Alright, no more procrastination!
Here’s the time for me to finally write that description.
For those of you who have seen my gallery, favorites, or have come to know me (in some respect) since DA2 came out, you probably know that I have a slight obsession with a certain possessed healer… Lol!
I’m also a huge fan of other characters such as Alistair and Zevran, but no one has managed to touch the core of my very being as much as Anders has. In fact, at some point, I had to be careful not to take people attacking the character, and/or what he did and stood for on a personal level. Remind myself that he is but a (wonderfully built and extremely well developed) videogame character, and that everyone is entitled to their own opinions/interpretations.
Anders is a very difficult character for me to disconnect from… Never have I identified with a fictional character as strongly as I’ve identified with him! Even when he tries to push people away, or behaves erratically, I “get” him. I see a (sometimes distorted) logic through each of his actions. When he lashes out at people that don’t deserve it, I “feel” where it’s coming from. When he tries to fix everything on his own, unable to ask for other people’s help despite trusting and loving them, I “sense” what’s holding him back.
His need to sacrifice himself for some greater cause… To lie and manipulate to keep others from harm… To take the weight of the whole world on his shoulders, as if he somewhat believes that it is his sole responsibility… The way he has of seemingly feeling both worthless and yet bigger and more powerful than he really is… How he searches for trust, love, acceptance, and recognition through the act of healing and caring for others, often without asking for anything in return…
Yet, I never quite understood why Anders made so much sense to me… Why he gets under my skin as he does, and why I can’t help but feel the instinct to protect him, even from people’s criticism. Why is it so hard to differentiate between his feelings, and my own?
That is, until I awoke from a 30 years slumber to realize that I had been raised by a narcissistic, over controlling mother, and a passive, child-like, enabling father.
Until I finally saw that I’ve spent my whole childhood, teenaged, and young adult years unconsciously trying to be perfect to please my mother, in order to receive her love and approval. While in other aspects of my life, trying to escape and “run away” from my responsibilities.
In order to be loved or simply accepted by my family, I had to accept being in perfect “symbiosis” with my mom. Any attempt to individuate and move away from her own thoughts and values was met with scorn, and/or the unspoken threat of having her love and emotional/financial support taken away from me. I had to play caretaker, psychologist, best friend, husband, etc.
In short, be everything my mother ever needed, and that she didn’t know how to healthily get from people that were not as easily controllable as I (it’s surprising how easily children can be molded to fit a parent’s needs). When there was a conflict between my mother and father, I became her spokesperson, needing to resolve the conflict with my dad in her stead in order to escape her wrath. And my father let me infantilize him; coax him into being more “reasonable”, and ultimately agreeing with my mother.
Any boundaries between her and I were seen as threats. She shared every intimate details of her life with me (including her favorite sexual positions with my father, his penis’ nickname, etc.), and she thus expected the same from me, under the argument that if you really love someone, you have to be willing to trust them with everything
that goes on in your life.
At 25, just before I moved out of their house, my mom would still open the door of the bathroom, completely naked, and go brush her teeth while I was sitting on the toilet, for example. It was the “natural” and “normal” way to do things.
My world was “purple”, how could I ever have believed that it could have been “green”.
I had no external reasons or motivations to question her actions and the motives behind them. She was my mother! The one who loved me above anyone else, and would always make sure that I had anything I needed, right?
My family was very secluded too, and I had no friend that my mother didn’t approve of. At 17, I even let her break up with my boyfriend for me because she was so distrustful of him that she was in a panic state each time I left the house to go out with him. I came to believe that if she was that scared of him, it must have been because he was dangerous and somehow I had failed to see it. My perceptions were faulty; hers were right, as usual. Why fight?
She had also told me from a very young age that she never understood why parents talked about feeling unconditional love for their children; stating clearly that if the children behaved badly or disrespectfully, parents had no obligation to love them.
I grew up with the deep seated belief that love and approval had to be earned, never freely given. That people were loved for what they did, never for who they are.
The funny thing is that despite the fact that the love I personally gave her and many of my friends was unconditional; and I was able to accept them for who they were regardless of what they did… My mind never could quite grasp the concept that these rules could have applied to myself also.
I loved others without efforts… But I had to constantly perform and prove myself worthy of other people’s love and respect.
