Is having a nightmarish relationship with your parents an advantage in later life? Maybe! Let’s look at the pros and cons of being the progeny of people who should have been mercy-sterilized:
PRO: Child abuse makes you interesting.
I feel like I should open up this article with a scientific quote, so as to make myself feel superior to all those non-atheist subhumans. Instead I will make a broad generalization that is probably correct, at least aesthetically. People who have not been abused are boring as hell. They are terrible at parties, and love talking about the weather and self-actualization yoga. Harsh as it sounds, anyone who has not been abused has simply not been welcomed into our society. These non-abused kin are shells of individuals, walking around with giant targets on their foreheads that say “naive virgin.” This even goes for the sexually experienced!
Who wants to talk to someone who has had an easy childhood? What can they provide but the anecdotes of the day? What are they really worth on the inside? It’s a bold claim to state that abused children are greater than non-abused children, but is it not abused children who have the best tastes in music? You don’t see a non-abused child listening to anything that isn’t fed to them by their parents, after all. Why would they need an escape from such tender love and care?
CON: Child abuse makes you mean.
You get abused enough and you may just snap. You could end up on some murder spree, each and every victim resembling your abusive parents. If you are victimized enough as a child, everybody turns out to be the oppressor. It’s a borderline personality free-for-all. You will have no tolerance for people who have lived on easy street, unless you are some type of cosmic liberal. Anyone who expresses a personal struggle will be a joke to you, as they have not been abused like you have.
You may grow out of this as you get older, but you may not, especially if the severity of the abuse creates permanent psychological damage. If you can make it out of child abuse without turning mean, you will probably turn hippie. It’s either cruelty or crystal healing. Maybe a bizarre combination of both.
PRO: Child abuse makes you wise.
People whose parents are full of treats and encouragement and asexual shoulder rubs grow up with the expectation that being good will lead to good things—that life is fair, that promises will be kept, that justice will be served, and that love and cash will rain down upon them from the heavens just for being awesome.
The concept of depressive realism makes them blink uncomprehendingly; they’re the people for whom the term “special snowflake”—is everyone tired of this phrase yet, by the by? We’re already sick of “side-eye”—was coined. Having reality rammed down your throat at an early age gives you a head start on sizing up the lopsided slops bucket that is the human race.
CON: Child abuse makes you stupid.
Philosophical vlogger Stefan Molyneux stands sort of in, but head and shoulders above, the crowd of human-biodiversity autistics who are obsessed with the genetic variable in the race/I.Q. debate. (This gang has become nearly as ideologically driven as their opponents, the P.C. morons who freak out at the suggestion that evolution didn’t magically end the moment a hominid toddled out of Africa.) Molyneux is one of a handful of folks who are not too P.C. to discuss the I.Q. debate, but who also have bothered to examine the one variable nobody likes to talk about, much less do scientific studies to control for: child abuse and neglect.
To sum up Molyneux’s extensive research and extrapolation on the subject: every time you hit or insult your kid, you make it stupider.
We’ve long wondered what the data would look like if somebody controlled for shitty parenting, of which even the highest-I.Q. sires and dams are quite capable. We remember often feeling as children that our brains had gone completely numb from being attacked.
Is this paranoia? Hey, just because we’re paranoid don’t mean we’re not brain damaged: in this video, Molyneux brings in a political-science type, James Flynn—yes, the Flynn effect guy—to discuss some admittedly insufficient research that backs what for us has been a mere intuition.
Whatever you might think of Molyneux’s occasional fits of bloody-minded optimism about his future libertarian paradise, the entire 70-some minute interview is, if dry, a nice deep background to the brain plasticity debate … BUT, if you must skip straight to the RACIAL shit, try 42:40.
Here Flynn cites an adoption study by Elsie Moore. He says the sample size was too small, and he fears the study will never be repeated because, well, it’s un-P.C. to suggest that black family culture is different from white family culture.
The study was meant to answer the question of why black children in affluent, professional black families still come out with lower average I.Q.s than white children with professional white parents. Is the difference entirely genetic? The race-IQ assburgers are too ready to rub their hands together and scream “Yes, and yay my in-group!” We all love team sports. But hang on.
In the study, 23 black children were adopted into white families, while 23 black children were adopted into black families. The researcher found that the children who were adopted into white professional families came out with average I.Q.s 13 points higher (at age 8 ½) than those who had been adopted into black professional families.
When the researcher brought the moms in “to see what the hell was going on”—as Flynn puts it—she found that when helping their children with cognitive tasks, the black yuppie moms, despite having the same amount of formal education as the white yuppie moms, insulted the kids constantly. The white professional moms were more nicey-nicey: “Oooh, Johnny, what a good wrong idea—but why don’t we try it a different way?” Apparently, this made the coddled children smarter.
