Hugo’s abuse from the age of 5 – 9 not only coincided with his family’s relocation from another country but also in a serious deterioration in his mother’s mental health. His abuser, an 18 year old neighbour, also abused his twin brother (though Hugo was unaware of this at the time) which resulted in a drastic rift between them. The brother Hugo had always relied on and trusted now became ‘the enemy’ and bullied Hugo at every opportunity. Even though Hugo knew that his parents observed this behaviour, nothing was ever done to understand or curb it. The abuser seemed to take pleasure in the rift between the brothers, and demeaned Hugo both mentally and physically. Hugo was a loner at school, unable to make many relationships with his peers.
Deprived of all that was comfortable, comforting and familiar, Hugo grew up longing to be loved but believing that no one could be trusted. As an adult he was unable to form sustainable relationships – only ever allowing anyone to get intimate when he was drinking or using cocaine. He would then become overly dependent on his new partner and the relationship would quickly break down following dramatic scenes of jealous rage.
Hugo came to The Green House believing that he was basically unlovable but with a feeling that perhaps his childhood abuse might have contributed to his difficulties in forming loving and sustainable relationships, though he had never articulated this to anyone before.
The work Hugo did at The Green House focused on allowing him to see how much he had had to cope with as a child – that the abuse was not his fault, that the loss of his brother’s love was confusing and devastating, that his parents had failed in their responsibility to keep him safe and to deal with the overt signs of problems in both of their sons. This was compounded by the fact that he had been uprooted from all that was familiar, including his extended family, when he was only 5, and he had had to cope with schooling in a different language, the abuse by his neighbour, his brother’s bullying, his mother’s failing mental health and subsequent departure and his father’s inability to deal with any of the problems. Normalising his response to these abnormal and deeply confusing and distressing events freed Hugo to start to understand his reactions to other people as they tried to become close to him. He began to draw more appropriate boundaries both at work and in his other relationships and to go for what he wanted instead of always trying to please others. He recognised that his desperate efforts to please others had resulted in him being badly treated and taken advantage of at work and in other relationships.
Hugo is now considerably happier and feels more balanced in his life. He has been able to initiate a meaningful discussion with his brother, and feels hopeful that they may be able to rebuild a relationship. He has recognised his mother’s limitations and he can manage his visits to her without feeling misunderstood and angry. He has renewed his relationship with his father, and feels connected with him in a way that his hurt and angry younger self could not. His alcohol use is under control and he is beginning a new relationship in which he is learning to talk honestly about his feelings.