Sweet spot

So I told you I have been watching SuperNanny. You can laugh if you feel like it.

I have a coteacher in two of my periods. He has introduced a new rule. Don’t laugh at my drawings. I tell them go ahead and laugh at my drawings, because I think they are funny too.

That’s us. I think it’s a great combination somehow.

Anyway, you can laugh at my viewing choices. Life is funny and so am I.

I watched one that involved a 3-year-old who was essentially running the show: the only child of a second marriage, with 2 teenagers from a previous marriage. He turns off the TV when the rest of the family is watching it. He turns off the lights in a room where people are sitting at night. It’s transparently about control.

Well, I was thinking about this. I was thinking how connection derives from imaging the other and the other imagining us. We get a sense of feeling someone else’s mind and also of being felt by the other person. Our minds seem to “feel” each other when we can imagine how the other person is thinking and feeling and we anticipate theirs–and they do the same for ours.

A child like that cannot feel the parent. They are not presenting enough information to be felt. They watch TV when the child turns it on. They sit in the dark when the child turns the lights out. They are like corpses, barely existing at all. At least when he frustrates them beyond endurance, he can feel that as separate human beings. At least when he exerts control, he can feel himself.

I think about how my mom criticized me for the things I most liked to do, how she interrupted me and told me to do something else. She was trying to feel me without becoming vulnerable, without allowing me to exist as a separate person who had the capacity to hurt her and to reject her.

There are times when I despair because–it seems to me now–I am reminded of how that felt, to be thwarted, disapproved of, interefered with, interrupted. And also how nothing I did seemed to be acceptable.

Yes, it would be hard to internalize a sense of a parent being there when the parent is not displaying any recognizable pattern of behaviour, any preference, any real opinions aside from wanting control.

Worse, to internalize that parent means to experience an ongoing, permanent, identity-bound feeling of helplessness. No, thank you.

But it was never about me or who I was. It wasn’t about my opinions, my tastes, my personality or my habits. It was about control.

That’s something else I have been thinking about. There were these times when C was so angry at me, and I think again and again about what that was like for her–what really caused that? Why was she so angry?

Because she didn’t know I wasn’t doing that. She didn’t know I wasn’t trying to prevent her from doing the things she wanted to do. I presumed she would be able to find a balance between independence and nurture, and that I could both spend time with her and support her in doing her own things.

The lonely part about the kind of relationship we had in my own family is that, most of the time, you are either running roughshod over each other or trying to disappear. You can neither feel the other person nor feel oneself–not often, anyway.

I think the longing and sadness I feel so strongly at times is related to that loneliness. I am afraid to reach out and honestly, vulnerably, while fully acknowledging someone might find me stupid, might reject me, might find me boring, might say no, might not like me at all be a presence in front of another person who is also a presence.

Not defending myself (I don’t care what anyone thinks about me: I love myself so fuck off, haters). Not using emotional blackmail (but if you don’t like me, I’ll fall apart). Not refusing to feel the other person (I’m wonderful, so I’m going to plough on ahead with this regardless of whether I start to noticed a glazed-over look or an attempt to distance themselves from what I am saying).

But with faith that, somewhere, somehow, there is a sweet spot of connection where I can find common ground and mutual understanding with someone else.


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