Since my mother didn’t know how to feel empathy for other people, “negative” emotions such as anger and sadness had to be suppressed and/or rationalized. If I was angry, her reaction would be to immediately give me a whole rationale to show that my anger was unjustified, and thus didn’t have any reason to exist. Implied message: I was faulty for feeling the way I did. Normal people don’t feel anger if their life is as perfect as she made me believe mine to be. And since I need to be normal to be loved and approved of, I better “feel” as a normal person would and stop being angry.
Not knowing how to care for myself, but being highly talented in listening to and taking care of others, I became a nurse.
Since the only way to feel worthy of people’s respect, approval and affection was to put my own needs aside in order to care for other people’s needs, that profession fit me like a glove! It was a natural extension of the roles I had been given at home.
I could once again forget about the emptiness within, and connect with others through what I was able to offer them. Feel somewhat important, needed, accepted through what I could bring others.
Incidentally, my romantic partners often acted like immature kids in need of a mother. They often expected someone to take care for their needs, all the while being unable to reciprocate or make their own decisions.
That is, until I met my present partner, Frédérick. Frédérick comes from a very healthy and loving family where children were taught that their parents would always love, approve, and be there for them no matter what. Those parents may not always agree with what their children did, but that didn’t affect the love they had for their kids as individuals.
His family, while not perfect, is what I would call “functional”. His parents may have made mistakes, but they were and still are willing to take responsibility for these mistakes and learn from them. Unlike my mother, they didn’t devote their whole lives ignoring negative feelings and problems that their children may have experienced, and trying to hide them under the guise of deep rationality.
From my very “purple” world, Frédérick and his family began to show me the color “green”…
And as the transition within me slowly occurred, my mother became more and more controlling, abusive, emotionally and psychologically violent, and destructive.
Things became even more tense and complex between us when I was diagnosed with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (a multi-systemic chronic condition from which only a handful of person ever entirely recover).
It was a huge eyes opener for me. I suddenly found myself stuck at home, unable to endure even a 15 minutes ride as a passenger in a car without having intense nausea and often vomiting; unable to sustain a mental activity (such as reading, or receiving a friend’s visit) for more than 1 hour at a time; unable to walk for more than a few meters inside the house… Something as simple as brushing my teeth became as physically draining as running a marathon!
No longer being able to be the responsible and effective nurse that doctors and patients can rely on… The life partner that brings her own contribution to preparing the meals, taking care of the house, and participating in normal couple activities… The dutiful daughter always there to bring active listening and support to her parents… The friend ready to stop everything she is doing to rush to a friend’s aid when called upon…
Who was I?
I had absolutely no idea who I was! My whole identity had been built around the roles I had chosen or I had been given. All my personal repairs stripped!
Confused, I asked my partner “How can you still love me? I can’t do anything! I can’t give you anything!”
Visibly moved, he told me “In a relationship, what’s important is not what we give to each other, but giving ourselves to each other”.
He reminded me that every single day that I fought to overcome my illness, and regain bits and pieces of my autonomy, I was making just as much if not more efforts than he did by assuming the household tasks that I no longer had the health and energy to complete.
He saw my illness as something that happened to us as a couple, and that we would overcome together. Not as “Amélie’s illness, that the poor healthy Frédérick had to endure”.
He valued my contribution to the relationship as a person, and the commitment we shared as partners above the possibility for him to live his life free from my problems, and pursue any endeavors he could wish to pursue.
He could’ve found another partner with whom he could’ve travelled, have children, raised a family, etc. And yet, he still chose me… Despite the fact that there were no guarantees I would ever get better and be able to offer him any of this.
At home, he didn’t try to impose any way of doing things upon me, respected as much as he could my autonomy, and let me make my own decisions while offering advice only if I asked for it. When I cried or became anxious, he didn’t try to convince me that my emotions were unjustified or that there was anything wrong with them. On the contrary, he would simply hold me, caress my hair, kiss the top of my head, and allow me some room to vent and feel listened to.
Here I was, stuck at home, unable to care for myself, and limited in almost every aspect of my life… And yet, I had never felt more free!
Unable to cope with the situation, and the fact that I had to set limits with others in order to preserve my own very limited reserves of energy, my mother began believing that I would be happier and would recover faster if I came back to live with them (a.k.a. my parents), instead of being left to the care of my partner.
She began trying to make me doubt Frédérick’s motives, saying that since I was with him, I was starting to change, and that she and all our common friends worried for me.
I was indeed starting to change in order to adapt to my condition… But also because of my slowly emerging “self” that had been suppressed all those years through constant “brainwashing” on her part.
