By the time I was 9, my parents believed that I was the most horrible child to ever walk the face of the earth. They decided I needed counseling if I was to have any hope of not being a career criminal or worse.
My parents arranged counseling with a man who was about their same age that would take their insurance. I do not remember his name. It was my understanding that the sessions cost my parents about $20 each. The sessions occured on a biweekly basis for about a year with an occasional missed session. This occured in the late 1970’s.
The first counseling session consisted of my parents and I. I was sitting between them in the counselor’s office. My twin younger brothers, who were 4 at the time, did not attend. I distinctly remember crying the entire first session, pleading with the counselor to fix me so I wasn’t such a horrible person: So I didn’t turn out like Charles Manson. Little did I know that I was much more like Manson follower Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme: Completely brainwashed.
After about 3 more sessions, the counselor, sensing that this was more a family issue than my issue alone, encouraged my parents to also bring my twin younger brothers into the counseling sessions. Our sessions moved from the counselor’s office to a larger “family room” down the hall.
Within the first few months, my parents received their diagnosis: I was passive-aggressive. I was handed a small booklet that was titled “passive-aggressive personality disorder” and told to read it. I read it several times but much of it didn’t make sense to my 9 year old brain. My parents would regularly cite chapter and verse from the book to show me how horrible I was. It was a book of flying monkeys. I don’t doubt that I was very passive aggressive at this time. When my twin younger brothers were born, my narcissistic mother (NM) quickly learned that having twins was a HUGE source of narcisisstic supply (NS) and I just became a nuisance. In order for me to gain any attention at all in the family, I would have to act out. It probably didn’t help that I was at an age where boys are typically prone to act out, either.
We continued to work on my passive aggressive issues in counseling for the next few months. At this point we started to miss the occasional session, since my parents now had their diagnosis and it was my issue, not theirs. The counselor knew better. A child doesn’t resort to passive aggressive tactics unless they are given no other alternative and have no voice in the family whatsoever. He started pressing my parents a bit more in the sessions to little avail. My parents were masters at putting on the “happy family” face and the family sessions mostly consisted of my parents making sure we were discussing “my issue” and not bringing the greater family dynamic into play.
Then one day it happened:
It was near the end of one our sessions. I don’t remember the exact details, but my mother and father had a minor disagreement during the session. I believe it was about some family activity. I quietly stated something along the lines of “I really like it when we…” and basically agreed with my NM. My enabling father (EF) was very angry at me. He immediately told me to be quiet and not be so disrespectful. My NM ALSO angrily turned on me and told me to stay out of it and it wasn’t my issue, even though I was AGREEING with her. My parents frustration at THEIR disagreement had been projected onto ME and I was made the issue yet again. Such is the life of the family scapegoat.
The counselor, upon observing the outcome of this disagreement, stated that he thought that all I was doing was agreeing with my mother and that I wasn’t being disprespectful at all. I can remember my heart being nearly in my throat as I thought to myself “He gets it! He actually heard me! He heard me!” I was filled with elation at having been heard for one of the few times in my short life… elation which of course I had to suppress or risk further retribution by my parents. My parents vehemently disagreed with the counselor’s assessment and insisted that I was being insubordinate.
Two sessions later, we stopped counseling. When I asked my parents about it, I was told that “We can no longer afford it”. So basically what this meant was that as long as everything was my issue, counseling was valuable, but as soon as the issue started NOT being entirely my issue, it was a “waste of time”.
Thankfully, I never did turn into Charles Manson. Today I have an engineering degree from a Big 10 school, a well paying job and I have never been arrested or seen the inside of a jail cell. The most horrible thing I’ve ever done is get a speeding ticket.