I got some insight today. (Thank you, bloggy friends.)
This is about object constancy. The intense, horrible shame I feel, that sense of being thoroughly bad and broken, unrecoverable—that is from my impulse to reconnect and check the relationship is still there.
That natural moving apart and coming together again that happens between mothers and growing children didn’t occur. I came back to my mother after separations and what happened next was a crap shoot: reconnection, rupture, abuse, rejection, indifference. No pattern that she is still there, she went away and came back again, when she is gone she still exists. I know that, because she comes back. That never happened.
And my natural impulse to make that happen, to create the connection again, was punished. So I learned it was wrong and bad to try to re-establish connection. The shame I have been feeling the last few days is about wanting to re-establish connection. That is the thing I have learned is bad.
Of course, as an adult, I can’t always re-establish reconnection whenever I feel like it. It’s not like I grew up, everything is fine, and now I can relax and life will be wonderful. People sleep. They eat dinner. They want to talk to other friends who aren’t me. I am too upset to be able to establish a connection with someone. Reality intervenes. It’s not that I was cheated as a child and now I get what I was cheated out of as an adult. I was cheated as a child and as an adult I get to make do with what I have.
Strategies for people like me are often never going away. If you never go away, you don’t have to worry about reconnecting. C has done that in the past—staying as close to home and parents as possible, so that the old wound never gets touched. You can also never get close. As soon as an attachment starts developing, you can push it away, so that the need to reconnect never develops. You can also keep trying to reconnect without ever experiencing the emotions involved in that, so that you don’t have to manage the shame or the neediness involved. Of course, this makes it so that nothing is ever healed. When you act out impulses without actually feeling the emotions involved, your mammal brain never gets the message. You don’t “know” in a felt way that the connection ever happened. I find myself doing that compulsively. Checking things without realizing I have checked them. Because my feelings are shut down. I never get that sense of the action being completed. You exhaust the impulse without ever healing the wound.
I am being activated because C is further away and less accessible, and I don’t have tangible, physical, felt ways of knowing she is still there. She hasn’t spoken to me in three days or replied to my texts. I do call her, and she doesn’t answer. I don’t think I am being rejected. It is just too painful for her. Then I am leaving in about a week, so there is insecurity for me about what will happen in the future. So it is very intense.
Anyway, all of this impacts current relationships. What I mean is you go through this with new people, trying to figure out how important and close to be to each other. The object constancy of a significant other is important in itself, but it’s a dance you keep doing. If the dance is too painful, like it has been for me and for C, then you tend not to do it. You distance from relationships artificially before you start to feel the attachment pain. You pull people close and won’t let them go so that you don’t have to feel the pain of separation from them—and the people who will tolerate that kind of suffocating closeness aren’t always the most able to cope with their own feelings or be responsive to yours.
So it’s a mess.