The Family Bed – Misused

The family bed was conceived of as a way to make sleeping a togetherness experience with the parents. There was no age barrier to sharing, young and old alike. Usually, the older ones start wanting their own bed before the younger although they are always able to share if desired. The parents sometimes get a feeling of “enough” when their kids are in the 6th grade and beginning to want their own bed. However, usually high school kids so conscious of what their peers are doing and wanting to fit in, are more than ready for a bed and if possible, a room of their own!

The family bed becomes a creator of disturbance, sometimes lasting when it is allowed or prohibited as a reward or punishment, inevitably when one or more of the children is singled out. Then the “chosen one” learns some kind of destructive lesson whether it is as a reward or as a punishment. It becomes part of one’s self-labeling. You are the unloved excluded or the special included. On what basis? Who knows? It teaches distorted lessons about how to get loved or how to live without it.

Take the example of a mother who was unable to conceive after years of trying so adopted two dark-skinned babies from a less-developed country. The older one, a girl was favored for her beauty, but in some ways, was expected to restrain her emotions and speech, her likes and dislikes and needs. She had an adopted a negative label. The younger adopted child turned out to have a learning disability and was slow to speak, think and adapt. His parents did not respond to this with humor and acceptance, a simplification of tasks followed by a “you did it.” He was more actively rejected, put-down and ignored. Neither parent was aware of playing favorites. Parents play out the rejection they experienced as children, this time as doer rather than victim.

The older children sometimes slept with Mom and Dad but more readily moved away from them. The ted without the parent’s conscious knowing was not a welcoming place.

But as they say, S____ hits the fan and Mom suddenly conceived. This child was born white skinned and blond. She was clever as younger children are in picking up language, partly because they listen to their siblings, but also because the parents endlessly crooned, held, and talked to this child. She too had access to the Family Bed.

With all her favoritism, it would seem surprising that she was given to throwing tantrums, not an easy sleeper, needing to be held and coddled; out of infancy, she still was prone to ready tears, cries of helplessness and need. One would wonder where this came from since favor was heaped upon her. It came from her baby privilege.

And now that she is about twelve, she still has to start sleeping with Mom (Dad has departe to a more loving partner)and only in the morning departs for her bed. She still stages helpless tantrums, acting like a far younger child. She does this even though she is quite accurate in her understanding and description of other people. Her intelligence is not running the show. It is her view of herself  as a special baby. Exhibiting the behavior to which Mom favorably responded. She has seen older Sister and Brother rejected, scuttled to a demanding adulthood. Part of her clinging to baby hood is her being overweight. Brother is slim. Sister is very small and exquisitely formed but not an extra ounce of fat upon her. She lives with emotional rations.

But the third child is plump. She has a baby figure, no waist, no early breasts, like the pawn on a chess board. She is uncomfortable with her ungainliness but the child within accepts it as a necessity to remain Mom’s favorite. Early training, what gains love if nothing replaces it, remains with us for life.

It’s not true she can’t lose weight. She has sometimes dieted down only to regain it. It is the connection her inner child has with a Mother who only loves her as a baby, the one endlessly welcomed to the Family Bed which keeps her a fat child. It is only after seeing the baby love addiction and deciding  that a shaky childhood should not run us for life, that one can make up one’s mind to move on, lose the weight, act like a real adult.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Bimbo or Bitch

I was an intern at the Manhattan VA getting my first experience as a psychotherapist with troubled military veterans. Doing this earned required credits toward my PhD. I was one of several interns assigned to this VA Hospital but was the only female.

Quite casually, I seated myself at the far end of a large square wooden table with the other trainees and our supervisor. A coffee urn was on a side table near the front. We sat there when the men turned their heads and looked at me. I stared back. What was up?

Slowly, very slowly, it occurred to me that I was expected to pour and serve. Why me? Wasn’t I one of them? Yes and no. I was one in the same, yet I had a significant qualifying difference–I was female. Per their social training, the category of my genitalia put me in the role of server.

My background did not offer me advice about what to do about this. My father was a critical tyrant. I was never good enough for him. I did not learn self-defense or even a way to debate. My mother who was smashed by his words did the same to me. People who feel defeated often step on those they regard as more helpless than themselves. Children are great victims.

My mind whirled. Why should I accept this task? Why should I agree with this designation of female as one who serves the male?  Why should their quest for power, presumably caused by feelings of inferiority, be played out on me? Then came the message of fear: would they all be mad at me? Would resisting their pressure to serve appear on my evaluation in a way that made me look bad, so that I would lose my training credit?

I poured the coffee and served it, but I have never forgotten this moment. I accepted myself as a serving bimbo, as not to be called a bitch. I accepted the insanity of my demoted state. How many women do this? How often and under what conditions, and what is the price we pay for doing so?

If the bimbo charade puts us on a down escalator, how do we get onto the up? I have studied what makes me happy by comparing pluses and minuses of losing myself by fitting in. Now, I may attend a group, listen to what they have, but I do not join it. I do not surrender the right to make up my own mind and speak my truth. I can change my mind as well. My mind belongs to only me.

Remember the Greek play, Lysistrata, in which women withheld sex from their partners until the men accepted peace and unity. Hold onto your genitals and your power. Do not fall for the rewards of slavery. Demand, and only accept fair play.

State your goals without becoming hysterical, a behavior so easily dismissed. The hysterical female is a learned female role. Unlearn it. Reject as a group when an angry, needy bully demands something you do not wish to give. Women are great talkers. A bully saying “you have to do it” without stating why cannot hold the floor unless lethal weapons are drawn. We are not at that place yet.

Elan Golomb

Author of Unloved Again, now on sale via elangolomb@gmail.com ($16 for signed paperback.)