I’ve recently come to realize that I have a definite voice in my head; it is not one that tells me to do things, but just one that likes to scream. It is the echo of my mother; and though I haven’t heard her voice in six years, it was so loud and so persistent that it’s still reverberating inside my mind. She was firmly committed to verbal abusing her children, it’s something that she did instinctually and on a constant basis. Her entire creative impulse, memory, and stamina was dedicated to this purpose. She would find ways to twist anything, to insert criticisms and insults into any sentence, any conversation in a way that left others spellbound and unable to respond.
When she decided I was wrong and decided to scream, nothing could satisfy her, nothing could calm or pacify her. Trying to talk was meaningless; when she saw I was going to try and say something, she would put words of her own into my mouth, and then refute them, insult and yell at me for them as well. She liked to do that; cow me into silence and then scream at me for some straw man she had created; some scarecrow she had stitched together and nailed to my side, a person, exaggeratedly naive, stupid, and childish, a hodgepodge of her stereotypes and prejudices. She never listened to a thing I said; I wasn’t considered a reliable authority on myself, she would let everything slide off, to where it didn’t matter. If I did manage to say something, she twisted it into an even deeper insult and reproach.
Living under her, nothing was sacred; there was no line that she wouldn’t cross, nothing that she wouldn’t bring up over and over again to humiliate me. I think that was the most disturbing aspect to me; hearing things that she had claimed earlier to sympathize with me about, things that she claimed to like or respect later being torn apart at a seconds notice because of her unpredictable mood. My mother said she liked my first novel, and then later tore it to shreds one day when she was driving home and upset because she lost her credit card. Another time she asked me what classes I was taking at school, then interrupted me mid-sentence to scream at me about something unrelated. She would store up these things, from our normal, not particularly hostile interactions, and then shout them at me the moment she felt upset about something.
She liked to antagonize me by repeating the same insulting, untrue things or tedious speeches over and over again. It didn’t matter how many times I pointed out the inaccuracies, she would continue to say it, to shout it in my face every time I was a captive audience. It didn’t even matter if what she said made sense; whether drunk or not, she would scream nonsensical, ungrammatical things at me with a passion. She would pick up on any word I had used and turn it around into an incoherent, shouted insult without ever backing down, ever apologizing. I would often just be innocently minding my own business when I would hear her huffing and puffing turn into a growl and then shatter into a mind-numbing scream, generally hitting the same vocal chords in a familiar pattern.
She yelled as punishment, whenever any insignificant little thing happened. Looking back, I know that it would be easy to just see what was going on with me, what my motivations were, and problem-solve without any punitive measures. But for her, it was all about punitive hatred and childish admonishment, all about manipulation. I once overheard her talking to a girlfriend on the telephone; her husband had just died and she was regretting that he had been so verbally abusive to her children. My mother responded by telling her it was good for them, that kids “need” someone lording over them, screaming, harassing, and recriminating. Thus her verbal abuse was also ideological; she firmly believed that a part of necessary child development is being exposed to the psychotic screaming of a deranged parent. She wasn’t just dysfunctional, she actually believed consciously in what she was doing, and wasn’t afraid of articulating that belief to other people.
Now this voice, always angry and screaming, will repetitively pick up on some random word I’m reading and then formulaically style it into a profane, nonsensical personal attack. Often it follows on a line of rigid, unyielding, unseeing ideology. Regardless of what I’m doing, it generally turns on at around 5 o’clock–the time my mother would come home from work filled with stress she wanted to take out on me. I’ll be out in the garden, and this voice just begins to scream in my head. For most of my life (up until now basically) I was not self-aware about this voice and where it came from, which caused a lot of problems.
The fact that I couldn’t differentiate it meant that it took over me very often. Like many young people who suffered from severe emotional abuse, I took it out on the internet, spawning massive flame wars. For a long time, I realize that I unconsciously organized my online life (I never said these things to people face-to-face) to have encounters, not with people who I shared a considerable amount of like-mindedness with, but people that I would inevitably clash with and cause this voice to come out. It hurt me, it made me more dissociated and confused and less likely to form real relationships, as I was a non-integrated set of voices and facades and thoughts and feelings that didn’t match up.
I realize now that I chose to argue for hours instead of connecting with people who actually liked me (the real me that is, not this screaming voice.) I’ve moved away from that in recent years, and am taking steps not to do it at all anymore, and to understand where this voice comes from and why. I’m coming to see now that anonymity is not good for me. Being anonymous online encourages me to fragment myself into a bunch of different pieces, to cling to old patterns; to say one thing one place and then dissociate into something else. I only want to talk online and off as one person, one complete person, vulnerable, identified, and consistent. It will take some work.