Sunday, November 23, 2014

Dark matter

I don’t know if I can take any credit for the particular kind of nihilism that possesses an eighteen-year-old client, or for his ability to know it and express it.  I’ve been seeing him for close to three years, so I have to wonder.

This young man says, deeply and seriously, that he doesn’t want to do anything.  He means it exactly, as ultimate, as it sounds.  This is not merely a matter of lacking ambition.  It is feeling a blank inertness inside that says – Sit down forever, as the mind drips or drifts passively or is empty.  Maybe feel impelled to walk to the fridge, look out a window, sit down again.  The future does not exist in his mind except as the vaguest body anxiety.

There must be a continuum of Nothing.  He is near the beginning of it, greater voids being depressive catatonia or deep-trance depersonalization.  Another client, a fifty-year-old childish woman, is on the continuum.  Whatever her job, she never wants to go to work, makes excuses for herself (“my tummy hurts”) as a child would.  The only thing she wants to do is bake: a life of comfort food.

I have no more research about this Nothing, except that I think it is part of my own nature.  So I can liken it to a large rock with eyes.  Not a tree with eyes, which one would expect to feel deeply and beautifully and to “reach out” in some way.  But a rock that doesn’t move or want to.

Getting back to my young man, one would expect a person his age to have some desire, push, or activating dread.  Look at the possibilities: college, job, career, vagabond, travel, adventure, creativity, fame, power, marriage, comfort, revenge.  Instead, it’s zero, and I find it uncanny that he knows and pretty much endorses that he is an empty old man at eighteen.

A question is – Is this common?  We talk about lack of motivation, but haven’t defined or dissected it.  We talk about depression, but no one really knows what it is.  In college, narcissism fooled me into thinking I wanted to write philosophical books, but in fact I had never had one second’s thought or heartbeat about the future during my four years.

I see a different young man, seventeen, who has lived an insular, depressing childhood.  His development has remained thin – little feeling, little information, juvenile vocabulary, little introspective ability or care yet he claims to want to be a psychologist.  I don’t believe it and, helpful like a cattle prod, referenced Alice Miller’s “how we became psychotherapists” and Claudia Black’s “placater” persona – the empty helper.

I believe this quiet-of-the-universe is very common, like the “dark matter” that astrophysicists can’t see.  It comes out of a childhood that has stopped cold then lies within the adult who looks at the world and can only see and grab the surface molecules.  His real reality is the frozen child inside.  If we could regress, this little boy or girl would move, in flame.

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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.