Along my journey of recovery from the incestuous abuse of my childhood, I discovered I had a particular strangeness that had been a part of my functioning for decades. Crushes, hopeless longing for men who were in some way wrong for me, dominated my thinking… especially during those years that I repressed the effects of the abuse. I wrote this piece while I was examining the reasons for my crushes and the effect that they have had on my life.
I had a crush. Actually, I have had many, but one was particularly consuming. In my mind, he was idealized and perfect, handsome in his way of dreaming and thinking, of finding threads of a lovely intellect and spinning them into treasures of his mind. He was a strange longing… a wanting that I couldn’t corrupt, couldn’t lose and couldn’t embrace. I could not have reality wipe its ugly stain on this perfection. He was flesh and bone, a real person, and in the light of most days I kept out of my dreamy head and worked alongside him. But, I would catch myself slipping into admiration and on those nights away from the clutter of our working world, my dreams of him in a half-woken mind were perfect, sensual and divine.
There was always a barrier in the cold light of day. Whether he lacked the same desire for me or shared it was irrelevant. I fooled myself with all matter of possibilities and impossibilities. Perhaps I frightened him, perhaps my life was too cluttered and full of burdens that he couldn’t share. Perhaps I wasn’t attractive enough or submissive enough or bold enough or…something? I tortured myself with it. I felt shame at the possession of these feelings. I was shamed at the loss of those dreaming energies on someone who would never be a part of my life. I just could not understand what it meant, why my head stirred my heart and crippled me into dreaming of men I would never have. Understanding was repressed for me for several years, waiting or growing or perhaps unfolding somewhere deep in my subconscious.
When my mind broke, the torture of losing my hold on sanity gave way to the long process of fighting to come back to myself. I found myself once again fighting a crush. I wondered about these old feelings and their role in my mental health. Introspection gave way to a shocking revelation — a lesson learned from a different man, another person who consumed my affections for a time. The revelation came one morning when I awoke with the start of an answer. It was simple, but profound in its power to release me from a double-sided pain. My crushes were the remnant of an attachment that had done so much damage to my mind and heart, a legacy of my wretched childhood. They were a reflection of my childish love for an idealized version of my father.
My mind sought a pure and safe way of loving and my heart sought out the characteristics of my own father that were both good and bad. When I found them in other men, I was often hopelessly smitten and paralyzed at the same time.
I had never consciously associated my crushes with my father before, but it was as clear as the sun rising that morning. Leaving emotion aside, I started research on this phenomenon and found numerous references to Stockholm Syndrome as the condition closest to what I had gone through, but did not find much about the lasting effects once the abuse has ended.
Extending my personal evaluation of Stockholm Syndrome-like behaviors in myself involved a cold review of my relationships as well as my crushes. There is a clear pattern of seeking men who are manipulative, dominant and somewhat hyper-sexual. I could see the pattern I was recreating time and time again. The attachment dysfunction stemming from an environment of abuse and neglect, combined with Stockholm Syndrome I attribute to the incestuous abuse, created a deeply-embedded dysfunction.
Knowing all of this –or at least thinking that I understand it — does help. I don’t really know what it will take to resolve this for myself in terms of future relationships, but at least the issue of losing myself in unhealthy romantic fantasies is resolved. It doesn’t happen anymore. I have conquered one part of this and for that I am exceptionally grateful.
There will be more work in unraveling some of the deeper issues in my perception of intimacy and control, but I can take some confidence in this process. The slow, careful work of healing is so worthwhile. It is challenging to allow yourself to critically observe your own thoughts and behaviors. It is exceptionally confronting to address the strangeness in your own mind and very hard to change it. It takes a great deal of self-caring, openness to truths that are difficult to face, and a steadfast commitment to the change you seek within yourself.