Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Returning from El Jobean


Thirty-five years ago, on an evening in an early year of my first marriage, my wife spoke a four-word sentence that I believe is a key to Borderline Personality Disorder and other global warps of the self, including the peculiar problem of our president.

“E___” and I were driving back to Sarasota (FL) from a visit out-of-county. There had been a gathering of her friends, fossil hunting aficionados, at one member’s house. As usual, I’d been carried along by my neurotic passivity, sitting politely without identity, ignoring others’ enthusiasms. Suddenly I was jolted into a feeling of “queasy alarm.” E, engaged in the show-and-tell revelry, had tossed an autobiographical claim into her presentation. The discussion went on. I, however, could not return to my quiescent state.

As we drove through the night, I found that I had summoned the courage to say: “E, why did you tell everyone that you have a Master’s degree? You don’t have a Master’s degree.”

Her reply is the material I’d like you to consider. I will admit that I am only considering it now, first time, in any depth beyond its occasional usefulness in therapy sessions.

“Pardon me for living!” was her retort, intoned so righteously that hearing it, I felt the kind of innocent and stupid confusion only a young child can experience. I don’t remember, these many years later, if I rejoindered at all or what I might have said. But would any, or no, response have mattered? Could there be any answer that would join a shared reality?

Look at Trump and hear the man’s continual lies, which obviously feel as true to him as anything could or need be. Hear my ex-wife assuming – assuming – that her lie is valid and unquestionable. We could easily judge her as immature or as casually insane. Instead, let’s see her remark as literal. Pardon me for living. This is what I need for life. This is what I need to not disintegrate. We’d been married for over two years, yet I had never heard her say that phrase, so I don’t think it was a personal mantra, as was her over-worn “rude, crude and socially unacceptable” or “incest – it keeps it in the family.” It was sparked afresh by my throwing a terrible reality at her: a knife to her siege ego.

She was telling me that she had lived in fire and that oxygen would only make her burn up more. She was telling me that the way you are born is the way you live. She was angry because anger comes from being painfully bent, childhood on, and that’s who she had always been. “Living” meant struggling against the enemy, which was the strange present that had no love for her.

Borderline Personality, Masterson says, is the “deflated false self,” while Narcissism is the “inflated false self.” False is false, though, and when parents make this falseness live in the real world, it or the world must lose. A fire doesn’t want oxygen, a shadow doesn’t want light. Pardon her for living alone among us, in a different, darker atmosphere.

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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.