At The Core of Cancel Culture

I didn’t see my family over the holidays and it had nothing to do with COVID. It had to do with the fact my father isn’t speaking to me—again.

Cancel Culture seems to have originated with my father. It’s his safety strategy to cancel you if you say or do anything he doesn’t like—otherwise known in the clinical world as “shut down.”

When my father cancels you, you cease to exist. As a child, not having my father talk to me for days was unbearably painful. My mother had the most difficult time with his shutdowns—she tried to bring him back by lining me up with my young siblings and having us tell our father how sorry we were for upsetting him, how much we needed him, how much we loved him.

I was very young the first time I refused to do this. Something inside of me was telling me his shut down behaviour had nothing to do with me. But my mother told me to stop being so selfish. She told me to have empathy for others and that I had to do my part to bring my father back, back to the land of the living.

So I did—I lined up, I did my part.

But it never worked for long.

Over the years, there were times my father didn’t talk to us for weeks. There were times he didn’t talk to us for months. Each time we would line up, do our part. We brought him back to the land of the living until the next time one of us said or did something he didn’t like.

Then it started all over again.

Each time something inside me told me this was wrong—that my father’s behaviour had nothing to do with me. But I wanted to belong to my family. So I lined up, I played my part.

But now, in my forties, I am tired of lining up. If this was going to work, it would have by now.

***

So several months ago, when my father stopped speaking to me, I did nothing.

This time, I followed my internal guidance system—my knowing—that his behaviour has nothing to do with me.

This time I know where my responsibility for myself ends and my father’s begins.

This time when my mother comes to my house to tell me to line me up, to do my part, I refuse.

I tell her that I will no longer rescue my father from himself.

I tell her I will no longer play my role in the family drama triangle so that my father won’t feel pain, pain that was embedded long before I was born.

I tell her I will not take away an opportunity for my father to see the prison he creates for himself and others by not processing and healing his own trauma.

My mother tells me I’m being selfish.

I refuse to line up.

She tells me to have more empathy.

I refuse to line up.

She tells me to do my part.

I refuse to line up.

My mother stops talking. She feels the difference in me. She sees that I know myself. That I trust myself. That I belong to myself.

***

In the end, I believe my father’s life and that of our family could have looked very different if he had healed the heavy burdens he carries. There would have been a lot less suffering for us all.

In the end, I have great compassion and love for my father and the pain he’s carrying, but I will not carry it for him. I will boundary my empathy and listen to my knowing.

In the end, I hope my father chooses to step up and heal his own nervous system, to join the land of the living and experience himself in it.

In the end, I believe that is what we’re all here to do—have our past traumas triggered for the purposes of healing so we can be present to create healthy, vibrant lives here in the land of the living.

We are not here to line up and take each other’s pain away. If that was going to work, it would have worked by now.

Take what works and leave the rest,

Natasha Senra-Pereira

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