“I’m furious with Mother. She stole my childhood … I feel pierced because she played on my fears. I trusted what she did was best for me, but she met her own needs, not mine. She took advantage of a scared, defenseless little boy.”
That is one of the hundreds of short anecdotes that make up Larry Godwin’s unique work, "Surviving Our Parents’ Mistakes: Healing the Scars from Childhood Mistreatment." The passage above might sound like words of a victim, but the author aims to shed any perceived victim label, take ownership of what happened to him as a youth and work to overcome the many effects that still plague him now in his late 70s.
Godwin declares that he was an abused child, suffering from the emotional shackles his parents placed upon him. “I wasn’t physically beaten or raped; I have no physical scars … My parents neglected me emotionally … All my scars dwell on the inside.” As his father had left the family at an early age, most of the book reflects upon the effects his mother had on his childhood.
CONFRONTING CHILDHOOD TRAUMA
The author’s goal is to empower readers. “My primary motivation is to encourage other abuse victims to acknowledge the crippling disabilities they face as adults, to openly confront them, then to heal the childhood wounds.”
“Chances are we all deal with many of the same problems if a parent neglected us,” such as insecurity, low self-esteem, depression, anger, guilt and lack of control.
The book is unique in that it is not your traditional narrative, but rather a collection of short thoughts and remembrances that shaped the author’s childhood and that address issues he is still wrestling with today. In the foreword, clinical psychologist John Sommers-Flanagan describes Godwin’s words as “gentle wisdom” along a path that often takes him two steps forward and one step back.
Godwin notes that his own parents themselves grew up in dysfunctional families and they surely “unavoidably repeated their own parents’ mistakes.”
Godwin is hardly alone. He references a statistic that 80 to 90 percent of all children struggle to receive the love, guidance and other nurturing necessary to form healthy relationships as adults and feel good about themselves.
For example, in one of his vignettes he asks his mother to hold him, and she scolds him for wanting all her attention.
The book is filled with Godwin’s brief but poignant reflections of actions and emotions which still affect him as an adult. “When I was small, Mommy kept me under her thumb. I caved in again and again. I had no choice but to let her trample my rights. Now I feel a strong need to make sure no one bests me.”
“I hold myself back from living because Mommy wounded me too many times.”
Yet Godwin is able to see some positives that resulted from his challenging childhood; he’s more independent, self-reliant, not afraid to spend time alone and is better able to recognize needs in his own daughter.
DEAL WITH A DEFT AND GENTLE HAND
"Surviving Our Parents’ Mistakes" is a moving, revealing and helpful book to those troubled by difficult upbringings. It has provided the author with a “cathartic window.”
But he knows the battle rages on, even late into life. “I’m sorry, but I’m not ready to forgive my parents. I seem to be hurtling toward closure. I can’t intellectualize away that easily the lingering anger and hurt.”
“I think to ultimately recover from their abuse and neglect, I must continue to encourage painful, repressed memories to surface. I need to reconstruct more of my childhood, consciously experience this hatred firsthand, and mourn the damage Mother and Father caused before I can move on.”
This book has put Godwin well on his way to doing just that, and hopefully, it can set a productive course for many others in need.