I am having an unexpectedly intense and strange evening.
I can’t even really remember all of it. I felt rather chipper walking home, my eyes full of ideas about things, feeling hopeful and then somewhere along the way, I wasn’t anymore.
Not hopeful, I mean. Quite the opposite, in fact. Fuzzy and empty of interesting ideas. I suppose in that wanting to get through it kind of way, but also not completely able to think coherently–not in the usual way.
I had dinner and watched TV and then I called C, who has had exams. She had trouble hearing me and was also not paying that much attention to me, it seemed. The last time I called, it was the same way. That time, I could hear her reading to herself. Many Country Xers never actually learn to read silently. The spend their whole lives reading aloud to themselves. Last time, she also asked for money, which I said I would have sent to her.
This time, I asked if she had gotten it. She said either yep or nope. Not exactly clearly. So I had to ask again. Anyway, she hadn’t. I said I would remind my friend to send it to her, although the occasion for which she had asked for it was over.
I asked her how her exams had gone too–well, she said. She had had English. Monday was math. She sighed when I asked about the rest of her life. I took it for an indication that she wanted to go and couldn’t ask. I asked her if she wanted to study. Yes, she did.
I thought about this afterward, that the whole feeling of the conversation was different than last time. The last time, she wanted something, and I felt a lot of warmth for her. She might have felt warmth for me. This time was frustrating, distant, even though both times she had actually created distance by not being fully engaged in the conversation.
I just sat with the feelings I had for a while. They were like crawling under a heavy, suffocating blanket. Quite terrible. I felt worthless.
I stayed with that feeling partly because I think, in reality, there are a finite number of feelings we might actually have. There is a difference in intensity and in the cause, but everyone has probably had this terrible, suffocating blanket of hopelessness fall over them. Certainly I have, so if I can’t be with this feeling long enough to make sense of it, I am probably losing out on some kind of connection to the rest of the human race. Maybe more importantly, I would be losing connection to myself at various points in the past.
I felt rather discarded, and the first thing I thought was, well, she doesn’t want anything from me now. I am only worth something to her when I have something she wants. I don’t know whether that’s true or not, but I did think, okay, so I feel discarded. I feel used and thrown. That is definitely a feeling I have experienced in the past. It’s worth knowing about. So I did.
Then I thought, you know, she had her hopes up for something and it didn’t materialize. I think C feels discarded. She may be discarding me because she feels discarded herself, but I might also just be empathazing with her and still need to be able to make sense of what I am empathizing with.
I had this interesting experience where I realized I could feel this echo of the students’ excitement in learning and knowing the answer and being able to share things with the class. And I realized this was actually rather fun. This little echo of imaging inside me of how they felt was quite nice and I liked it.
The thing is I think you are supposed to be able to do this and it helps you with all kinds of social situations, but if it has not been safe to imagine people’s feelings because they were too dreadful or too negative or too overwhelming, then you will abort the development of that ability to empathize.
So maybe that’s what this was, only both of us have quite intense experiences of being discarded as foundations for our lives. Not just in childhood, but in infancy. This wasn’t just having your grade school friend drop you for someone more popular–and that is excruciating enough. This is my living through infant neglect.
This was having a borderline mother–and I do think C’s mother has borderline personality disorder too, or something close to it–who couldn’t be deciphered, sent confusing and contradictory signals and as a result could not be attuned with. It was like side-stepping each other in the aisle repeatedly and no one cracking a grin and making a joke about dancing to cut the awkwardness.
There is this other thing I have been thinking about: when I feel understood, I have this tremendous feeling of worthiness that I had not really felt before–not so I’d noticed it anyway. It has happened once or twice with my therapist and it was quite lovely.
As an adult, a lot of this has to do with my communicative competence. I can be understood if I make myself understood, but not otherwise. As an infant or young child, it’s not really up to you. You get to feel worthy when someone can figure you out. You’re pretty helpless that way. You wait for someone to come along and figure out how to engage with you and make sense of you, and there’s not much you can do aside from make noises.
I think when this communication goes away, the sense of despair is pretty deep, because you can’t make it come back and you don’t know when it will come back, and it’s entirely out of your hands.
Maybe something like I felt just then.