You Are A Nobody.
Kenneth was in his mid 30s when I saw him. He was a reluctant client and our initial sessions were punctuated with long silences and outright challenges to some of my probing. A mutual friend had referred him, but Kenneth did not conclude that his problems were serious enough to warrant an appointment with me, since he had coped fairly well with them from early childhood into adulthood. He was a straight ‘A’ student in his younger days, and had been on a fast track career path in the civil service. Although his mental and emotional handicaps were serious, he was able to camouflage them successfully, together with his disturbing family history.
His closest friends had always thought there was something amiss with Kenneth’s behaviour, particularly when he had to cope with a higher level of stress, whether it came from work or home. Kenneth was dissociating whenever his coping mechanism was unable to tolerate a heightened intensity of emotional and mental anxieties. From time-to-time, under those circumstances, he would zone out and be in his own world for a few minutes, and on occasions like a zombie, for a day or two. While in that state, he would excuse himself immediately or just walk away from others, to a secluded space to chill out – always incommunicado. His inability to totally recall these escapades proved rather disconcerting to him and his friends. If his friends managed to track him down, after sometime, they would normally find him in a depressive mood and unwilling or unable to explain himself. Once a therapeutic relationship had been established with Kenneth, we explored further his dissociative capacity, and attempted to correlate chunks of memory that had been repressed, in order to bring some healing mentally and emotionally. Talking about his relationship with his mother, Kenneth would occasionally lapsed into a trance state.
His mother, who was a divorcee, brought up Kenneth and his younger brother. As far back as he could remember, she was constantly screaming at the top of her voice at them. Nothing they did satisfied her. When he was in his late teens, he discovered a whole drawer filled with his mother’s psychotic medication. That explained her erratic behaviour and illogical thought processes, apart from the severe beatings and punishment he suffered every week at her hands. It became obvious to him at one point that she had not been taking her medication regularly, and out of concern, he raised the issue with her. The outcome was the most severe thrashing that he experienced, when she went after him with a bamboo pole. She did not stop till he passed out from her blows. When he was younger, Kenneth said that it would infuriate her mother further if he put up any sort of resistance or talked back at her, so he just numbed himself and took her beatings and bites. His mother’s constant refrain was, “You are a nobody. I am your mother. Do you understand? You are a nobody.” Being locked in the dark storeroom for ten to fifteen hours a day was the norm at one point. Is it any wonder then that he also developed a misogynic attitude towards women!