“The Box of Daughter” is an honest and captivating look into the life of someone who has undergone the dreadful experiences of dealing with overtly oppressive parents and complex familial situations. By the end of the book, the reader is both inspired and awe-struck at Katherine Mayfield’s sheer strength and determination to overcome the mental and emotional abuse she suffered.
Katherine, by the end, comes out as a new person, forming an identity that she never thought was possible. Though she notes that the journey for her has not been easy, Katherine Mayfield gathers the courage to experience a life for herself outside the “Box of Daughter.”
In her critically-acclaimed, Readers Favorite Award winning memoir, Katherine Mayfield illustrates a life drowned in both sorrow and pain and the fifty year journey of someone who eventually found her way out of the shadows of despair and into the realms of self-acceptance and peace.
After reading this book, the reader was captivated and encouraged by Katherine Mayfield’s enduring struggle towards fulfillment and self-acceptance.
Here is the conclusion to my interview with author Katherine Mayfield.
7. You mention that "bells started ringing" (129) once you thought about your mother and read about BPD. Can you elaborate on how important that discovery was for you?
A: It absolutely changed my life and my perspective on myself! Up 'til then, I had always thought the problems in my relationship with my mother were my fault because I was stupid somehow, and that she treated me badly because I was defective. When I read about BPD, I understood that those ideas were not true -- that a lot of the difficulties stemmed from my mother's mental illness. I can't say I blame her, because her illness was a result of her own childhood difficulties, but it really helped me see myself and my life much more realistically -- and it was a huge relief!
8. Throughout the book you mention the emotional oppression and manipulation you suffered for many years and that the stress of your parents' failing heath took a toll on your body in numerous ways. How are you now?
A: Though I gained back all of the weight I lost and I'm much healthier now, I still have some residual physical effects. Even though the threat is gone, my body developed and grew with a huge amount of stress, which generates a lot of cortisol (a natural hormone which is destructive when it exists in the body in large amounts). I still have food allergies and some digestive issues, which I think are related to having lived in stress for so many years. But I continue to focus on getting healthier, as I think we all do.
And thanks for asking!
9. You also say that when your parents died, you both rejoiced and grieved at the same time, saying, "I felt the possibility of peace opening up in front of me for the first time in my life" (167). Why do you think this realization was difficult for you?
A: This is a great question! Events that occur in our lives often cause us to feel more than one emotion at the same time, and the paradox is not easy to understand and integrate. My parents were good people in so many ways, yet they treated my brother and me so badly -- another paradox -- and I was a little sad to realize that our relationship had knocked me around emotionally so much that I didn't really know what peace felt like until they were gone.
10. Despite the fact that you cite your parents’ imperfections in the book, you say that they were still amazing people in many ways. Do you think the view teenagers sometimes have of their parents or loved ones is always the right view?
A: I think the life experience that adulthood brings helps us to see our parents much more realistically than we see them when we're children or teenagers. I had a very one-sided view of my parents until I went into therapy and started finding out what was normal vs. what was dysfunctional in family relationships. I always thought they were perfect – as children often do -- until I discovered that they seemed so perfect because they were always blaming others for what went wrong, and projecting the parts of themselves they didn't want to face on other people.
11. The healing power of music and art is also something you mention in the book. What are some of your favorite musical artists?
A: I find a great sense of peace and life force energy in the music of artists like Constance Demby and Peter Kater, and I also love classical music and jazz
12. In the book you mention the importance of sensitivity and how it is okay to cry sometimes. Why do think it is important for people to realize this?
A: In my opinion, the fact that society kind of "looks down" on emotions -- from sadness to fear to anger -- encourages people to cut off a huge aspect of life as a human being. It's absolutely normal and natural to have emotions and to express them, and when people don't acknowledge and express their feelings, they become subject to a whole host of illnesses like ulcers, cancer, and heart disease -- not to mention road rage and random violence. To me, letting go of emotions is just as natural as sweating --it's how the psyche releases toxins that cloud up our thinking and believing.
13. In the Epilogue, you eloquently express your new state of being by saying, "I may have spent more than forty years of my life living in a false self, but I'm grateful that my spirit was never broken" (198). Do you think the spirit is an essential part to overcoming your emotional abuse?
A: Yes. Absolutely. I love this quote, which I think came from Wayne Dyer: "We're not physical beings having a spiritual experience; we are spiritual beings having a physical experience." I think spirit is one of the most important aspects of life, and very important in the process of healing from trauma. Without spirit (or soul) in our lives, we become human "doings" instead of human "beings" -- busy all the time, totally focused on tasks and what needs to be done, with no heart and soul at the center of our lives. When I get to the end of my life, I want to know that I lived on a deeper level, that I lived from my heart and soul rather than the sort of "surface existence" that our society encourages us to live.
Thanks for your questions, Dominique! I really appreciate the opportunity to speak my piece.
Bio: Katherine Mayfield is the author of the award-winning memoir "The Box of Daughter: Healing the Authentic Self"; two books on the acting business: "Smart Actors, Foolish Choices" and "Acting A to Z", both published by Back Stage Books; and the Kindle book "Dysfunctional Families: The Truth Behind the Happy Family Facade."