I was slowly individuating, entering my identity crisis, learning to identify my own opinions, beliefs, and values, and rejecting those that no longer fit me.
But my mother, true to her engulfing, narcissistic personality, was unable to see and much less understand that… Frédérick became the enemy, the source of all her (and thus my) health problems! He was controlling me, abusing me, trying to change the wonderful and perfect daughter she had, sabotaging her daughter’s life, etc.
And because she couldn’t attack him directly, she began attacking me both directly and indirectly.
She told me things such as:
“Since you are blind and brainwashed Amélie, your opinion no longer has any value, and I can’t take any of what you say in consideration”.
“The person you have become since you left the house no longer acts in accordance with my values, and I can’t connect with you! In fact, I can’t even tell you that I love you because I can’t feel any love for such a stranger. ”
“The president of Quebec’s Myalgic Encephalomyelitis Association told me that you often suffered from memory losses and problems in personal judgment. I’m glad to know that there’s a reason for your behavior and the absurd way you’ve been thinking lately, and that you can still be healed”.
Meanwhile, she called my family members to talk to them about how worried she was about me. She told them that Frédérick had taken complete control of my house ever since I fell sick, was acting violently and controlling me through fear. That he had brainwashed me and forced me to deny my own needs and beliefs in order to keep his support.
Also, she warned them that people suffering from Myalgic Encephalomyelitis have memory problems, and that I was inventing things regarding events related to my childhood and teenaged years that had never happened.
Thus, anything I could say or do shouldn’t be trusted.
When I met with my aunts, cousins, or uncles, they looked at me with concern and pity. Trying to make me feel loved and nurtured, while the message I read in their eyes seemed to be “I hope you will soon find the courage to leave your abusing partner and come back to the loving embrace of your devoted mother and family”.
Despite it all, it took me a while to realize that my beloved mother, whom I had always seen as the protector, hero, and best friend, was truly a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
But when I finally realized that I had grown up being psychologically and mentally abused, used, and disrespected by my mom... Boy was I angry! I was filled with such a deep seated rage, as if all the years of having tried to play the “perfect little girl” in order to receive my parent’s love and approval screamed at me for having so long ignored and denied my pain.
I screamed and screamed until I could no longer breathe… I threw punches upon my bed, my pillows, my couch until I could no longer move or stand. Nevermind that I had to pay for it later (with my illness, the slightest exertion can take weeks to recover from). I was suffocating with rage and anger!
Part of me wanted revenge, retribution, the whole world to turn on my mom as she had turned on me.
Eventually, with help from my psychotherapist, my partner’s family, and my friends, I was able to work through the anger and accept it as a part of myself. Learn to no longer fear my emotions and work with and through them instead.
I was also able to learn to accept my mother as she was. Feel empathy and compassion for the little girl in her that had been rejected by her own parents, and never was given the chance to move past the stage of primary narcissism in her childhood years.
That didn’t excuse the abuse that I’d been subjected to, nor did that make acceptable the fact that I had been denied from ever having experienced healthy, unconditional parental love from her.
But I understood that both my mother and I had been the victims of a violent cycle that, having awakened from, I now had the power to break. I could put a stop to it, and prevent my own (future) children from becoming its victims too!
I thus wrote a letter to a few of our mutual friends and family members, and decided to break the silence on the violence that I had been subjected to. I explained that my goal wasn’t to tarnish my mother’s reputation, nor make her lose their love, friendship or support. I told them that everything I wrote was written according to my own experience, my own perception and interpretation of certain events. That they didn’t have to believe me, just accept that the content of my letter was my own personal truth, and respect it.
I told them about how violent, controlling, cruel, and manipulative my mother had become ever since I fell sick, giving them concrete examples. I described my relationship with Frédérick, and how happy and free being with him made me feel. How supportive and respectful of my autonomy he was. I explained that the reason why I had acted strange or uncomfortable around them in the company of my mom sometimes wasn’t because I had been fearful of my partner or brainwashed by him, but because I had been fearful of my mother’s reactions if I dared let my guards down.
I told them that while I didn’t wish to cut all contacts with my mother, I would communicate with her using some counter-manipulation techniques I have learned, remaining very illusive and superficial in our interactions.
Basically, I asked 3 very specific things from them:
1. Respect the fact that the need to protect myself from my mother is real to me.
2. Keep every confidence that I offer them for themselves only. Thus giving me the opportunity to choose what I decide to share with my mom, and what I do not.