Our own mothers were more like the “black moms” in the study than the “white moms.” If we had gotten a real “white mom,” damn it, WE could have been working on that comet-landing craft and getting in trouble for wearing naked man shirts. Wait, no, we’d probably be applauded as feminist her-oines. To paraphrase an old Green Bay punk rocker, we never have any idea what the hell we’re doing.
PRO: Child abuse makes you empathetic.
Being abused as a child enables you to understand the pain of others. You may become more sensitive to the struggles of your fellow abuselings, understanding the brutality of their experiences. You’re more likely to recognize that someone has been abused if you have been abused yourself, as you know the signs all too well. Each bruised and broken person remains close to your heart, reflections of your inner torment. It’s personal.
Being an empathetic person who knows what abuse is like, you’re more likely to provide love and support to others who have gone through the same thing. Water seeks its own level.
CON: Child abuse makes you feel like you’re part of a special club of unlucky and defective people.
Flip side of the coin. Your empathy may go a little too far if you’ve been a little too victimized. Suddenly you’ll think you are special and that your abuse gives you status in some underground cult of abuselings. In reality, you may just be another boring idiot. Abuse is not guaranteed to make you stronger. Nietzsche was wrong when he claimed that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. What he should have said was:
“What doesn’t kill certain people makes them stronger. The others just die and wither away.”
Being abused doesn’t give you entrance to the secret club of the bruised and beautiful. You don’t get into the club simply because you know the DJ.
PRO: Maltreatment might make you less of a sociopath.
See “It makes you wise.” People who don’t know what mistreatment feels like may not even realize that their selfishness has consequences for others. Didn’t you happy shiny self-obsessed fuckers pay attention in kindergarten? We piss down upon your self-esteem from a great height.
Then again, we’ve met plenty of folks with terrible parents who were even more terrible people. Child abuse only makes you less of a sociopath than a normal-family Joe if you keep this simple phrase in mind: Your damage is not a fucking excuse. We’re sick of hearing psychos justify their out-of-control behavior with “Daddy was mean.” Use what you have learned to be more empathetic, not less.
CON: Maltreatment might make you more of a sociopath.
Clinically speaking and all of our rhetoric aside, the stats are pretty clear: Kids with mean bastards for parents come out with higher rates of mental illness, however you define it, from mild depression and self-medication all the way up to jihad-joining, ax-murdering SKREE SKREE SKREE. The trick is, as stated above, to quit feeling quite so sorry for your damn self. And when you’re choosing to date someone, pay attention to whether their family is too mean or too nice. Be wary of both.
PRO: Child abuse makes you a better actor.
Imagine that you’re an actor in Hollywood. You may be assigned a role in which you must play a child abuse victim. If you have never been a victim of child abuse, how are you going to perform? Are you supposed to read up on child abuse on Wikipedia? In our increasingly victimized society, it has become important to know how to act like an abused person, whether on stage or off. If you cannot play the part of the abused, you may be seen as a threat to other people. You need to know when to act like you’ve just taken a beating. If you don’t, you will probably receive one.
CON: Child abuse makes you sexy to all the wrong people.
Here’s an ugly truth. The worst of the worst study the profiles of abuse victims so they can court them. Those who have been abused display certain patterns that signal weakness and vulnerability. In order to exit the abuse cycle, you must protect yourself from people who view you being inside of it as an opportunity. This means you must change your neurological patterns that expose you as an abuse victim, emulating the patterns of those non-abused cretins. You have to pretend to be something that you are not, unless you live in a bubble.
PRO: If your early world is intolerable, you create a world of your own.
When you finally escape the family torture chamber, you’ll often find that you’ve developed the skills to either entertain yourself in any situation with the greatest of ease, or—if you manage to overcome your carefully instilled self-loathing—you can even aspire to entertain others.
The examples are endless and brilliant, if tragic: Oscar Wilde’s mother was a narcissistic social-climbing nightmare. Robin Williams’ family, though wealthy, left him alone in their big house to rot and cry. Whatever you think of Bukowski, he finally made it, after having the lies beat out of him as a child and at work. William Makepeace Thackeray (who wrote Vanity Fair, Ann’s favorite book) lost his father at the age of 4, whereupon his mother shipped him to a boarding school in England while she remained in India. Thackeray’s school was called Charterhouse; he nicknamed it “Slaughterhouse.” Have you ever heard of a great artist with sweet, supportive, present, upper-middle-class parents?
NO, your favorite New Yorker asshole is NOT a great artist, you mediocrity.
