Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The impossibility of anyone leaving

There is a “layer” of psychological existence beneath all the places most of us live and walk.  It’s our babyhood meaning and our infancy meaning.  It is similar to a child’s emotion: When voiced to a hearing and caring adult, an emotion passes on yet integrates into a benign stability; but when it’s unexpressed or unheard or shamed by an adult, it never leaves.  One deepest layer, personally known to me but vaguely, is the symbiotic dependency.  For some of us, because it was never succored at critical moments – never fully “heard” by the parent – it never leaves.

I remember the end of life, maybe around age three-and-a-half, before the family moved from Wilmington, Delaware to Baltimore, Maryland.  Mother left me at some sort of downtown daycare room for possibly several hours.  I remember there were strange kids, a thin mat for naptime, a woman whose friendliness was empty to me, and the hollow frightened depression of the alienness of it.  But what my psyche heart remembers most was mother’s leaving, and walking away.  This is because it was impossible.  I could not be left, because as a young unformed child I had no existence apart from her.  From that moment on, in a real way, I have remained standing there in the impossible, in disbelief, a toddler, in the end of life.

A client’s wife divorced him and has called the police several times because he does not obey the civil protection order against telephoning her and “driving by.”  He must call and look, whatever the consequences.  He has no life without her, and without being supported by his little child and stepchild.

A woman was granted Family Medical Leave because she could not function at work.  Each day she simply sat at her desk and stared tearfully at the framed photograph of her son.  She is one of the few adults I’ve diagnosed with Separation Anxiety Disorder, doubly true, because it must be her own infancy’s incompletion that paid forward into her children: a childlike mother seeking a mother in the baby.

It’s a certainty that this radical, embryonic broken link is at the base of many sophisticated dependencies – the glamorous and turbid romances we feel deeply about in movies and novels and poems.  It’s in suicides of loss and in stalking and in codependent controlling mothers.  It’s in individuals who seem to have a normal life but find that their ideas feel tin-made or cut in half: There’s something blocking their greater depth.  It’s in men like me who are fine and independent when our partner is there somewhere, but who turn instantly vacant when she is not.  How deceptive it is: Attached to the other, a man may even rage, reject and exterminate her, then evaporate when she is gone.

Part of my fallout of ruined symbiosis is an interesting feeling, so submerged I might remind myself of its presence once every decade or so: the feeling that no one can ever really say goodbye to me.  In the viscera, I do not believe that a person can leave me.  Any ending cannot happen.  How can anyone, whom I’ve met maybe only once, ever leave and become unconscious of me, where I must forget them?  How could a friend?  And there is, also impossibly, the sweet feeling that all minds, eyes and hearts, once met, must eternally be linked: We must all always know each other always supported.  While that may seem only the mirror image of the impossibility of leaving, there is something else there that feels like universal love, a goodness that is a distance part of our Edenic template. But I am deceived. It is a flower, ripped at a critical moment of childhood: Mother left.

1 comment:

  1. I think this is what Winnicott was on about when he spoke of the baby/infant being able, but only for so long, to maintain the image of its mother in its psyche when she "disappears" on leaving the room, etc. I say "disappears" because, its only me, the adult, that observes that the mother has left the room. For the baby, the mother (and therefore oneself at this age) has disappeared, totally, heart-wrenchedly, apocalypse. Stomach muscles gripped. Ideally, the child will suffer small hurts along the way, small enough, and over time, will be able to "stand" (maintain some level of psychic integrity) longer and longer periods of seeing the mother disappear. But life will never quite be the same again.........Separation will always be an issue.......in some it will be stuck somewhere in the body, and for some lucky others it will be diluted enough not to encroach into adult consciousness (in any significant way), to be less toxic in its diluted form.


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.