Imagine yourself as just a shell. There’s no “you”, only what other people expect of you and you reflect it back to them. You don’t feel pride in yourself, you don’t feel remorse, either, because you don’t really seem to exist. You are just a shell. The times you do feel something are when you hurt yourself, or cause chaos within your family, or hurt someone or something else physically. Those times, you feel something. And that something is better than nothing, although you don’t have a word for that feeling, it’s not a good feeling, it’s not a bad feeling, it’s just something.
The same can be said of some of our kids. One child I’ll call Mr. Me Too because no matter what someone else said, from the time he was 3 yrs old and was adopted, he would say “me too” when someone else said something. “I like peanuts.” Me too! “I have terrible menstrual cramps today.” Me too! It could be anything and Mr. Me Too would also have it, even if it was physically impossible. At first it was cute. I mean after all, he was 3. He had older brothers. But as he aged, it became not so cute. It became annoying. If his older brother fell off the swing and had a cut, he’d have an imaginary cut and be wailing and screaming like his arm had been cut off, even if the brother was only crying a little over his real injury. If his brother had 2 servings of dinner, he had to have 2 servings, even if he threw up after. It didn’t matter what it was, it was Me Too. No matter how hard the parents tried to find what interested that child, to find something that would be just his, the child would only be interested in what his brothers would be doing. If they decided they like soccer, it was his new favorite game, and they day they decided they didn’t like soccer, he hated it from then on.
The sad thing is, this child was gifted mentally and physically. He could excel at any physical activity, or sport, and academically. His brothers couldn’t. One couldn’t walk a straight line without tripping over it and the other had two left feet, while he could dance on a tightrope without even a hint of losing his balance. But because his brothers didn’t, he didn’t. His brothers didn’t excel in school, so he didn’t, even though he was extremely bright. Nothing the parents did could separate him from his brothers and show him what a special, talented, wonderful individual he was.
The parents were stumped until the therapist explained it this way. This child has no “him”. The therapist went out to describe it similar to the first paragraph I’ve written here. It may not be an answer – but at least it’s an explanation, understanding of what’s going on in his mind. Because of the lack of attachment early on, “he” didn’t exist.
What if there was no “you”?