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Tips on talking to your teenager or pre-teen about drugs and their health effects. Make a donation. But at a very early stage you forbade me to speak. What I got from you — and you are, whenever it is a matter of your own affairs, an excellent talker — was a hesitant, stammering mode of speech, and even that was still too much for you, and finally I kept silent, at first perhaps out of defiance, and then because I could neither think nor speak in your presence.
And because you were the person who really brought me up, this has had its repercussions throughout my life.
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Your extremely effective rhetorical methods in bringing me up, which never failed to work with me, were: abuse, threats, irony, spiteful laughter, and — oddly enough — self-pity. I cannot recall your ever having abused me directly and in downright abusive terms. And here again was your enigmatic innocence and inviolability; you cursed and swore without the slightest scruple; yet you condemned cursing and swearing in other people and would not have it. It is also true that you hardly ever really gave me a whipping.
But the shouting, the way your face got red, the hasty undoing of the braces and laying them ready over the back of the chair, all that was almost worse for me. It is as if someone is going to be hanged. If he really is hanged, then he is dead and it is all over. But if he has to go through all the preliminaries to being hanged and he learns of his reprieve only when the noose is dangling before his face, he may suffer from it all his life. Besides, from the many occasions on which I had, according to your clearly expressed opinion, deserved a whipping but was let off at the last moment by your grace, I again accumulated only a huge sense of guilt.
On every side I was to blame, I was in your debt. Indeed, this touches on the most devastating and deadening effect of growing up in such an emotional environment — the way in which we come to mistake the crumbs of mercy for a feast of love. Fortunately, there were exceptions to all this, mostly when you suffered in silence, and affection and kindliness by their own strength overcame all obstacles, and moved me immediately. Rare as this was, it was wonderful.
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At such times one would lie back and weep for happiness, and one weeps again now, writing it down. Kafka writes:.
It is true that Mother was illimitably good to me, but for me all that was in relation to you, that is to say, in no good relation. Mother unconsciously played the part of a beater during a hunt. Even if your method of upbringing might in some unlikely case have set me on my own feet by means of producing defiance, dislike, or even hate in me, Mother canceled that out again by kindness, by talking sensibly in the maze and chaos of my childhood she was the very prototype of good sense and reasonableness , by pleading for me; and I was again driven back into your orbit, which I might perhaps otherwise have broken out of, to your advantage and to my own.
If I was to escape from you, I had to escape from the family as well, even from Mother. True, one could always get protection from her, but only in relation to you. Relations with people outside the family … suffered possibly still more under your influence. You are entirely mistaken if you believe I do everything for other people out of affection and loyalty, and for you and the family nothing, out of coldness and betrayal.
I repeat for the tenth time: even in other circumstances I should probably have become a shy and nervous person, but it is a long dark road from there to where I have really come. To a certain extent I was in safety; there was a chance to breathe freely. The aversion you naturally and immediately took to my writing was, for once, welcome to me. It was an intentionally long-drawn-out leave-taking from you, yet, although it was enforced by you, it did take its course in the direction determined by me. In my writing, and in everything connected with it, I have made some attempts at independence, attempts at escape, with the very smallest of success; they will scarcely lead any farther; much confirms this for me.
Nevertheless it is my duty or, rather, the essence of my life, to watch over them, to let no danger that I can avert, indeed no possibility of such a danger, approach them. Likening his young self to a bank clerk who has committed fraud yet continues working in constant terror of being found out, Kafka recounts one particularly tormenting fantasy he had in high school:. To live with such fantasies is not easy for a child. But the most beautiful line in the entire letter is delivered almost as an aside, as Kafka contemplates the things his father has condemned as failures — including his broken engagement — and issues an elegant admonition against the perils of dogmatic perfectionism:.coguzetylejy.ml
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It is, after all, not necessary to fly right into the middle of the sun, but it is necessary to crawl to a clean little spot on earth where the sun sometimes shines and one can warm oneself a little. Kafka ends the letter with a lyrical and heartbreaking reflection on its ultimate purpose — to offer a little door for repairing the relationship despite their vast differences:. Things cannot in reality fit together the way the evidence does in my letter; life is more than a Chinese puzzle. I am sure that Mother spoilt me too, but I cannot believe I was particularly difficult to manage; I cannot believe that a kindly word, a quiet taking by the hand, a friendly look, could not have got me to do anything that was wanted of me.
Now you are, after all, at bottom a kindly and softhearted person what follows will not be in contradiction to this, I am speaking only of the impression you made on the child , but not every child has the endurance and fearlessness to go on searching until it comes to the kindliness that lies beneath the surface.
