Featured Writer: Patricia Brozinsky

The Good-Girl (Part I)

Like nebulae Diane's family's anxiety engulfed her. At age seven Diane prayed for a sibling because she could no longer bear the burden as the only child. Six years later her sister was born with brain damage and cognitive disabilities. Diane felt the pain of what should have been her mother's guilt because she witnessed her mother's attempted abortion. Her mother felt only rage at her new encumbrance.

Diane met Charles when she was thirteen and he was fourteen. He often called her names like 'stupid,' 'moron' and 'idiot.' Charles' mother and his sister wondered why she allowed him to abuse her. "What were they talking about? He called her names because he loved her!"

Diane's mother barked commands. As far back as Diane can remember her mother prefaced each command with, "Diane, be a good girl and " Victim of her mother's agenda, the only inference Diane could draw was that if she did not do as told she was not a "good girl." As a narcissistic extension of her mother Diane was forbidden awareness of two things: (1) anything the mother herself was ignorant of and (2) anything the mother did not want her to have knowledge of. So Charles was a perfect choice as husband for Diane because Diane's mother knew she could continue to manipulate Diane, and Charles would cooperate with her collusion under her own tutelage.

Diane's father, a police officer, came upon Charles' juvenile criminal record. Charles had been arrested for "...forcing by threat of bodily harm another boy to perform oral sex upon him." Diane's father hated Charles but unfortunately castrated by Diane's mother he was helpless to protect his daughter. He resorted to denial to get him through the years and eventually sunk into depression. After several failed attempts to leave the marriage Diane's father spent the remaining years of his life deluding himself that his wife was a "good woman who never really meant the harm she caused."

The powerful subconscious message Diane received from her mother was that she, Diane, must be a good girl. Diane was expected to be an acrobat - be a good girl and simultaneously carry the dark-side of the entire family. The psychological flexibility Diane attained came at a high price to her. It was countered by her physical stiffness. She couldn't climb fences; do cartwheels, headstands, handstands or backbends like the other kids. She didn't fit in with the crowd.

Having no choice, Diane complied with her mother's unconscious mandates and became the good-girl scapegoat. This assigned role would define her for the rest of her life.

Diane and Charles married when she was twenty and within three years the couple had two children. Reared to be a good girl Diane was also a good wife and a good mother. It was "Pleasantville." Periodically Diane would awaken from her sleep-like state and realize that she was despondent. But a good girl doesn't reveal unhappiness to anyone, because it would betray her mother, so Diane persevered and like her father resorted to denial, hopelessness and helplessness.

After twenty-five years of marriage Diane's denial yielded a bit because of nudges from school and therapy. Glimpses of life from the wakeful state revealed possible joy, immediately followed by terror and confusion. Unbeknownst to her Diane had the classic signs of an abused and battered woman. She was in her forties when she would learn that her family of origin and her nuclear family were dysfunctional. In the midst of a psychology class when the term "dysfunctional family" was discussed Diane sobbed.

Years earlier, in her process of awakening - alternating between awareness and denial - Diane had begged Charles to accompany her to couples counseling. Still in denial she thought there might be some hope for the marriage. Charles folded his arms across his chest and refused. He adamantly, menacingly and threateningly sneered, "No one's gonna tell me how to treat my wife." Divorce, a word meant only for others, now seemed her lone option.

Could the good-girl scapegoat shed her assigned role that defined her for over forty years?

Patricia Brozinsky, PhD, writer and keen observer of human behavior has been a psychotherapist for seventeen years, private practice in East Patchogue, NY. She taught psychology at a local college and co-lead workshops for Suffolk County, NY Department of Mental Health. She and James A. Gibson, PhD coauthored Eat or Be Eaten: The Truth About Our Species, The Marriage of Darwin and Machiavelli a book about human behavior available via amazon.com. Her articles and essays have been published at: Ezine Articles and Ascent Aspirations Her personal website is Re-inventing Yourself.

Email: Patricia Brozinsky

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