What I thought

This is harder to write about. Stuff happened, I had some thoughts about it. The thoughts are hard to pin down.

I have been thinking the really bad, terrible thing I feel have to do with the Looking Glass Self, and the self I formed when I imagined how my parents and others viewed me. There is one self where I kind of just don’t matter. I am a stone. That is the feeling you would have about yourself if the people around you are not attached to you. You are one of 35 children in the class. You are one of ten kids in the neighbourhood. You are not anyone’s special girl or boy, because the attachment with your parents is disrupted. And it is also the feeling you would have if your parents lack empathy and responsiveness to you.

There is also the feeling of being absolutely hopeless and worthless. I had this very sensitized mother, very reactive, and it would mean she was frequently very irritable. I couldn’t do anything to synch up with her. I was never going to get it right. That’s the self-view that would come out of this. I am just kind of a doomed person, because I cannot attune to my mentally ill mother.

The more I am able to keep these feelings at a dull roar—not shut down, but low enough to examine—the more I see that in this moment, I might not matter to the person I am talking to. I might not be able to succeed at this particular task. But I can take in other information also. It isn’t so global, and I don’t get lost in the feeling or have to push it away. It can be as a feeling, as a normal feeling.

But I was also thinking about attachment, and that attachment develops because someone is consistently able to respond to us in an attuned way. They seem to get us. And a lot of that has to do with experience of that person. It comes from a sense of investment also—that’s MY baby, so I had better take care of it—but also from experience. The mother knows her baby because she has been with it for so long. If my mother was shutting her feelings down in order to cope with them, she wouldn’t know me. She wouldn’t be processing emotional information, and she wouldn’t be able to attune to me, and I would not feel attached to her to the extent that I otherwise would.

There is also this other element—that the people we feel closest to are the one’s whose views and emotions we attend to the most. They are our audience, and we care about their feelings and their opinions the most, and the people we don’t feel close to, we don’t care that much about. We don’t take on their perspective except in a fairly limited way.

If a child lacks solid attachment to a group of people, then that view that is most important shifts from moment to moment, and since people sometimes see the same things very differently, the child won’t develop a consistent sense of themselves. The guy walking down the street might have equal importance as an audience for their behaviour as their teacher does. At the same time, the child is looking for attachment. Any source of protection and attunement will do. There isn’t the stabilizing force in the child’s mind of the attachment figure as being the most important audience for behaviour even when that figure is not present, which is what other children have.

I was thinking about the 2-minute noodles, and realized that attunement for me came as a series of isolated moments. They didn’t come from consistent people. They were pretty much chance. So the other part of this is that the human at the other end of the attunement may not emerge as the salient feature of the experience. It might be the 2-minute noodles. I was thinking about this and looking at the hand of a girl holding onto a bar of a window in the classroom I was facing, as I waited for C to come to meet me, and that formed a very strong image in my mind. This odd, unexpected thing—the hand in the window–became this very intense image in my mind, and I thought I am feeling something emotional right now, a very strong feeling, and I don’t know what to attach it to, because people have not been consistent sources of attunement to me, so I am waiting for C, and I am attaching my feelings of anticipation not to her, but to this disembodied hand in the window. It’s like my brain doesn’t know what is signal and what is noise. It doesn’t know the feeling I am having now, this feeling of longing and anticipation, has to do with C. I am looking around and this odd and unexpected image has appeared for me, and I am linking it to that, because I don’t know to link this feeling to people. It hasn’t consistently had anything to do with people, or maybe I was afraid to link it to people.

Anyway, it gave me a sense of the discontinuity in my mind to think of that—the discontinuity within myself and also the discontinuity of my impressions of life.

I think this is something that changes as you become able to process emotions and develop positive attachments. Your self becomes stable, because who is important to you becomes stable. You are able to maintain relationships with a finite number of people who see you in a continuous way over time, and that becomes internalized. That has what is beginning to happen for me. I have been working on emotion regulation, and my relationship skills have improved, and mentally I am not pushing/pulling so much and the same people have remained important to me over a period of time, and I am starting to internalize their view of me. I am letting their view of me count instead of shutting that down, and I am not sort of drifting from one attuned moment to the next. It is getting attached to real human beings.


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