My dad used us as guinea pigs, my brother and I. He used a laboratory technique, maintaining one child as a control, and the other to experiment on. But the fact is, he experimented on us both.
I remember my dad attempting to hypnotize us. He sat my brother and I down at the kitchen table, spun a shiny object, and put my brother under. Then he burnt him to prove (to himself, anyway) that he’d put the boy ‘under’ – holding a match he’d just put out against the tender skin below my brother’s elbow – and then he turned to me.
I think we were about 9 and 11, though I may be wrong. It could have been 13 or 14. That’s the way it is with traumatic memories – you forget a some details while others stand out. I do remember (vaguely) what the room looked like, and it looked like the one we had at Fort Bragg.
But the thing is when I turned 14 my dad, courtesy of the G.I. Bill, started going to college. He was studying for a Major in Psychology with a Minor in Sociology – not an uncommon combination. And as part of his studies, he decided to involve me and my older brother.
The thing was, he was using us as guinea pigs; lab rats in an experiment. He had me learn while my brother got no education at all.
I had to read the books, go over his notes, pay attention to the highlighted items. And boy! Would he highlight things! Sometimes I would open a heavy psychology book to find page after page painted in yellow. And I had to read every word.
The thing is: I didn’t mind, didn’t mind at all. I knew my only defense against him was to use the knowledge he was teaching me against him – knowledge he inadvertently provided by making me the trained rat.
My brother, on the other hand, was left in ignorance.
For instance, during my reading I discovered a person couldn’t be hypnotized if they resisted – so I always resisted, or at least I think I did. I did engage in experiments in self-hypnosis – early, at a young age (about 15) – teaching myself not to give into his experiments.
“Don’t let anyone mess with your mind!”, I remember him (or someone else) instructing me over and over again. Perhaps this was part of my training while I was overseas; perhaps later. Needless to say I was determined not to let him mess with my head.
The fact is – if he hypnotized me, I would never know. I remember the feeling of despair I felt, reading about it in those manuals – how a hypnotic suggestion could be buried, unseen and unknown by the victim, set in there by the user – and a user he was.
He used us a lot of times; otherwise he generally ignored us, his two lab rats. My brother grew increasingly violent, and I? I became rebellious.
My brother was good for showing me how not to do things. When he would get caught I would analyze his mistakes – and do the same thing, only sneakier, more covert.
As time went on and training progressed, I learned a lot. Abnormal psychology rolled under my belt, along with childhood rearing. Anthropology, human biology, characteristics of the mind.
As a result I became more rebellious – not openly, of course! But in my mind I was determined: whatever the psych books said was the ‘right answer’ – I would give the opposite thing. In my behavior, of course. Just enough to fool him.
By the time I was 16, he was convinced I was insane. Frustrated, he took it out on my brother, driving him to drink.
By the time my brother was 18, he was alcoholic. I was into drugs. Much easier to hide than some things, a bit more difficult than most.
I had started drinking, too, early on. I remember sneaking Irish Mist into my coffee in my thermos, and drinking it at the bus stop while I waited for the bus to appear. I was 15.
By the time I was 15, I was smoking joints. That, I found, was much better – no hangover, and much easier to hide.
In the end my dad’s experiments ran out on him – quite literally! He got his degree in college, and I got mine in life. But that knowledge has always proved fruitful, those long hours spent poring over all those yellow painted pages, reading all those notes . . .
I won’t go into it much, but when I was 21 or so, I hit a pit of depression so deep, so large and wide that I thought I would never escape. My DID system imploded, leaving ‘me’ – or the teenage version of me – high and dry. It was a miserable time; so much so that my friends began to fear for my life.
And yet I went on – instinctively picking up pen and paper . . . and began journaling. Some part of me knew enough to know: this was a form of therapy, one that could help me analyze my feelings and where they came from . . .
and that’s when I discovered: I had more than one in me. That there was a little child, a teenager, a Soldier, and a Marine. And more. There was “The Beast” – an opened jawed vicious horror. There were the landscapes in my mind – the Teen crawled across a desert and almost died . . .
and then a family found me.
I don’t know if all that psychology knowledge helped, but I feel it does. It guided me for a long time. It kept me on my toes against my dad. And comparing my brother and I, I see . . . well, a lot.
Poor kid. I wish he’d gotten the education. His life would be happier I think. He would not (as he does now) avoid his past. He and I don’t speak about it, not much. He’s been through 3 marriages and has no children. He refused, convinced he would kill them. He still has anger issues so bad . . . but has learned to handle them. Poor boy: he’s got a good heart, but he, like me – well, his heart and mind got hurt a lot.
A lot of wrong done there.
Where to lay the blame?
Our life – without a doubt.