Franz Kafka’s Experience With Abuse, How He Attempted To Handled It, And What You Can Do
Franz Kafka was a Bohemian (modern day Czech) writer known for his short stories such as Metamorphosis and The Trial. From an outsider’s perspective, Kafka had a relatively ordinary life; however, Kafka had a lot of suppressed turmoil that haunted him throughout his entire, albeit short, existence. Kafka had a strained relationship with both of his parents, and particularly with his father. Kafka grew up to both loathe and fear his father. This fear would influence not only the many famous writings that Kafka produced during his lifetime, but also Kafka’s personal life. Kafka never did get over the tainted relationship that he had with his father, for the psychological abuse that Kafka faced from him had to large an impact. Abuse in families and relationships is still common today, and many people struggle to live normal lives due to harsh abuse faced by supposed loved ones. Although Kafka never did get over the abuse he faced, it is possible to overcome abuse and live a normal life. Abuse is a hard enemy to fight, however there are strategies to overcome psychological abuse. While some strategies work well for some, and not so well for others, an important step to overcoming abuse is validation.
Franz Kafka was born to a Jewish family in modern day Czech Republic, the eldest of six siblings. Kafka’s father was a successful and hard working businessman, and his mother also remained constantly busy helping the family business. As a result, Kafka and his siblings were raised by servants that worked for the family. Kafka grew up enjoying books and learning, although Kafka’s father always expressed displeasure for Kafka’s desire to read and write. Kafka did do well in school, and he was even sent to expensive German schools by his father so that he could attain further social advancement in his future. Kafka started out at the University of Prague studying German literature, although he soon switched to study law. Kafka went on to graduate in 1906 with a degree of doctor of jurisprudence. Kafka was hard working, however he never was devoted to a true career. He worked at various insurance companies, although Kafka seemed to place more importance on his literary works than his jobs, even claiming that he only worked so that he could afford the necessities of life. Kafka had many unsuccessful relationships throughout his life, and was tormented by his strong sex drive. In 1917, Kafka began to suffer from tuberculosis which made it painful for him to eat. Kafka also suffered many different stress related ailments throughout his life such as clinical depression, social anxiety, migraines, insomnia, and constipation. Kafka eventually died in 1924 due to his struggle with tuberculosis.
Franz Kafka’s life was heavily influenced by the torment of his father throughout his younger years. Although Kafka’s father wanted him to be successful in life, he was emotionally demanding and psychologically abusive. Kafka grew up loving to both read and write, however, his father had a strong disapproval of his keen interest in writing. Kafka was often expected to remain completely obedient to his father, never to disobey or talk back. Even seeing his father intimidated Kafka since he was a large and strong man compared to Kafka’s slim build. It was not unusual for Kafka to have nightmares about his father, even in adulthood. This gives a true glimpse into the torment that his father caused and how it remained with him throughout his life. There is strong evidence that suggests Kafka suffered from mental illnesses, as well as perhaps being suicidal. In 1912, Kafka wrote in his journal, “I would stand at the window for long periods, and was frequently tempted to amaze the toll collector on the bridge below by my plunge.” While this is the most personal and direct admittance of suicidal thoughts, there are similar feelings expressed in many of Kafka’s works. In The Metamorphosis, the main character Gregor agrees to die after his family decides that he must go after one day waking up as a bug. When compared to Kafka’s life, this shows his feelings of body dysphoria, his obedience to his family, and especially his father, and his willingness to die. A similar scene is found in his book The Judgement when Georg’s father claims that he has betrayed everyone close to him. Georg’s father condemns Georg to death by drowning, after which Georg obediently commits suicide by drowning himself in the nearby river. The theme of absolute obedience to family shows how Kafka was raised to be obedient, and how this could affect his life. Most of his works also relate to his relationship with his father, showing the overpowering nature that he enforced over Kafka throughout his life. The relationship between Kafka’s feelings and his literary works is very strong, especially considering quotes made by Kafka such as, “A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us” and “The task of literature is to reconnect us with feelings that might otherwise be unbearable to study, but which desperately need our attention.” Much of Kafka’s life is defined by invalidation, for he was never truly appreciated by his father, he never found a career relating to his field of study, he had an unsuccessful love life, and Kafka never found literary success until after he had died. Kafka’s apparent downfall in life was his inability to overcome the feelings that had manifested in his mind as a result of his childhood trauma, for those feelings would haunt him for the rest of his life.
Many people today suffer from an abusive past, and most of those people never overcome the torment that they faced. This can have a negative many negative effects on someone’s life, much as it did on the life of Kafka. Abuse can lead to mental illness, suicidal thoughts, stress, invalidation, and much more. While Kafka did seemingly attempt to overcome his feelings, he never was truly successful in doing so. That is why it is up to you to try to recognize the signs of abuse so that you may be able to help someone from struggling with abuse on their own. While victims of abuse can try methods such as writing to overcome their situation, it is much easier with the help of others to feel validated. Validation is what is truly lost in abuse victims, and most will second guess themselves or forever be reluctantly loyal to their abusers. There are many signs of abuse, however, it is not always easy to recognize. Some of the major signs are being jumpy or anxious, difficulty sleeping, withdrawal from others, being preocupied with sex, or being moodier than normal. If someone you know displays some of these signs, or if there is any suspicion of abuse taking place, the best thing you can do is to let them know that you are there to support them and that they are important. One of the main effects of abuse is the belittlement of the abused, so it is important to make sure they know that they are important and that someone cares for them. This validation is what can truly help to overcome abuse, and validation may have helped Kafka live a happier and healthier life.
Although Kafka is known for his famous writings, he lived a life of inner turmoil and never found much success until after his death. The abuse of his father played a major role on Kafka’s life as evident in his works such as The Metamorphosis and The Judgement. If someone would have recognized the abuse that Kafka faced early on in his life and gave him the validation that he needed, he may have been more at ease throughout his life and lived without the inner turmoil that consumed him until his death. If you know someone that has experienced abuse, be sure to let them know that they are important to you and that you are willing to help. Just being there to help validate an abuse victim can save them from a life of misery and self doubt.