How One Lives

Copyright 2021, John Manimas


What is the difference between being happy and pretending to be happy?  Not much, according to the experts.  I am reading this in a booklet while listening to the facilitator at a Family Dynamics workshop in Waterbury, Vermont 1995.  Recent research showed that we do not feel sad first and then cry.  Usually, the tears of weeping form first and then we feel sadness.  It is like the story by Isaac Bashevis Singer about the husband who loved his wife more after he bought her flowers. 


Eighty-five percent of all family service cases involve at least one family member who is an alcoholic, not always Mom or Dad.  Sometimes a teenage daughter, everyone from Grandpa to Uncle or Auntie.  The family accommodates the alcoholic and it becomes seriously difficult to stop the enabling, to persuade the family to give up the drama and entertainment, and whatever useful excuses the alcoholic adds to their lives.  Alcoholism is associated with genetic tendencies.  Most alcoholics have a "dual-diagnosis," meaning the alcohol is the treatment they have selected for their original problem, which is more distressing than a hangover.  The illness of alcoholism feels better than the illness it treats.  Obviously, alcohol has been around since our ancient ancestors picked berries and saved some for next week.  But, if discovered today, it would be classified as a poison.  A very useful poison, because it kills most pathogens.  And of course, it does kill people.  I know because I know a wonderful man who once killed a girl with his car.  How shall we address this problem?  Turn a convergence of accidents into a healthy family?  Which is, what?  I have to leave the workshop early.   


Why are some men violent?  Research showed that violent offenders have far more childhood head injuries than the general population, including in infancy.  Add to that the cause was being "dropped" on the floor, if not thrown at a wall.  Many "family service" cases arise from a suspicious injury of a minor child.  Domestic violence is often attributed to alcohol, including by the offender.  A common explanation:  "That's not really me.  I would never do such a thing."  Although you did.     


I have to leave the workshop a little early because I need to transport Andy (Andrew Dechamp) from his current foster home, where the foster parents are terrified, to an assessment bed.  Not quite a hospital, but well equipped.  He will be evaluated in at least three ways, and by many tests.  Andy is kind of famous at our office, because he talks about violent dreams and tells stories about cutting people up into pieces.  Although, he looks rather cute, calm, and often is just another charming child.  It is concerning that he is small for his age.  He is fourteen but looks like he is eleven, short and feathery, but otherwise physically healthy.  His mother lost interest in his two older siblings around age eleven or twelve, when she says they became unmanageable.  His mother looks like a lady you could meet on a bus.  I will have Andrew sitting next to me in my car for 90 minutes.  What shall I talk about?

            "Do you have a favorite subject in school?"

            "No," Andrew responded immediately, "I like everything in school."

            Wheels turning in my head.

            "Do you ever think about what you would like to be when you grow up?"
            "A basketball player, like Michael Jordan.  I want to be Michael Jordan."

            "Wow, that sounds interesting.  Do you get much of a chance to play basketball, at school or at home."


            "Have you played much before?"


            I do not remember what I said next.  I do remember thinking that I came to understand the meaning of dissociation, which means when the world becomes impossible for a child to live in, they create another world in their mind and live in that imagined world.  In one's family, one can learn different survival skills, such as how to build a campfire and build a shelter in a forest, or how to go shopping, or how to play basketball in your mind.      -end- 




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