Saturday, September 26, 2015

We can fall out of this world

I have come to believe that many people are living in an alternate world, where their show is above-ground but they are actually hidden.  They live in a shadow dimension of one.  This is not a metaphor, or science fiction or yet a scientific concept.  A schizophrenic, with his gibberish, thought broadcasting and hallucinations, may be said to live in an alter dimension, where he sees a different world with different definitions.  The same with a psychopath, or the delusional person who smiles cannily because he knows you are The Enemy.  Beyond the obvious, there are countless others who have always seemed perfectly here to partner, friend and stranger, but who are actually imposters, in a way.

This occurred to me when two clients, two years apart in their therapy, became mirror reflections of cause and effect.  And I’d always known it in my own living, for so many years, in that autistic dimension.  With a great deal of struggle over time, I have but one or two toes, maybe a whole foot, left in it.

To be out of this world is still to act in it.  I speak of a core feeling disconnect that bleaches the self, and therefore everything else, of color, of meaning.  Many people don’t feel and because of that are just going through the motions.  The covert drama is born of several factors:

Inner need.  The dissociated person is driven to secret action because childhood-origin needs and feelings, unanswered and unheard, seek targets later in life.  A stay-at-home mom may shoplift without a ripple in mood, will think of being a loose teenager, may “perceive one child as all-good and another as no-good.”*  A heterosexual man masturbates homosexually – an underground dreamplace that doesn’t touch the real world.

Amorality.  Felt morality – I will bet anyone – comes from receiving love.  The child who dissociated from feeling dissociated from the pain of not being loved.  He will live in an amoral land.

Thought.  When a very young child suffers shock and emotional trauma, the result can be catatonia or a vegetative state (think anaclitic depression – those neglected, listless “failure-to-thrive” babies and infants in the old studies).  But an adult in emotional shutdown has thought as a life prosthesis and home ground – an entire cosmos inside and cut off from the world.

The imperative of living.  This is just one’s need to carry a life in reality.  A lawyer, doing his job diligently, feels like a child in grown-up’s clothing.  A psychotherapist, saying all the right things and posing empathically, is frightened of people, like the child he was.  The depressed mother can’t curl up, eyes closed at her own mother’s breast.  She must act the many roles.

The one client was abused sexually by a neighborhood teenager – this through his entire childhood and adolescence.  He was silent always: His father, a redneck lout, would have shamed or killed him.  He came to have two lives, starting around college: the conventional good father and husband, and the libertine underground.  There was no clash, or question, of morals in his head.

The woman was abused sexually by a neighborhood man, from age six to fourteen.  She would walk to it, several days a week.  Silent always, even in her psychiatric hospitalizations.  Her children are grown and on their own, and her husband learned about her history yesterday.  She spends crazy money, steals from friends, is withdrawn, depressed, harbors a rage that no one sees.  There is only complacence within her to be who she is.

My covert life saw both itself and everything outside in wrong ways.  I identified myself as an elite little league fastball pitcher, when I pitched none too fast and wild.  I was the family “pianist” until a teacher, seven years on, uncovered my inability to read tempo notation.  And still I believed I was a pianist.  I stole my uncle’s Wilkinson Sword Blade razors; handfuls of quarters from my father’s closet; sundries (mini playing cards, letter openers) from Woolworths and the Hecht Company – all from a place beneath the moral world.  When my uncle gently apprehended me, I remained buried in that other place and could not say a word.  I expected him and his horrible truth to fade away in a gray-pink cloud.  All, I felt throughout my childhood and later, should succumb to the same oblivion as I.

We – many children like this, I’m sure – live in an inner, cushioned place that doesn’t hear other people’s feelings: They are an alien noise.  This is a true existential mental state that doesn’t know, at all, why the gray fog of “other people” want us to join their rules, their facts, their ideas, their determination of the right way to be.  We are insular, and no one sees it: a formula for perpetual underworldliness.

In Civilization and Its Discontents, Freud, talking about his spiritual friend Romain Rolland, quotes Grabbe, a German playwright: “We cannot fall out of this world.”  The context is his discussion of the so-called “oceanic” religious feeling.  Here are two excerpts:

This, he says, consists in a peculiar feeling, which he himself is never without, which he finds confirmed by many others, and which he may suppose is present in millions of people.  It is a feeling which he would like to call a sensation of ‘eternity’, a feeling as of something limitless, unbounded – as it were, ‘oceanic.’  . . . .
. . . That is to say, it is a feeling of an indissoluble bond, of being one with the external world as a whole.**
My belief, or certainty, is that many – maybe not Rolland’s “millions” but other millions – have indeed fallen out of the world.  The severing of ties to love leads to an internal life, always parallel, always below the place of equality that would be the real human utopia: omnipresent care as feeling glides across the world, connecting all.

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* Christine Ann Lawson, Understanding the Borderline Mother, p. 4.

** S. Freud, Civilization and Its Discontents, copyright 1961, pp. 36-37.

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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.