In March of 2016, my business partner and close friend Wayne Gowdie posted on facebook that he was reading a new book, “IRRELATIONSHIP: How we use Dysfunctional Relationships to Hide from Intimacy.” My interest was immediately peaked. Within hours, I had purchased the book and he and I had decided to start a book club!
Thus began the Sirens&Wolves Book Club. Our book club is fairly simple.
- Presently we read one book a month mainly focused around sociology and human behavior. (Together as a team, we determine the pace of the reading for that month. Though each member can read at their own pace.)
- Throughout the month we have organic and/or scheduled chats in our private group discussing the book
- Once a quarter, we will host in-person literature themed events, of which some may be specific to the books we read.
March Book of the Month
Our March Book of the Month is “IRRELATIONSHIP: How we use Dysfunctional Relationships to Hide from Intimacy.”
Our Reading Pace for the Month is as Follows:
- March 1 – March 4 – Forward, Introduction, Using the Book
- March 5 – March 11 – Part One (Chapter 1 – 4)
- March 12 – March 18 – Part Two (Chapter 5- 6)
- March 19 – March 25 – Part Three (Chapter 7 – 8)
- March 26 – March 31 – Part Four and Part Five (Chapter 9 – 13)
Did I Feel Safe As A Child?
For week one, we are to read the Forward, the Introduction and How to Use this Book section of Irrelationship. The following is my immediate responses to what I encountered.
After defining what Irrelationship is, the authors explain that most of what has led to this way of living is via patterns and behaviors we learned as children through our caretakers. One such quote is, “…Children always respond to their parents’ patterns of relating. They exercise little or no conscious choice in this adaptation because they are totally dependent on their parents for survival. They simply do what they need to do to feel safe.” And later, “Some rules like never asking for anything or always having to feel grateful-may leave us feeling isolated or empty, but we follow them for the sake of emotional safety and to ensure the fulfillment of basic needs.”
I wrote in my journal, “Did I feel safe as a child? What did I do to feel safe?”
That is not a simple question for me because of my complex history. Looking back on it all, no, I did not feel safe as a child. One, I was raised in the ghetto on the south side of Chicago where family members were active members of gangs, criminals, drug addicts, alcoholics, and abusers. Once I was awaken out of sleep because my uncle was beating his girlfriend so bad and no other man in the family could stop him. Another time I watched an uncle play Russian Roulette and I knew to call the police if I heard the “bang” sound. Another time I saw an Aunt getting beat by her boyfriend with one of my toys. I wrote about some of this when I recount the murder of my grandmother in “Remember My Name.” So with my neighborhood and extended family, I knew I wasn’t safe. And therefore my mother sheltered me within the cloth of our immediate family and our church.
Except I wasn’t safe there either because my step father began sexually abusing me at the age of 7 and that continued until I was 14. So when I think about my care givers…my parents, my extended family and even the leaders in the church/cult I grew up in…..I did not feel safe. I did feel safe at school with my teachers as caregivers. I’m not saying I walked around my entire childhood afraid of being beaten, killed or abused. I wasn’t paranoid. I took those things as the norm. I figured at some point, I probably would be killed. Therefore, until that day happened, I would just bide my time at home and focus on education as an outlet for my freedom.
In a post that’s no longer available on Owning Pink, I wrote, “My parents have not always had my best interest at heart. When I was able to acknowledge that truth, I was able to let go of the fear of rejection and stopped paying any mind to disappointing them. That’s how I found my liberation. Your journey is different. However you get there, get there. But if fear is stopping you and you are trying to prove yourself to people who don’t believe in you or have their own agenda, its time to consider some other ways of living. My purpose is bigger than fear, so I can’t rock with the fear of rejection.” I accepted my fate, I knew there was hope and I played my role as a child but I KNEW it was all bullshit.
There’s othe stuff to note about all this safety talk. I once wrote a blog post titled, “A Lesson on Childhood Safety and the Adult’s Responsibility.” One such quote is, “It is not the child’s primary responsibility to take care of their protection and safety. It is the adult. There are some things that the adult must take full responsibility for.”
Other posts to possibly check out are:
- When Familes Fail to Protect
- The Mother of a Monster
- Some Secrets Should Never Be Kept
- Empowered Living: Preventing Childhood Sexual Abuse
- Early Childhood Education: Child Abuse Prevention
- The First Violation
- The Conflicting Nature of Good Touch and Bad Touch
Its also important to note that I didn’t have a “horrible childhood.” Yes, I was abused. Yes, my extended family came with a lot of baggage. Still, my childhood wasn’t all horrible. Even in a post titled, “Happy Birthday Daddy” I wrote, “It was not all bad. I did not have a horrible childhood. I was always supported. You were there with mom at the volleyball games and track events. The barbies at Christmas were from the both of you. I can recall you placing a band-aid on a scrap. And I remember going on bike rides and playing freebie in the park. I remember hating when mom went out of town..not because you would do things to me…but because you didn’t know how to cook and all we would eat were hot dogs and pork n beans. I can label that memory as delightful.”
