Detailed in ‘Anxiety in Action’, this tale is a bit of a repeat, but worth mentioning in perspective to guilt.
When I was working with a family one time, I encountered a predicament of guilt that I was unable to solve. We will simply call the individual, Mel, for the sake of I signed a disclosure. Mel had a developmental disability and was dependant upon their Mom and Dad, living at home with the two of them. The two of them were having some major struggles with Mel, over very simple things, such as turning lights on and off and in general, were struggling to get the individual into a context of control that was manageable for the two of them.
For months, I worked with Mel and was able to solve several issues very quickly.. The parents were impressed with how much Mel had learned from me and was able to make apart of their life, in the beginning. The beginning soon progressed and those same behaviours began to come back and the regression of these behaviours, told me that the parents were not doing the things I had done, to encourage Mel to keep doing these positive behaviours, instead of negative ones and since he was not encouraged to keep those positive ones up, did not.
Mel’s Dad was a special man. He understood Mel. I met Mel’s Dad twice, within the first two weeks of meeting Mel and I understood immediately where the bulk of Mel’s positive behaviours that Mel had been able to retain, had come from. Upon meeting Mel’s Mom, she had relayed some expectations that Mel was supposed to follow and after maybe.. 5 months, I was able to finally figure out for myself that she was relaying these expectations to me, to get Mel to do these things, but not actually doing these things with Mel, herself. This created a rift between me and Mel, because I believed that Mel was on a routine level that Mel was just not capable of performing at, even though Mel’s Mom had told me, they absolutely were. This could of been true, but the fact of the matter, was that she was not doing these things with Mel and because she was not, was inspiring Mel to do things to themselves, out of hatred and anxiety. If I had actually known what Mel was really doing at home, with Mom, I would of held Mel to that expectation, but because she lied to me about Mel’s routine, that never happened.
Then, I discovered, later on, that not only was she lying about what she was doing with Mel, she was actually treating Mel like the individual was 3-4 years old, when in reality, Mel was fully grown. For example, she had expected Mel to sit at the table and continue to sit at the table, eating, until Mel was finished their supper. This never happened, even once, even though I tried daily and upon witnessing Mel’s Mom literally hand feeding Mel, rubbing their forehead, using baby talk, literally treating Mel like an infant, I had understood why.
One day, when the Dad was away on a conference, I had gone to Mel’s house to do a shift and had found that the screen for the upstairs window had literally been kicked out.. When questioned the Mom just casually said “Oh, that was Mel going on the roof.” My jaw dropped. “ON THE ROOF?” I asked her and again she repeated herself. I was in shock, but also was able to make sense of the situation entirely at that point.. Mel had a ton of respect for their Dad, but absolutely none for the Mom and basically walked all over her and she had no problem with it.
Having a talk with the Dad, several months into this.. Like 7 months in, he finally spilled the beans and said that Mel was actually quite a functional young person, but that the Mom was.. A little bit crazy. He had explained that she had not always been this way, but that the stress of Mel’s situation had begun to work on her in ways he had never expected. Guilt. The Dad fully expected to have a dependant son, but not a dependant wife as well and so, this created a rift between the two of them.. The Dad would do things that were age appropriate for Mel, while the Mom was doing things with Mel that would only make her feel better about her guilt over Mel’s situation, regardless of the effect whatever those things she was doing, had on Mel. I call this effect ‘absolving’, and it is something that most people with guilt get.. They literally become guilty over having guilt and try to remove their guilt or fix it.
Mel suffered constantly, because of the Mom’s guilt. Do not get me wrong, Mel loved their Mom, however, in context, the Dad expected adult things of Mel and the Mom just did not.. This created a situation for Mel, where Mel was being pulled between age appropriate behaviours and inappropriate age behaviours.. A classic consequence of this situation, was Mel’s sexuality. Mel had always been encouraged to masterbate and in general, be sexual, but had never really been taught the guidelines of that sexuality in a meaningful way and so when Mel’s Mom, turns on kid cartoons, showing little children and Mel begins to masterbate, because that is their habit, what Mel was always encouraged to do, this created a situation where Mel would stare at children at a playground and I would have to guide Mel away, because Mel wanted to go ‘Play’ with the children.. Whatever the fuck ‘Play’ meant, haunts me, based on some other things I saw Mel express, which I will not get into.
In closing, the situation ended one day, when I basically confronted Mel’s mom and told her I would be getting CPS involved if she did not get her overwhelming guilt over Mel’s situation under control, but Mel’s mom really had no concept of how to do so and basically left me at an impasse, where I had to discontinue my services, rather than continue to watch this thing manifest and create a monster, out of a perfectly capable human being, Mel.
This idea of having to absolve guilt, regardless of the consequences of that absolving, is also a function of guilt. It drives people to want to be cleansed of it.. Be free and we cannot blame them for wanting to be free, but there is a way to go about it and destroying other peoples lives to absolve our own guilt is just not OK. Destroying is a strong word of description for this, but when you are presented with a constant source of guilt, like Mel was to their Mom, this thing can begin logical, but over time, become so illogical, it can work its way into horrific things and do so without few people being noticed.