Power and Agency

I realised the other day that my little girl characters are always angry.

“What’s that all about?” I asked myself.

When I think of my childhood, ‘angry’ isn’t the first word that comes to mind.  Sure, it was a bit chaotic; I moved schools a lot, and I was a small, strange, introverted child who never fit in, but I lived for the most part in books and my own imagination and built a warm, safe bubble around myself.

Why would I be angry?

Sure, I felt there was a lot demanded of me.  Things like chores and homework confounded me, and keeping my room tidy seemed like an impossibility.  These were the monsters I battled with.  No matter how safe and warm I felt inside my bubble, they were always waiting just outside to grab me.

And sure, I resented it.  The adults around me made baffling demands, and tried to hold me accountable for things I couldn’t possibly achieve.

Aha, we’re getting somewhere now.

It wasn’t until my twenties that I heard about ADHD, and battled for, and ultimately won a diagnosis and treatment.  Until that point, no matter how much I wanted to do something, now matter how important or how dire the consequences, I never felt there was much I could actually do to change the outcome.

Self-control is a widely admired trait.  And lack of self-control is generally looked down upon.  Society rolls its eyes and looks the other way when one of its members indulges in reckless and self destructive behaviours.  “No self-control,” it mutters.

Let me tell you, it’s no picnic from the other side either.  Feeling like you have no self-control, no control over your self, the one thing which you own completely, is debilitating.  Without the confidence that you can take a decision and follow it through, it’s difficult to develop any sense of agency.

Little wonder then, that my younger self is so angry.  She doesn’t know what’s wrong, or why everything is so difficult, or why the people who have power over her impose these impossible, incomprehensible restrictions on her.  The world is far too arbitrary and scary, so she retreats into her bubble, where it’s logical, and warm, and safe.


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