3. Accept that there may be important events in my life where I will find being free to act as myself more important than having my mother present, social conventions be damned, and respect that.
While the response from my friends and friends of the family have been very positive. For example, one couple of my parent’s friends, that have known me since I was born, even wrote to me:
“We are saddened to learn that there are such difficulties between you two. You must understand that we are first and foremost friends of your parents. However, we love you, and we promise that everything you tell us in the future will remain between us. No matter what, you can always count on us.”
(Note: This is the best answer I could receive! This sent the message: “We trust you to make the right decisions for your life and respect your choices, whether we agree with them, or not. No matter what, you still have our love and support”.)
My mother’s family, however, rose up at once! Dysfunctional families have the peculiar quality of being balanced in a very unbalanced way. Even though people sometimes have the feeling that something is “wrong” with the way things are, confronting it would threaten to compromise the family’s capacity to sustain itself. People each have been assigned given roles to insure that “peace” is being kept. If someone attempts to free himself or herself from the role he or she was given, he or she is violently attacked by the others, since the narcissistic family system’s balance can’t be maintained otherwise. Change is frightening and threatens to create a shift in power that would throw the family into open chaos.
From benevolent and loving, my aunts, uncles, and cousins sent me angry letters filled with accusations, basically saying:
1. That I was the most selfish person they had ever encountered, and would end up being alone in life contemplating my big fat belly button.
2. That they’d never seen someone being so mean and disrespectful to their mother, especially when she had been so devoted to me.
3. That I should feel ashamed for spreading such blatant lies about such an honest, selfless person.
4. That I was weak for letting Frédérick manipulate and destroy me in such a way, obviously trying to turn me away from my true family.
5. That until I had come back to my senses, realized the damage I had caused to my mother, asked for her forgiveness, and left my partner, they wanted nothing to do anymore with me.
When I made one of my dearest friends (and huge “Dragon Age” fan) read their answers, she said.“Well, this was to be expected… After all, you’re the heretic that just blew up the Chantry in their Kirkwall.”
As soon as she made her comparison, my eyes went wide, and I finally understood why Anders had managed to strike such a chord with me.
While the “epic battle he wages against forces he can’t possibly defeat” is done on a much larger scale, the emotional states accompanying his struggles reminded me of my own.
And understand this: I was never physically mistreated in any way. On the contrary! As long as I remained obedient and accepted to act as an extension of my mother, adopting her views on the world and reflecting positively on her, I was denied nothing. I was spoiled rotten!
I would find 40 gifts waiting for me under the tree at Christmas (not an exaggeration, we counted them!); they would pay for my study, my first and second cars, and my first house. My parents would bring me with them to dine in expensive restaurants, see musicals and plays, buy me gorgeous clothes to wear, etc. A perfect doll whose academic and personal accomplishments were flaunted in front of friends and family for the whole world to see what a wonderful job they had done in raising me! What perfect, loving, and giving parents they were!
“Love me, fear me, do as I say, and I will be your slave”
Surrender your own will and identity to us, and we will give you everything.
Sincerely, I would rather live alone on the streets, or even die than submitting to my mother’s will ever again. Now that I’ve discovered that I had a “soul”, selling it to reap financial or material benefits seems senseless. My fear of physical death is much less intense than becoming emotionally inexistent again.
I could never go back to their house and accept any of their so-called gifts without killing the part of myself that I’ve fought so hard and desperately to acquire.
So when people are saying that mages in Thedas are a selfish and complaining bunch, and have it easier in their towers because they are housed, fed, allowed to practice their “gift” (or curse) and offered an education... While the struggling peasants are trying to make a living and barely able to survive and feed their families…
I’d much rather risk poverty and death, than being imprisoned in a gilded cage where I must surrender my right to love and make choices for myself!
Absolute freedom is an utopia, and making choices for yourself of course implies that you have to remain acutely aware that you are “one” in a sea of “many”. Meaning that the well-being of the many must not be discarded when making these choices.
But being loved, trusted and accepted for who you are has no price.
So as I played, I connected with Anders’ confusion, his anger, his need to escape at all costs from his gilded tower, his excess of confidence contrasting with his lack of self-esteem, the distorted way he perceives himself, his fear to hurt others in a relationship, etc.
And truthfully, this description ended up being much, much longer than I initially intended! Lol!
So this is basically where the inspiration from that little piece came from, and why I believe I’ve been very (overly) receptive to his plight.