Friday, September 12, 2014
The harsh about domestic violence
A little something about the psyche of a domestic violence victim: It is undelectable and there are no simple concepts to describe it. I was physically battered twice or three times over the course of my twelve-year first marriage, and emotionally injured most of the time. I would go to work wearing my wife’s makeup to cover the neck scratches. I would absorb in clueless dismay the condemnations. Her multi-dimensional botch, conveniently named Borderline Personality, meshed with my own That Has No Name.
The best theory I know about this, Fairbairn’s “return to the bad object” re-packaged by Celani to apply to battered women, says that the more a child is neglected by the mother, the more – not the less – he needs her, is fixated upon her. Apply the child, now “inner,” to the later adult, to see that he or she is still fixated to painful “love,” has never matured beyond it.
The theory is right, but I can flesh it out a bit with my own personal and clinical experience. Take Fairbairn’s statement –
Frustration of his desire to be loved and to have his love accepted is the greatest trauma that a child can experience; and indeed this is the only trauma that really matters from a developmental standpoint.*
– and understand that lack of love as earliest trauma stops cold the formation of a child’s progressively liberated identity. With starvation of love there grows defense against it – in time she can’t stand to face what was lost – and need, and with selfless need there is eternal dependence.
This is the individual who stays with an immature, sick, abusive husband or wife. I’d ask you to drop the delusions right now: We’re not adult; it isn’t love. Strip off the trappings – fame and style, fancy résumé or intellectual shine, women’s nature or pop psychology: The victim is just a near-dying wraith of neediness, too weak to love or be loved.
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* Fairbairn quote from Jewish Philosophy and Psychoanalysis, Michael Oppenheim, Lexington Books, 2006, p. 116, at http://www.amazon.com/Jewish-Philosophy-Psychoanalysis-Narrating-Interhuman/dp/0739116975.