Zoe is waiting for her dad to come visit. Her parents are divorced. He is late, again. She has been waiting for two hours. He finally arrives. He is drunk. Mother won’t let her get in the car with him. He drives off. Zoe is twelve and very upset at her mother. She tells her mother it is her fault, because she wasn’t nice enough to her father and that’s why he drinks.
Zoe starts smoking pot, having random sex, and moves in with her dad when she turns eighteen. She starts and stops college. When she is twenty-two she is arrested for a felony charge involving carrying drugs in her purse while working in a medical facility. Mother tried to help Zoe and Zoe wouldn’t let her near.
Divorce is a crime scene that is quite common. Parents frequently perpetuate and escalate marital problems long after the divorce decree has been handed down. A crime scene is a place in our history where we were harmed by what we saw, felt, or heard. If we don’t clear this out and understand what happened we will keep creatively making new crime scenes in our present day life.
Childhood can contain many crime scenes.
I had a client with cancer. She had been cancer free for nine years. She was not happy or grateful; she was unhappy and felt like dying much of the time. She came to counseling to understand why she wanted to die. After all, she almost did. I will call this client Sarah. I have changed up her case to protect her anonymity.
Sarah’s past reads like a mystery suspense novel wrapped around a plot line similar to the book and film Sybil. Sarah grew up in family dysfunction: schizo-affective mother, alcoholic and absent father, only child, and raging by both parents. Sarah’s mother said her marital problems were Sarah’s fault. Mother also said Sarah should never have been born. Sarah was also told that she should just die because she had made her mother’s life miserable.
Sarah’s entire childhood was about being blamed for things that had nothing to do with her. She felt deep shame.
Remember, shame is when you feel you have done something wrong but don’t know what it is. On the other hand, guilt is when you feel you have done something wrong and you have.
Sarah had shame and the only thing she could think of that she had done wrong was to be alive. These feelings and thoughts became gophers and went underground to dig tunnels into her fragile psyche and unconscious mind. Later, when she was an adult the gophers started popping up, as gophers do so well. In her case the old shame and crime scene was that of not deserving to be alive.
She married and divorced three times, she got cancer, she lost her job, she was written out of her parent’s will, and she has been marginally able to stay off the streets as a homeless woman for the past nine years. How she survives is by house sitting and charitable neighbors in the community.
Sarah and I discovered that she is returning to her crime scene over and over. Her original crime scene is about not being wanted, being told she shouldn’t have been born, and being told she should just die. Her crime scene is also about loss and doing without. Her crime scene dictates she will be unhappy, alone, and barely able to survive just as it was when she was a child with mentally ill, drunk, abusive, raging parents and nowhere to hide and nowhere to go as a small girl.
As we excavate her history and crime scene we find long periods of time when she was left to go hungry. We find her alone for hours and entire weekends. We discover people she didn’t even know were caring for her days on end. There was sexual abuse as well and different neighbor boys had their way with her since there was no one there to stop them, since she didn’t protest, and since she had no one to tell. All of these things were later recreated as an adult.
Crime scenes, left unattended, can destroy your life and make it impossible to have a healthy relationship with yourself.
It will be exceedingly difficult to have a healthy relationship with a partner, spouse, lover, or friend. This is further complicated by the fact that your partner, spouse, lover, or friend also has a crime scene that they likely know nothing about. This is why relationships are so darn complicated and why there is no easy fix. We want to work on our crime scenes for our self. We want to be able to experience the joy of simply being alive and to be able to marvel at all of life’s creations.
One of the many rewards for attending to old crimes scenes is that you will choose your friends and lovers much better and you will walk from relationships that mirror your crime scene instead of banging your head against the wall trying to figure out how to fix it. We don’t fix crime scenes. They are places where a crime was committed. There is no fixing that can take place.
More in Part 3 on Crime Scene Analysis.
Take care and be well,
Nanette Burton Mongelluzzo, PhD
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Last reviewed: 19 Apr 2012