A few things sunk in tonight. Maybe.
One of them is about being a baby. I really do have feelings surface from when I was a baby. The feeling I have of longing and not being allowed to have connection, that’s a baby feeling. It continued throughout my life, but it began when I was a baby. It is simply: I want to be picked up, I want to be held, I want to be cuddled, I want soft and warm and snuggly. I think really it is from before that feeling coalesced into wishing for a particular person. It was just like nearest warm body, pick me up.
It screams inside me. That feeling is like a kind of tactile scream. I have at times felt the physical sensation of screaming, but that is not what I mean. I mean the intensity of that wish is like a scream.
So that’s one thing. There is all of this specific abuse and trauma and my parents’ total insanity, and then there is the attachment disorder. There is this stuff that comes from having parents who simply did not attend to me, for the same reasons that led later to violent mistreatment.
One piece of it is just that: this memory of being a baby and of wanting to be held and cuddled and not getting it. There is a very specific internal sensation that goes with it and must be felt and integrated. It hurts. Physically, it just really, really hurts. It makes my whole body hurt.
There is some other stuff that has to do with baby development also. I have been thinking about self-constancy and object-constancy, partly because I have emphasizing this again with C. She didn’t get the marks she wanted, and felt angry about it, and I stressed with her that she is the same person. So then I hear it also, and it has been on my mind as well. I stressed with her that she made mistakes (she failed chemistry, biology, and one kind of English), but she is not a mistake, and I also stressed with her that I love her through all of her experiences and all of her emotions. She doesn’t become a mistake once she makes one. The relationship is constant. She is constant. Actions and emotions change.
I have been hearing that. Lately, I have been thinking that I can feel shame and not be a shameful person. Shame is an emotion. I feel it. I am not it. Feeling shame does not change me. I remain constant. That helped, actually. It felt a lot safer to be inside me. Now, having it feel safer makes sense to me. When I was very small, my feelings would have been so intense they felt like they were me. If I felt ashamed, I would have felt I was shameful.
When you are little, and not able to regulate your emotions yet, they are very intense and it changes completely how it feels to be you. Your body feels different in different feeling states, your thoughts feel different, your impulses are different. If you never quite learn how to regulate your emotions, because whatever needs to happen for emotional regulation to develop doesn’t happen, then this isn’t going to be something that just happens for a few years. It will continue on into adulthood, this feeling of being several different people. Of course, it’s happening because emotions are getting disowned in the first place, so definitely these emotional waves are going to end up in dissociated parts.
It would have also felt that the emotionally dysregulated self-states are the authentic me, because they involve feeling and sensation. It intrudes past my effort to not be aware of my feelings, and it’s going to feel like those intense, dysregulated states are the real me, including the ashamed state. So I am going to think I am bad. That state I occupy when I have that “bad” feeling seems authentic, because the intensity of the emotion broke past my effort not to know about my feelings. And if I think feeling bad means to me that I am bad, my authentic self is going to seem bad to me.
The other thing is that my caregivers were unreliable, so I didn’t develop a sense of object-constancy. Maybe I couldn’t regulate well enough to take in that they were constant either. At any rate, it means that separations don’t just remind me of losses, they feel like losses now. I really don’t know that people are still there when I don’t see them. I am coming along with that, but I am not all the way there, and so my reaction to separations is going to be intense. I am going to feel a lot of sadness.
I think how sad and angry and afraid C is whenever there is a parting. It’s partly a memory, but it’s also that she doesn’t know now that I will be there later, that I will come back, and all of the good things she likes about being with me will happen again. It triggers other partings, but each parting is, in itself, painful, because she doesn’t know. And it is still quite a lot like that for me.
The last thing on my mind this evening is that the key to all of it, as far as I can see, is figuring out how to regulate my emotions. That creates self-constancy. It enables functional relationships, because I then become someone who can be constant for others, and then I might develop some object constancy. And emotional regulation allows for reality to assert itself. It allows you to coherently process information, so that if someone is there, you know it. I will know it.