Someone who “makes it” in the literary fiction world these days is likely a dithering puke whose parents knew an agent. There is more artistic depth in two minutes of Maria Bamford’s “Joy Whack-a-Mole” stand-up sketch than you’ll find digging your way through a two-story-tall pile of lit-fic novels whining about how sad it is when Grandpa dies and leaves you the money.
If you see a young artist who is genuinely great at what he does slapping a thank-you to his parents for their support on a project—especially if he’s from the Midwest, where we keep it all on the down-low—he is fucking LYING so he won’t have to deal with even more of their crazy.
CON: You can’t live in the normal world.
If you jump every time someone comes up behind you and says your name, it makes almost every office, restaurant, or sales job a form of slow torture.
But worse than that is the bullshit. Most people can either buy into bullshit or let it slide, and they’re fairly comfortable until it gets too blatantly ridiculous (in which case the buy-ins might even double down).
But if you had to become an expert at seeing through bullshit at an early age, the bullshit of the business world weighs relentlessly on your senses till you can’t notice anything but the miasma of wearying half-assed lies.
You can try to go the wacky punk rock restaurant job route, but living in a world of your own makes serving customers a fucking nightmare as well, believe us. You can’t stop making up stories about what those weird flakey customers’ lives might be like—and then you realize you forgot about table three’s extra ranch sauce and they’re going to be pissed.
Ah, that reminds me: your brain has been trained to assume that any tiny error you make will trigger someone’s soaring fit of narcissistic rage.This inconvenience is compounded by the fact that enough assholes eat out that your brain’s assumption is confirmed on a daily basis. It’s not bad reality testing if that bitch really is threatening to get you fired over an extra ice cube in her soda.
PRO: You have an intimate relationship with reality.
Whether you go off to some post-traumatic wonderland or remain grounded in human hell, you understand reality like others don’t. It is not uncommon for neo-feminists living in America to think that annoying catcalls = abuse. If you have been through real abuse, you see far past this social justice kool-aid. You understand reality, as nasty as it is. You are able to engage in realtalk. This gives you special access to the finest conversations about human nature.
CONS: You have an intimate relationship with reality, and it sucks.
You realize how brutal humanity can be, and have no delusions about human nature being a good thing. You accept that reality does not like you. You don’t believe in egalitarianism, education as a cure for psychopathy, or even human rights. Good luck being happy now.
PRO: You learn to defend yourself.
Particularly if your parents are gifted with a high level of verbal intelligence, you will be forced to either lie down in a corner of the cage of your own head and die—or else you’ll learn to come up with rational responses to some quite sophisticated nonsense. As an adult, when people attack you unfairly, you’ll have the capacity to laugh them off easily. In fact, you’ll be amused and delighted when some nasty bitch thus shows her hand as disingenuous, deluded, or dumb.
CON: On the other hand, you might give up on defending yourself.
This is the “lie down in a corner of your cage” option (Google “learned helplessness”).
Or you might go too far in the other direction and decide that it’s always best to attack others before they can attack you—which means you’re going to be a chronic pain in everyone’s ass.
Pain in the ass, doormat, or relentlessly rational thinker: most kids with awful parents wind up as some combination of the three, but what particular ratio you wind up representing is not completely out of your hands. START THINKIN’ NOW, KIDDO.
SO WHAT I’M SAYING: Chid abuse doesn’t necessarily make you a good person, but you might end up a brilliant heretic who gets signed to a major record label, or even a sexy columnist who gets hired to write for a thoughtcrime magazine. You are one of the few, unless you are one of the many. Embrace it. Just don’t go carrying your abuse around if you’re in a predatory environment of brutes. In an environment like that, carry a gun. Save your abuse for the workshop against violence. It may just cause a few social justice warriors to rethink their microaggresions.
IN CONCLUSION: Child abuse is what you make of it. Oh, you’re going to have some dark nights of the soul, buddy boy, no matter how much you squirm and self-examine and babble away in therapy and acting classes. But as far as your relationships go, you can choose to give in to the garbage in your head, or you can use what you’ve learned to reach past the shit and grow toward the light of not being a dirtbag.
This is a hard and frightening sort of growth, but the light you struggle toward burns brighter in your blighted eyes than it ever will for the smug shits who haven’t lived in the heart of darkness. And if all else fails—if for all your efforts you’re alone—try writing a horror novel. That will probably fail too, but at least you have a shot.
A FINAL NOTE ON PARENTING: If you insist on producing a child yourself, we aren’t quite sure whether to tell you to abuse it or not. You might sack the rest of us with a smug sociopath if you don’t; if you do, you might be inflicting a pained and chaotic whack job on the world. Either way, it’s a minefield. So seek the golden mean of stern but gentle discipline—or, better yet, get a vasectomy. Making people is not the kind of shit you should take lightly.