Researching and compiling this information on my extended family has been poignant and at times, frustrating. I had contacted relatives in an attempt to find out more information, but in the end there was not much more to work with than when I began. It was difficult to have a sense of completion with the genogram due to lack of information, and also difficult to recognize patterns due to my remaining repressed memories. In the mid-1990’s, I agreed with my psychiatrist that after several years of recalling traumatic memory after traumatic memory, that what remains repressed should perhaps stay that way. Thankfully, only about nine years of my childhood were spent in my family of origin structure. My family fits into a classification that defies many norms, and if one were to draw a line in the timeframe of Bowen’s work and define it as psychotic families/NIMH and post-psychotic families/Georgetown, my family would be a better fit if placed in the prior category of study. Bowen reflected upon his prior work at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) after his move to Georgetown University as hindsight reminded him that what he saw with his new family of clients displayed many of the “same mechanisms he had observed in psychotic families” (Nichols, 2013, p77). Using this information, I can assume many of the factors in my family were likely to exist in other, more differentiated families also, however, the circumstances of my family and the treatment of my sister and I are still shocking to many a seasoned therapist.
My father, William (“Billy”) Lawhorne, came home from his first day of kindergarten in Ty Ty, Georgia in 1938 to find his mother had hanged herself and was hanging from a beam in the living room. Upon discovering his mother’s body, Billy tried to run the country dirt road to summon help from neighbors in rural Georgia, but never made it there. A farmer, passing by in his truck, found him alongside the road “in a state” is how my southern relatives described it. A lengthy hospitalization was followed by being taken in by his aunt Bernice. In the irony of multigenerational patterns, I would also be taken in by Bernice many years later.
With no father present, and no idea who his father was, Billy was forced to start his life anew. Billy began drinking in his early teens, which finally culminated in staying drunk most of the time. It was during one of his moments of feeling lost and needing to repent, that he met my mother Myra Hullet. They were both 19 years old, and my mother was a stunningly beautiful brunette, tall and slender, with a natural grace and ease. My grandfather, also named William, was the Southern Baptist minister at the tent revival that night in Georgia, and was busy preaching at the top of his lungs about fire and brimstone. Billy purchased a small paper fan with bible verses on it for Myra, and presented it to her to fan herself on that hot southern night. Myra’s mother, and my maternal grandmother Martha, had died many years ago, leaving Preacher William secretly bitter and alone. He turned to my mother when she was quite young and began using her for “wifely duties”, but that had escalated over the years to include violence, and she became willing to do anything to escape his beatings and sexual assaults. My parents had both met their undifferentiated match, and married promptly. I was born two years later.
When the marriage became filled with turmoil, my mother took me and left for Santa Monica, California. I was nine months old at this point in time, and by the time I was eighteen months old, my mother was under the radar of Child Protective Services (CPS) in Los Angeles County. Eager to escape this also, she returned to Georgia, left me there, and returned to pick me up when I was 4 years old. There was a brief court trial at that time, due to the fact extended family protested this move,…