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You can only treat a child in the way you yourself are constituted, with vigor, noise, and hot temper, and in this case this seemed to you, into the bargain, extremely suitable, because you wanted to bring me up to be a strong brave boy. He writes:. I was quite obedient afterwards at that period, but it did me inner harm.
What was for me a matter of course, that senseless asking for water, and the extraordinary terror of being carried outside were two things that I, my nature being what it was, could never properly connect with each other. Even years afterwards I suffered from the tormenting fancy that the huge man, my father, the ultimate authority, would come almost for no reason at all and take me out of bed in the night and carry me out onto the [balcony], and that meant I was a mere nothing for him.
What I would have needed was a little encouragement, a little friendliness, a little keeping open of my road, instead of which you blocked it for me, though of course with the good intention of making me go another road.
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But I was not fit for that… At that time, and at that time in every way, I would have needed encouragement. In factuality, Hermann grew up in a middle-class family but liked to mythologize the hardships of his youth after he became a successful businessman. With piercing insight into the self-righteousness syndrome that befalls many such self-made people who come to believe their own myth of omnipotence, Kafka writes:.
You had worked your way so far up by your own energies alone, and as a result you had unbounded confidence in your opinion. That was not yet so dazzling for me as a child as later for the boy growing up. From your armchair you ruled the world.
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Your opinion was correct, every other was mad, wild, meshugge , not normal. Your self-confidence indeed was so great that you had no need to be consistent at all and yet never ceased to be in the right. It did sometimes happen that you had no opinion whatsoever about a matter and as a result all opinions that were at all possible with respect to the matter were necessarily wrong, without exception. You were capable, for instance, of running down the Czechs, and then the Germans, and then the Jews, and what is more, not only selectively but in every respect, and finally nobody was left except yourself.
For me you took on the enigmatic quality that all tyrants have whose rights are based on their person and not on reason. All these thoughts, seemingly independent of you, were from the beginning burdened with your belittling judgments; it was almost impossible to endure this and still work out a thought with any measure of completeness and permanence.
But that was not the point. Rather, by virtue of your antagonistic nature, you could not help but always and inevitably cause the child such disappointments; and further, this antagonism, accumulating material, was constantly intensified; eventually the pattern expressed itself even if, for once, you were of the same opinion as I; finally, these disappointments of the child were not the ordinary disappointments of life but, since they involved you, the all-important personage, they struck to the very core.
Courage, resolution, confidence, delight in this and that, could not last when you were against it or even if your opposition was merely to be assumed; and it was to be assumed in almost everything I did. What was always incomprehensible to me was your total lack of feeling for the suffering and shame you could inflict on me with your words and judgments. It was as though you had no notion of your power. I too, I am sure, often hurt you with what I said, but then I always knew, and it pained me, but I could not control myself, could not keep the words back, I was sorry even while I was saying them.
Anyone who has shared life with a narcissist recognizes, of course, the chronic dispensation of such double standards and its many manifestations across all areas where rules are applied. In describing how Hermann disciplined his children at the dinner table, Kafka illustrates this narcissistic tendency with the perfect allegorical anecdote:. The main thing was that the bread should be cut straight.
Care had to be taken that no scraps fell on the floor.
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In the end it was under your chair that there were most scraps. The most heartbreaking effect of these disorienting double standards is that the child grows utterly confused about right and wrong, for they seem to trade places constantly depending on who the doer is, and comes to internalize the notion that he or she is always at fault. As a consequence of this immersion in uncertainty and self-doubt, Kafka grew increasingly preoccupied with his body and health — a tangible aspect of reality:.
Since there was nothing at all I was certain of, since I needed to be provided at every instant with a new confirmation of my existence, since nothing was in my very own, undoubted, sole possession, determined unequivocally only by me — in sober truth a disinherited son — naturally I became unsure even of the thing nearest to me, my own body. Kafka captures this draining dance with disappointment and uncertainty in another heartbreaking exhortation:.
Please, Father, understand me correctly: in themselves these would have been utterly insignificant details, they only became depressing for me because you, so tremendously the authoritative man, did not keep the commandments you imposed on me. Hence the world was for me divided into three parts: one in which I, the slave, lived under laws that had been invented only for me and which I could, I did not know why, never completely comply with; then a second world, which was infinitely remote from mine, in which you lived, concerned with government, with the issuing of orders and with the annoyance about their not being obeyed; and finally a third world where everybody else lived happily and free from orders and from having to obey.