and I could not love them away. That was the most difficult and substantial lesson for me. Of course no one can assume responsibility for another. We are accountable for ourselves individually and our respective relationships.

Getting back to the young man at the café… the hardcore language, tattoos, hair and basic threatening presence is no more than the tools of a wounded child rising to meet his challenges as no one did for him when he needed it. He was probably a victim of neglect, abandonment and maybe physical and or emotional abuse. No matter which of these, he had no choice but to fall into the category of bully or being bullied. If he was a victim of bullying as a young child and no one was there on his behalf, then it stands to reason that when he finally got to the point where he could stand his ground, that he does so in an overstated manner that will no doubt lead to trouble. He will not flinch when people glare at him, people (like you) who label him as a punk who could never possibly be loved. Culturally speaking, you are right, which is tragic yet true.

He was probably labeled from the start as the kid who had no advocate; the one who showed up at school with dirty socks and faded thrift store clothes. The perennial scape goat who never got his homework done because no one gave a damn what he had in his backpack at the end of the day. Which was not even close to the name brand backpack, instead he had the cheesy one from Wal-Mart that his grandmother gave him. The one that he thought was really cool until he got teased on the bus, causing him to destroy it or maybe he just tortured the cat instead.

He was the one who got to eat free lunch on the program for “healthy kids” and sometimes, if there was enough money in the school budget, he enjoyed a free breakfast too. Everyone knows who those kids are because there is no discretion; therefore he wolfed down the much anticipated meals in toxic shame, knowing that the weekends were filled with things like canned ravioli, cheese curls and sugary drinks.

Tattoos are a sense of belonging. Many in our culture are not part of an intact family, church, village or tribe, therefore I believe that to compensate for this loss, tattoos may symbolize the natural human instinct to belong (to something, anything). Tattoos are very common now as most of us are aware.

I know that Pit Bull Terriers have become popular. Do you see anything that fits the stereotype here? They are known for their ability to protect, guard and attack if trained to do so. They give the illusion of ferocity, even though they are quite capable of being a loving and close companion. The outcome (again) depends on human involvement.

Of course he has a Pit Bull.  In addition to his crude image, it’s about time he had protection. The Pit Bull fills in for the absent parent, family, secure and loving childhood…the wounded boy has protection, which you will not want to mess with. So it works.

And the girlfriend? She may understand all too well what it means to grow up in a world with unmet needs. Or, she may have had everything handed to her and she sees the ember of this broken young man’s spirit. Some people think that they can save others. Maybe she is saving him because no one was there to save her, or no one to save him. Could they be in a survival mode together, clinging to what could be love, but uncertain of what love is? We won’t know unless we ask.  We won't ask as long as we are afraid.

So now, when his burger isn’t cooked correctly at the café; he has his say. He is finally big enough to raise his voice. It isn’t really the café owner who is the target of his rage, it is all of those who laughed, taunted, rejected and wrongfully and rightfully accused him from the time he was able to realize that it was happening.

I learned from my daughter that it is never what it seems. Everything is wrapped in a package – some pretty, others neat, some frightening – we have a plethora of gift-wrap to choose from. The heart inside of this gift beats in a rhythm unknown to the casual observer.

I prefer not to judge. When we judge others, we are judging ourselves and achieve separateness from the Creator and endless possibilities of healing, correcting and reaching higher levels.

Therefore, I know all too well how pain masks itself within the ink of elaborate and sometimes not so elaborate tattoos, rough talk and tattered clothing. My answer to your question is; how can anyone not love him?
Journal: Scarlet Lily

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