Selective Amnesia

At the end of our recent therapy session Erica said that the episode with Damien was a healing experience.  She said why that was so, and I remember thinking I should write it down, but it seemed too complicated to get my pen and clipboard, so I forgot it.  I wonder about the amnesia, that I wasn’t able to hold on to what she said.  I wonder if that’s often happened when people have said good things to me and that’s why my old narrow stingy self-image is still with me.  I haven’t been able to update it.

I also discovered, not so many years ago, that I had been “disappearing” all the nasty things mother said to me.  Like a child who can’t afford to believe that their parent could be cruel, and has to make it that they deserved it, I would come up with an excuse and/or just forget it.  I also remember my ex-husband saying he wanted to hit my father for saying something unflattering about me.  I hadn’t noticed it, probably because I was so used to it, or maybe it was the same amnesia.

It was less than 20 years ago that I discovered this mechanism through the “Colonial Dames” incident.  We were sitting on the front porch of our house at Biddeford Pool: Mom, my sister Jo, her friend Weezie, and me.  Mother and Weezie were talking about the “Colonial Dames,” a high society women’s organization they both belong to.  I was watching the discussion and glad that Mom had something that really interested her.  Suddenly Mom turned on me and said in her nastiest voice “Of course you wouldn’t care about the Colonial Dames.”  I felt like she had thrown a dagger into my open heart.  At first I thought I had looked patronizing, that that’s how my gladness for Mom looked on my face.  Later that day I wrote about the incident in my journal.  The next day I read my journal and was confused — did that really happen?  I asked Jo, and she said yes, it did.  I saw that when Mother said nasty things to me I just disappeared them.  No wonder they always seemed to come out of left field.  After that I knew that I had to protect myself from Mother, not give her a target.

Much later, I realized that I hadn’t looked patronizing, I was trying to excuse Mom, another part of the pattern.  I also thought that I could have said “It’s true I don’t care about the Colonial Dames, but I’m glad you have something you enjoy.”  But then I realized that that wouldn’t have satisfied Mom.  Nothing other than me joining the Colonial Dames.  I also notice, from this distance, that my mother didn’t attack my sister, only me.

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