Unseen children

I suspect that brilliant people often has become brilliant because either or both of their parents have been physically or psychologically absent. If the parents don’t give their child enough attention, the desire to be seen can make the child do more and more destructive things as a means of getting attention. But it can also give rise to what might seem to be more constructive behavior, such as developing artistic skills.

I think it was in the book Reclaiming Your Life (reviewed here) that I read that people either openly express their frustration (more or less violently) or turn it inwards. Those who turn it inwards are likely to seek attention by “developing” brilliance in some area, which overshadows their need for parental attention. The children violently expressing their frustration over not being seen are in a way more likely to achieve their goal, although they might be deferred as troublemakers and given more and more rough treatment. In either case, unseen children are suffering badly.

For example, according to the book The Drama of the Gifted Child, by Alice Miller, writer Hermann Hesse was an unseen child, who was sent away by his parents at a young age and experienced much suffering in his life. There are more examples, but this is the only one I can remember right now. But the “troubled artist” is familiar, and where the childhood is troubled, adult life is likely to be troubled.

I don’t claim to be brilliant, but I have a history of being lauded for things I do. I’ve received praise for my drawing, playing guitar, developing software, writing, rifle shooting and for some of my efforts in school. A few years ago I realized that this drive towards excellence in any undertaking, was fueled by a desire to be seen and loved by my father. We’ve had basically no contact at all during the last decade, but we’ve tried to re-establish our relationship a few times, and at these times I have noted an urge to impress him with my accomplishments.

What’s interesting to note is that whenever I’ve faced competition, I’ve quit. When I in my early teens was dethroned as the best rifle shooter in my club, I quit. I also quit when I was eleven and my guitar playing skills were surpassed by another kid, ending my time as my guitar teacher’s best student. It’s as if I unconsciously have retargeted my efforts to a field with less risk of being outdone.

I will hopefully continue this post at a later time. Duty calls.

The above was posted to my personal weblog on July 7, 2002. My name is Peter Lindberg and I am a thirtysomething software developer and dad living in Stockholm, Sweden. Here, you’ll find posts in English and Swedish about whatever happens to interest me for the moment.


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