Sex and The City: Toxic thoughts about women

My parents got divorced when I was four. My father got my sole custody as I was a boy and my mom also never fought for my custody. I have grown up hearing how bad my mom was and how she abandoned me. My father has always told me that women are untrustworthy. Today at the age of 20, I have very complexed feelings towards women. I feel hateful and angry as well as sexually attracted. I stay aloof and keep fantasising about having violent sex with women and hurting them. I am scared of my feelings and I also feel sad, broken and fragmented within. Please help.

Ans. When parents get divorced, their child often becomes a bargaining chip, pawn sacrifice or key bone of contention between the warring couple. This is unfortunate.

Some of the challenges a child witnessing a divorce may go through are as follows - The child blames himself for not being aable to save the relationship between his parents, the child concludes that his parents don't love him enough to give him what he wants (a happy home), a child blames himself for being the reason that caused the problem between his parents, the child sees himself as an impediment who prevents his parents from going their separate ways - thus being happy because he's an added burden on them, the child feels anxious to have to pick side (between mom and dad) and thus, deciding which moral stance should he ally himself with.

Loyalty, sacrifice, moral turpitude and dubious intent are concepts so multi-layered and hard to describe, that a 4-year-old may feel crushed by their multiple nuances.

A child is unable to objectively fact check such things. Even an intelligent adult may find himself in a bind while trying to establish timelines and motive. After all, how does one impartially ascertain 'what went wrong' - 'who did what' etc. The story about your mom being a bad person who abandoned you is a narrative that your father has pitched to you and having said that, a lot of his perceptions of your mother could possibly be coloured by bias and a frustration of his own agendas that you may be completely oblivious too.

To generalise how 'women are unreliable' is not only factually incorrect but also reeks of prejudice. That's no different than pegging someone of a certain skin colour as a criminal because of his appearance.

The need to stereotype another human being or gender stems from the need to truncate the assessment time and simplify the process of making an informed and fair judgement of someone. It takes a lifetime to get to know someone. It also takes a while to get over one's own complexes. Your hate and anger could be hiding trauma, guilt and that feeling of abandonment that children of divorce usually carry within them.

It's important for you to have a chat with your mother so you can hear her side of the story too - rather than believe in a one-sided narrative. There is no accounting for the colour and exaggerations that your father may have possibly added to vilify your mother and make sure you don't challenge his side of the story.

Could your father be milking your presence in his life? What are his relationships with other significant people like? Is he bitter about other people as well? If you hurt a woman, she's liable to leave you or have you held accountable by the law so, such fantasies must never ever be lived out or rehearsed. Thoughts are transitionary occurrences and it's important to learn to observe them without moral judgement. Therapy with a counsellor will teach you how. Give it time.

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