I did have a vibrant childhood full of toys, friends, park days and more. But coupled with that was trauma, abuse and bullshit. And even if I wasn’t being abused and even if my uncles weren’t in gangs or on drugs, there still were Irrelational type patterns of behavior in our family.
So no, overall I didn’t feel safe but I did what I had to do to survive. What did I do? I was taught to play small, to be quiet and to not show any negative emotions. I needed to know my place as a child. I needed to behave, do my chores and not complain. I needed to be in compliance and be grateful and always help.
As a teenager and young adult this led to maladaptive behaviors, sself-destructive behaviors, depression and suicidal attempts. (Most of that is chronicled on this blog considering I started it back in 2004) However, through what I call my, “Journey Back to Self,” I mapped a healing guide for myself to come to a place of wholeness. I realized I could embrace and express all of my emotions. I realized I could use my voice. I didn’t have to be small. I don’t always have to “adjust for decency.” I could do everything my mama told me NOT to do. I could rebuild myself. I could let myself wail. I could create my own toolkit to radical sexual agency. I could literally reclaim and restore myself.
I did the work. I literally was fucked over as a child while still having a fairly stable childhood but still it was traumatic. And my family wasn’t perfect. There were all kinds of psychotic behavior. And for awhile I took it own as my own issues and I struggled with intimacy and vulnerability. But I reached rock bottom and I decided many years ago to make a choice about how the rest of my life would go. I decided to take full responsibility for my life, to live according to my own convictions….since my family didn’t have my best interest at heart, nor my church or community …nor the fucking police….and I simply made my own way.
Did I feel safe as a child? No. What did I do to feel safe? I used disassociating techniques and superb acting skills and lots of suppression to make the time pass and then I left. (That would later become something I’d have to work on. It was always easy for my to with draw, to leave, and to dismiss. Eventually I had to be a better human.)
The Performer and the Audience
In the Introduction, the authors also go on to define key terms they use throughout the book. The Performer which is an overt caretaker, “who tries to be of service but is often motivated by a need to fix someone out of unconscious reasons.” And there is the Audience, “the individual who subtly takes care of the Performer by needing to be taken care of and craves to be cured and saved but ultimately doesn’t want to be fixed at all.”
Two things came to mind regarding this. I realize I have often dated men who wanted to “save me.” In a letter written to a lover last year, I wrote, “Just as you wanna see all of me. To be a part of it all. To get to know me. Pull back all those layers. To know all the details. To share in my journey. I want those things too. I yearn for that. But I get the feeling you don’t want me to have that. And I simply cannot give you me…without you giving me yourself in return. I don’t know how to do that and I’m not interested in that. I need for you to figure out if that’s what you want or can do. This cannot be one way. I’m not a damsel in distress. I’m not wandering without purpose waiting for a knight in shining armor to save me and serve me. I don’t need you to lay your coat down over a puddle. I want a partner. I want you to be that partner. But my wants only go so far if they are not aligned with yours. So I need you to figure that out. Because I’m here. Willing. Ready. Able. Not just to be of support and serve you but to …going off our metaphors, rule beside and with you. I need for you to find a balance between your love language being Acts of Service and you only serving me in our love. “
And separately when it comes to my corporate life and sometimes my friendship, I feel like I’m expected to play the role of the Performer. Its not a role I want. I want the give and take, the mutual support, the balance and flow that happens when people are aligned and synced. However due to my natural leadership skills, my exceptional organization, project management, and time management skills…I often become the lead by default in many situations. And jesus christ, I tire of that expectation. I tested out a theory recently with a group of friends on this and I felt like we went right back into the “song and dance” routine of expected behaviors. Assuming that would happen, I even tried to change the flow of the conversation to prevent it. Still. No such luck. So I simply fell upon my defense, I withdrew. I left. I disengaged.
But ultimately what I would like in those cases is to have healthy relationships with friends, with colleagues and more where this kind of bullshit doesn’t happen. So its my hope that this book can serve as a guide to the part I can play in this.
What To Do Next
If you’re interested in joining our book club, we would love to have you. Our virtual community is based in a private facebook group, called “Sirens&Wolves Book Club.”
If you’re interested in learning more about Sirens&Wolves LLC, a hospitality and event management company, sign up for our mailing list. We have informally existed for about two years hosting events, group trips, panels and workshops throughout the USA and now we are working on our website! Until that launches, you can simply join The Wolf Pack. You can also see some select events and experiences by clicking over to my portfolio.
More About Sirens&Wolves: While we are known for curating and creating interesting and fun event, our community has more so become a safe space for the taboo “others” of society. Taboo is defined as set apart as sacred & forbidden for general use. By creating experiences that are uninhibited, empowering, enlightening and thought provoking, we tend to strip away the pretense and facade that happens in every day culture. There are quite a few stereotypical social stigmas that give way towards dysfunctional societal norms and we’re beyond that. We actively embrace openness, strength, vulnerability and a little bit of majestic bougie. So for those who are taboo…… who embrace the sacred and the profane, who live it and embody it, we get it and want to play with you!