Thursday, November 14, 2013

Psycho-religion, part two

I am happy with my wife, but I know that a part of her original allure was that she colluded with and did not challenge my defenses.  Here is the grim logic:

I grew up in the 1950’s to an emotionally detached mother and a solipsistic (see earlier post) father.  He would tell me, time to time, that “I feel good just knowing you’re somewhere in the house.”  His one concern was, “Are you warm enough?”  Add suspected perinatal trauma and the result was a childhood of repression, burial of all real feelings, an impossibility to communicate.  I remember being possessed of the certainty that to be unhappy was shameful, so I could never show unhappiness and never acknowledged it to myself.  In a cordial, fake and unwarm home, I remember being averse to the word “love” and any signs of affection between my friends’ parents or others.  Thirty-five years later, but only a few of them growth years, I see a woman in her cubicle at Children Services who appears quite still and focused.  She looks up at me . . . without expression.  I am smitten.

So much of our motivation distills to this paradox: We seek to meet our childhood needs, but we must not find them.  Defended against pain, we will not and cannot find that hopelessness, that regression to an abortive start of life.  Instead, we see things that substitute and distract, like food or married love, approval or achievement or music.  We go to what supports our defense, as that jail has become our haven.  The unloved street kid thinks his emotional scar tissue is toughness and strength.  The boy who was never given the gifts of life but had to earn everything joins the Marines: “Earned.  Never Given” is their battle cry.  Defended against the loss of happy spontaneity in my boyhood, I was attracted to emotional reserve.  Girls with cold, unloving fathers may later crave the excitement of the bad boy but run from a nice man who threatens to touch their child’s heart.  And so many children who had to escape from terror into their analyzing, solving, spiritual and surviving head, gravitate to the cognitive psychotherapies.  Feeling would be imploding.

Our psychology bends the light of our intelligence to protect us from pain.  That is why “mental health” is defined in personal ways – it is to think right; it is to be spiritual; it is to be functional; it is to be happy; it is to be moral – while outside facts are more rarely bent.  The most neurotic or depressed scientist still knows that water is made of hydrogen and oxygen, salt of sodium and chlorine.  In this way psychotherapy and religion are similar, coming not from the world but to it from the pained heart.

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Comments are welcome, but I'd suggest you first read "Feeling-centered therapy" and "Ocean and boat" for a basic introduction to my kind of theory and therapy.