Every culture got taboos that are like the elephant in the room where it’s in your face but you have to pretend it’s not there.
You know what the Somali taboo is? Parents.
Parents are treated as divine. They are always correct no matter what they do by virtue of being parents. Everything they do comes with conditions that the child must reciprocate when they’re old enough. Actually, scratch that. The daughter carries that obligation, alone. The son, much like the father, isn’t expected to contribute anything other than staying out of trouble and balwad.
I can’t get into the stuff girls go through, psychologically, because it’s way beyond the scope of this note, but I’ll say this to those who are plagued by cognitive dissonance as a result of emotional abuse or neglect and the guilt that arises from making out the parent to be ‘the bad guy’. It’s hell. You’re damned either way. Writing this brings up dissonance in me. I’ve always been at odds with my parents. Not because I was wild or anything. I’ve always been a nerdy introvert. But I also only marched to the beat of my own drum; a fact that caused me immense anguish when controlled and restricted, and being mislabelled as a stubborn ingrate.
As a child, I’d be dissuaded from speaking up because it was considered rude and I’d repress all that volatile energy until one day I’d turn into the Hulk and I kid you not when I say I wouldn’t feel pain nor possess common sense.
I’d go up against boys older than me who’d easily snap me in two but my obsession with standing by my values prevented me from turning my back. I’d fight until they’d knock me out cold or someone had the good sense of breaking us up. I’d keep to myself and make sure I don’t wrong anyone, but come at me unprovoked and the streets will flood with your blood. Hell hath no fury like the young me scorned.
This got better in my teens when I learnt to speak up and not let it reach a point where I’m prepared to either die or do life behind bars.
Still, because it’s taboo to go up against your parents by establishing your own authority, figuring myself out and the path I wanted to take in life was nearly impossible because my parents would see that asmadax adeyg or me throwing my life away.
Oh Lord. That’s all anyone would say about me; parents,relatives,family friends,neighbours, teachers. I hate the word but because every time I was complimented I just knew a but was in there somewhere followed by a string of complaints; She’s-a-genius-nerdy-bibliophile-who-has-no-life whatsoever-outside-books-which-should-be-every-Somali-parents-dream BU-HU-TTT she’s stubborn, she’s not focused,she’s self-righteous. Basically useless.
In the end I learnt that our culture encourages dysfunctional codependent relationships where women – primarily- derive a sense of worth from the stuff they do for others with the expectation of getting the validation and love they are starved of. Overworked and underappreciated girls grow up to be mothers who carries on the invalidation torch.
So I learnt to create boundaries which meant that I was responsible for my life and emotions and no one could make me do stuff. However, instead of reacting viscerally by lashing out or throwing a tantrum, I could compartmentalize who I am with my parents by responding in a conscious way.
I owe them respect but not my life. I owe my life to the One who put me on this earth. And I owe my utmost consideration to those who raised me from infancy.
For instance, if they invade my privacy or treat me inhumane, a visceral reaction would be to shut down and self-loathe. Or to lash out and be destructive to anything and everyone.
However, having boundaries gives you buffer time to process what’s being said. Because you now have inner power and freedom, you don’t feel the need to defend yourself. So you consider why the parent did this, where did that burst of anger come from? What are they actually pissed about? And you realize perhaps that they feel threatened by your newfound independence and they fear losing you. So that enables you to discharge the situation and have compassion for them. You’d be able to respond in a way that defuses the situation by validating their unconscious emotional angst that triggered the burst of anger. In most cases they aren’t even aware of this underlying hurt and they don’t even know how to deal with this, so they lash out in anger because it’s easier.
That way you can live your life authentically and have an amicable relationship with parents or relatives who are otherwise unrelenting and difficult.
The most loving parents and relatives commit murder with smiles on their faces. They force us to destroy the person we really are: a subtle kind of murder.
— Jim Morrison
The truth about our childhood is stored up in our body, and although we can repress it, we can never alter it. Our intellect can be deceived, our feelings manipulated, and conceptions confused, and our body tricked with medication. But someday our body will present its bill, for it is as incorruptible as a child, who, still whole in spirit, will accept no compromises or excuses, and it will not stop tormenting us until we stop evading the truth.
— Alice Miller
When we suffer anguish we return to early childhood because that is the period in which we first learnt to suffer the experience of loss. It was more than that. It was the period in which we suffered more total losses than in all the rest of our life put together.
— John Berger