At one point during the Holocaust, the prison population grew so large that the Nazi’s had no choice but to turn some of the more trusted prisoners into jailers. They called them Capo’s. When historians began examining the Holocaust, it was baffling to learn that the most brutal jailers were, in fact, the Capo’s themselves. They sought the help of mental health professionals to understand this phenomenon.
It was explained to them that the jailers so resented internment, loss of self and never-ending stress, that they could not invoke normal human emotion and instead, wanted to destroy what they feared and hated most; being held in captivity. They channeled all their hatred back onto their fellow prisoners.
A Psychiatrist told me that story when I was telling him that the abuse that I had suffered as a child wasn’t as bad as other abuses that I was aware of. He explained to me that one, abuse is abuse! There are varying degrees but no delineation to the body and mind. And two, physical abuse “is” severely damaging. Kids learn and grow by connecting points A and B. He gave me an example. If a child wets their pants and they end up locked in their room all day with no food or water; that’s abuse. But the child is able to connect the points. A, if I soil my pants, B, I will be locked in my room. Their situation, albeit uncomfortable, has made an A/B connection and the ensuing emotional trauma may not be as impactful.
One time after a Little League game, when I went 0 for 4, my father beat me. I really didn’t know why, other than I must have done something wrong. I also concluded something must really be wrong with me. Most damaging, as the Psychiatrist would explain, is that I could not make any connection…A did not connect with a B. That hung state, according to the doc, is terribly damaging to the psyche. It’s the others person sickness (same with sexual abuse) that is in play. That’s why, according to doctors, a childs emotional development can be halted at this type of trauma point.
Coming full circle, like the rings on a tree that represent growth, our childhood experiences are hard-wired into us and they never leave. The prisoner (child) becomes the jailer (adult). I don’t know about you but I can be so critical of myself, so brutal. Other people notice and once in awhile will question my veracity. I don’t because it is something that I am often blind to.
As time marched on and I reached mid-life, I could no longer keep up the illusion of an idyllic childhood. So, I began to numb out through alcohol. And the rest, as they say, is history!
Today, nearly 4 years of sobriety have given me a clear head and a clear conscious. I have been able to dig in and do the hard work in recovery. Recovery to me is not only about the cessation. That’s the beginning, the warm-up, the entry fee for what is to come. I have done the hard work and the benefits are beginning to unfold. I love my life and I am beginning to love myself. I can hardly say that last part. Work in progress!