In my last post (Developmental Gap??  What’s That??) I discussed developmental gaps and attempted to define the term as I know it and as it appears to apply to me.  The gap I identified in the previous post is the gap I call “lack of connection.” 

My parents took good care of me, as the owner of a Porsche takes good care of his or her vehicle.  When I was an infant, they fed me, changed me, and, just as the book recommended, they left me in my crib for four hours between feedings and changing.  When I was a toddler, they took pride in my Shirley Temple prettiness and my ability to memorize long verses so I could impress their guests with my recitations.  When I was in the early grades, my parents took pride in my ability to do well in school.  By the time I was nine or ten, however, they didn’t pay much attention to me.  By that time, I wasn’t much use to them, or so it seemed to me. 

My parents continued to take good care of me as I moved through childhood and through adolescence and on into adulthood, but they left me to my own devices most of the time.  I felt little or no emotional connection to either of my parents and regarded them as adversaries.  They had molded and shaped my behavior into that which was acceptable to them, to the people they knew, and to society at large, but we had not connected on a human level.  They didn’t know me as a person, and I didn’t know them.  What’s more, I had the distinct sense that they did not want to know me as a person, and they did not want me to know them.

By the time I left home for college, they had done their job, that of caring for my physical needs, educating me, instilling in me the societal values of the time—yes, they had done everything they were obligated to do, or so they probably felt.  They had, however, left to me the task of learning to develop a sense of attachment to other human beings. 

I have always been aware at some level of my awareness that I have lacked something most of my friends seemed to possess, but only recently have I understood what that “something” has been.  That “something” has been a sense of being “with” other people, of having a connection to other people.  Only recently have I been aware that my old, old perception of me being on one side and everyone else being on the other side may not be an accurate perception.  My therapist is working with me on this, trying to help me bridge this gap.  And the latest brain research says that my brain has retained sufficient plasticity to enable me, at age seventy-two, to overcome this developmental gap.

I have hope that my therapist’s belief in my ability to overcome this gap and the knowledge that my brain is still plastic enough to make this change will enable me to see clearly that my old assumption of life being a case of “me versus them” is a concept with an expiration date, a developmental gap that is within my power to bridge.
A psychologist friend of mine frequently reminds me that with awareness comes change.  I have learned through life that this belief is true.  When I become aware of a problem or a condition or a difficulty in my life, then I am usually able to make a change for the better.  Not being taught in infancy to connect securely with other people and not learning to believe that most people truly want to be supportive when they say they do have left their marks on my psyche and underlie my feeling of being isolated, but I need now to “put on my big girl panties” and work with my therapist to repair this developmental gap.  It can be done, and I will do it!  WE will do it!  Together.

Note:  After doing some heavy thinking about what I have said in this essay, I have realized that my reader may get the message that my parents’ failure to connect with me is the sole reason for my difficulty as an adult to connect with others.  That, I believe, is not entirely the case. 

Many of us were raised in the first half of the 1900s when behaviorism strongly influenced child-raising theory, and a lot of young parents in this country bought into the same theory my parents accepted.  Somehow, though, many of my peers, women my age, avoided experiencing the “me against the world” mind set that has fed my lifelong feeling of isolation and has made connecting with other people or bonding with people so difficult for me.  

It could be that a lot of parents simply did not take the theory of the times as seriously as my parents did and did not apply it to the exclusion of addressing their children’s emotional and spiritual needs–as my parents did.  In addition, the traumatic events of my childhood and the fact that after these events, I had no trusted adult to whom I could turn for help and support no doubt intensified my feeling of isolation. 

For almost my entire seventy-two years of life, the thought of suicide has dogged me daily.  The fact that I’m still here is proof that I have not acted upon the thought, of course.  However, just thinking about suicide has been enough to sap my energy.  I realize now how different my life might have been if I had learned to bond as a baby, if the traumatic events had not happened, and if I’d had a trusted person to talk to when I was a child.  Even if I’d had just one of these three elements, my life might have been different.  For one thing, I might not have chosen an abuser for my husband.

I am, however, a pragmatist, inclined to take the view that the past, damaging as it may have been, is over and done.  It’s up to me to do what I need to do to shape my future into what I want it to be.  I have done that in some respects.  I entered graduate school at age fifty when I was finished raising my daughter, had a career which I loved, and then retired.  I now live on the Social Security I had built up and a small monthly annuity payment from the pension fund to which I had contributed. 

I am, however, not finished shaping my future.  Now I am working on repairing the damages resulting from childhood neglect and abuse and from abuses I experienced during the twenty years I was married.  Repairing these damages is a huge task, as any of you know if you have been in therapy and involved in doing the same thing I’m doing. 

I write the articles for this blog because I want to let you know that repairing the damages is possible.  Also, I want to give you information and share my own experience with you in the hope that whatever I have to say will somehow be helpful to you as you struggle.  If, through my efforts, I can help you, then my efforts are richly rewarded.  

What I would like from you, my readers, are your comments, suggestions for topics, and any ideas that would help me help you.  Also, if you have ideas that would help me make my website more useful to readers, please send me those ideas in the comment form on this blog.  In addition, if any of you who have blogs would like a mutual posting of links–I list your link on my site and you reciprocate–I’m up for that!  As the adage goes, “It takes a village . . . “

(More on this topic of developmental gaps as I progress.  My next step in therapy is to start EMDR.  According to my therapist, as I go through EMDR, more developmental gaps will surface.  When that happens, we will deal with them.)