You have seen how one of Jason’s issues was fear of abandonment, and the following excerpt shows how significant his insecure attachment to his father was, and how it impacted on him, breeding shame, hurt, jealousy, discord, fear, depression, low self-esteem, poor self-confidence, and a stubborn desire for his father’s approval.
“We are a very sporting family with rugby being the passion. My father was a really good player as a young man and would be very well respected in the community. My relationship with him has always been pretty much non-existent for as long as I can remember. I can remember times when I was young asking him to come and play with me and my younger brother, but he never would. My mother would always encourage him, but he didn’t have any interest. On the odd time he would come out, it would be for only a few minutes. I would plead with him to stay out for longer but he never would. I would often visit my best friend’s house. We would have big games of soccer or rugby and his father would play with us, encouraging us and really getting involved. Often we would still be out playing in the dark. Even though he might have finished a hard day’s work, he would never disappoint us and always played enthusiastically. I never had that with my father, I would play with my brothers but that was it. As my father was a decent rugby player himself, it was natural that we, his sons, would play. He got involved in my older brother’s teams, but never in mine or my younger brother’s. My older brother and father seemed to have had a close relationship always; so it was, I suppose, natural for him to get involved in his teams. He had high hopes for him. I was a little bit younger, but I was also togging out with my brother. My father would never pick me on the team, even though I felt I was better than some of the lads starting. My mother often used to ask my father to push for me, when picking the team. He never listened. I felt very low about this and felt like I was an embarrassment to him. My feeling was that he thought I was useless and eventually I started thinking this way myself. Sometimes if there was a row at home between him and me, he would often remark that I was useless on the rugby field. This cut deeply as I loved rugby and a lot of our identity at home was based around rugby and how well you could play it. What made it worse at the time was that my younger brother was rapidly improving and was clearly going to be better than me. This I found very difficult and jealously would kick in. I would often pick on him and resented him for being better. I think the only time I remember my father being proud was when the 3 of us played on an underage team together and won a competition. Myself and my older brother held key positions on the team, while my younger brother was the star. As he was a good player himself, there was always pressure on me and my brothers to be decent players. I often resented this pressure, but this was one of the times I was proud to have the family name. Unfortunately, I have always played with very low self-confidence. I do my bit for the team, but I never put myself out there to receive the ball. I am terrified of making a mistake and people accusing me of losing a game. So I sell myself short. I know I could be a lot better player than I am and have ability, but I just can’t force myself to demand the ball. I am transfixed by fear. I could see that the management could see leadership qualities in me, but I just couldn’t see them in myself. Self-doubt would fill me and I was never comfortable in a leadership role. I liked soccer as well as rugby, but my lack of self-confidence was making me hate playing it. I have often been asked for trials for higher teams, but I just couldn’t make myself go. I convinced myself that I wasn’t as good as all these other players, and I would make up some lame excuse not to go. I have no doubt that all this stems from not getting any encouragement from my father. I always felt belittled and useless around him.
Things got worse as I got older. We stopped talking to each other almost completely. I could never sit in the same room as him so I got a T.V. into the other living room and spent all my time there. I just couldn’t talk to him and I know he felt the same way. It was just too awkward for both of us, so we would avoid each other. Car journeys were the worst. I never looked for him to take me anywhere and always looked for my mother. Sometimes needs must, and he was the only person there to drop me to training or wherever. Even the shortest of trips would be painful. We would try talk about rugby, but it was always forced, and mostly it would just fall into a deafening silence. Even today as an adult, there is still the awkwardness between us. As I got older and started drinking I would head out most nights, a lot of times to escape the house.”
The insecure attachment Jason had with his father not only affected his relationship with him, but impacted on his ability to live. It was so detrimental that he ultimately decided to give up soccer, a game he liked. He was unable to enjoy the game, because every time he went on the field the thought of pleasing his father was uppermost in his mind. Failure to do so resulted in unbearable shame. For those of you with secure attachment it is difficult for you to understand how childhood can affect an adult to this extent. Jason’s thinking is clear in this extract, when he contemplates the decision he made in May 2015.
“Today I cried uncontrollably, and it is rarely I cried in childhood. I can no longer handle the stress of playing soccer. One evening last week I turned up for a match looking disinterested. This was a front for being terrified. I hid during the match. I tried not to get on the ball for fear of making a mistake. At one stage in the first half, my hands were shaking. All that was going through my head was how useless people in the stand would think I am. It was a horrible feeling. I never felt so alone. I then got on a few balls and made mistakes. I just couldn’t handle this anymore. I considered walking off the field but instead I hid for the rest of the match. I got a ball at one stage and drove it over the side line. In my frustration I gave the guy I was marking a dig in the ribs. He was only a young lad and did nothing wrong. By the end of the game all that was in my head was that this is the last game of soccer I will play. I played one more game. I togged in, cracking jokes with the lads but deep down I was in bits. I could no longer keep the show on the road. Why was I playing? Why was I doing this to myself? I drove around town and my head was spinning with all these questions. When I got home there was nobody there. I parked in the driveway and broke down. I sobbed uncontrollably. I got into the house and I went to the sitting room and I still couldn’t stop. I then went to my bedroom and the tears just flowed. I lay on my bed and let it all out. This was the tipping point for me. I just kept asking myself why I am doing something that makes me so unhappy. Then I decided that it was time to be brave. I decided that I would give up soccer for good. I never played for myself or my own enjoyment. It was always to please someone else, usually my family, or because my friends were playing. Secretly it was to please my father.”
Extract from Understanding and Healing the Hurts of Childhood. Publication 2018
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