Last Memorial Day weekend, as I was picking out flowers for my mom and dad’s graves, my dad kept coming to my mind: What flowers would he like?……..Red was always his favorite color, I’ll get some red flowers……I should put a little American flag with his flowers, he would like that…….
There were a lot of scary, unsettling times in my life with my parents, but one thing that stayed pretty consistent was the soft spot I had for my dad. It sounds odd, because I was terrified of him.
Letting your guard down was never an option. The smallest thing would trigger a violent rampage. Yet, I’ve always had an inexplicable fondness for my dad. There were many times during my childhood when I defended him.
Reality is: he was not only a conscienceless sociopath, he was also a child molester. I know this. I should say my brain knows this, because it never quite reached my heart.
How can two totally incompatible feelings exist about the same person? This confused me a lot until I learned about traumatic bonding (also referred to in some cases as Stockholm Syndrome).
Human children are biologically designed to attach to parental figures. Since both my parents were sociopaths and I didn’t have any other adults in my life, I subconsciously picked my dad as the lesser of two evils.
There were rare moments when I’d tell a joke and my dad would laugh, or I’d say something that would make him smile. Or, he occasionally fixed air conditioners for extra money and he’d let me tag along. I lived and breathed for those moments. I still remember how good it made me feel to see signs of acceptance from him!
That was the reason I never spoke a word to anyone about our abuse growing up. Not only was I terrified of my dad, but if I “ratted” on him, I would lose his “acceptance” forever. In my eyes, that was the equivalent of being left completely and utterly alone in the world.
According to many psychiatrists, abuse interspersed with kindness deepens the attachment to an abuser. This is not only the case with parents/children, but in romantic relationships as well. And sociopaths have a keen sense of how much positive reinforcement to dispense to stay in control of their targets.
It is also why sociopaths want to isolate their targets from other people: the more time you are alone with the abuser, the stronger the attachment. Not only does it deter outside influence, but if the sociopath’s target feels resistance is futile, they will begin to succumb to the abuser’s authority.
This was something else my dad was keenly aware of, which is why my interaction with the outside world was kept severely limited.
My dad passed away many years ago, yet there is still that feeling of “attachment” lurking on the surface. People sometimes wonder what they would say/do if they saw their departed loved ones again. I’ve thought of this, too. If I saw my mom, I would probably run away out of fear of her hurting me again. But, if I saw my dad, I would hug him and say “dad, I’m so glad to see you.”