The ghosts that live in our heads

Photo by Pascal Meier on Unsplash

Ashtar Deza
by Ashtar Deza
2 min read


  • Blog


  • Trauma
Content warnings: Trauma

My father was a deeply troubled and flawed man. I say this with a feeling of empathy and love, but also with a realisation of how deep the wounds are that he caused me. Wounds that still feel fresh some days. Other days they are more like old scars.. they don’t hurt but they itch and they’re never really gone.

He held a lot of strong opinions on how things should be done. That there was pride and honour in struggle, that making things easier on yourself or asking others was a sign of weakness and failure.

His ghost still talks to me. When I decide to spend the money on better tools to make my life easier, I hear him say “Ease serves man (gemak dient de mens)” in this deeply sarcastic and condescending tone. When I walk into a doorframe I hear him scold me for being clumsy and uncoordinated. When I spend time reading I hear him say how some day I’ll read my mind away. When I do any type of DIY stuff in the house I hear him say how I’d better make sure to make lots of money so that I can pay people to do stuff for me, since I’m useless with my hands.

My father is no longer alive, but even when he was he was no longer the person that left that imprint in my brain. He tried to better himself at the end of his life, but the ghost remains. It’s an imprint from earlier times, a reflection etched into my brain. It’s a virus of the mind, causing my own brain to turn against me. Misinformation and misdirection.

Not all ghosts are bad though. My brain contains many of them by now. My old martial arts teacher still tells me to watch my posture, to exude confidence. Tells me that I have agency, to stand up for myself.

The neighbour that became my adopted grandmother teases me good-naturedly with her voice full of love. Tells me it’s OK to be different.

People that loved and supported me, counseled me and gave me advice. Ironically my dad is one of those ghosts as well. He did try to be a good father. His ghost nods approvingly when I turn a screw the way he taught me to. When I park my car on the dime.

Ghosts aren’t good or bad, they’re as complex as the people that left them in our heads. And one day I will be a ghost too. I hope I’ll be a good one.

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