Before I start, I must point out that I’m aware of the selfish nature of these articles. I am participating in the self authoring program by Mr Jordan Peterson that requires the recollections of my past in order to be effective. I understand the personal nature of the exercise and the pieces were originally created for my eyes only. Nevertheless, as time has passed, and since experiencing so much progress on a personal level as a result of the exercise, I no longer possess any judgement for the memories and feel totally free of any associated conceptions, such as any quality that was previously attached to them wrongly by my self as a label, be it ‘negative’ or ‘positive’. As a result, and much to my delight, I no longer feel any ownership of the experiences and thus can express them here and confirm the validity of the exercise, especially for those considering the Self Authoring program, of which I highly recommend.
My parents relationship, from my point of view, was toxic. They split when I was 14 and I can’t recall a single instant in which they shared an act of affection.
The first 14 years of my life is littered with memories of violent arguments. I would be seated on the edge of my bed staring at the ground, or in a tree in the back yard frozen by the trauma of an insane argument that was taking place.
I refer to the “corner of my mind” alot, I understand it now, it was an escape. Most of the time I couldn’t escape physically, so I would do so mentally, and naturally.
My parents eventually got to breaking-point. I was sitting on the side of my bed, the door was locked and I was in that mental corner of mine. The fight was over and mum knocked on the door and in a very gentle conciliatory voice she asked, “Joel… can I come in?”. A long silence followed before I unlocked the door. I had installed three locks and can remember sliding the chainlock accross first, then the boltlock and finally the deadlock before sitting back on the bed.
She sat right beside me and said something like ‘me and your father don’t love eachother anymore, I’ve decided I’m leaving and want you boys to know it isn’t your fault at all.’ Followed by silence once again, eventually she had to ask for my input as I was firmly anchored in the “corner” at this point, and a key feature of this was that it nullified my capability to express, feel or articulate any form of emotion.
So my response to mum would have seemed very strange to her and although she knew me well and probably accepted that coldness was just a part of who I was, it may well have been her first sobering exposure to it, so I can remember her being a little taken back by it… “Do you have anything you want to say?” To which I said “Um, I don’t really know what to say, whatever I guess, it doesn’t really have anything to do with me.”
For a 14yr old boy I was actually quite skilled in my self control and mum was well aware of my unmovable mood, however this experience was particularly painful for her.
She was very much accustomed to my distance from the rest of the family but I could tell at that moment, she was introduced to the realization that she was largely responsible for it, even though I would never blame her, and never did. Very much on the contrary I had always felt like I was the responsible one.
I always thought of myself as the solid ground in that nightmare. It was my job to be the balance. My family on the other side of the scales, a clamourung mess of emotional turmoil, and me, standing silently, indifferent, disconnected….
I had one thing of innumerable worth working in my favour, humour. It was all a big joke, and I had the very serious job of making that known.