*Age 58 – November 5, 2009 – A hard way to be in the world
We are born with the capacity to learn about who we are, and to remember ourselves throughout our many and varied experiences. This is meant to happen as we grow from birth being cared for by loving caregivers, people who give us care consistently over time.
It is natural that caregivers understand an infant is not them, but is somebody else, a separate unique individual. They communicate this knowledge by everything they say and do with the infant.
These patterns of interaction are building the infant’s growing brain. Humans are designed from birth to be able to see their own separate and unique self as it is mirrored back and reflected to them by their caregivers, who are their attachment humans.
If a parent such as my mother was lacks the capacity to understand that her infant is NOT her, she will overwhelm her infant with information from herself that has absolutely no relevance to her infant’s developing connection with itself. The infant will miss the critical interactions with its caregiver that are meant to feedback to it information about its own self.
If the infant has access to additional caregivers who are themselves of healthy brain-mind-self, the infant can get at least some of the feedback about its own self from them, and this information will be critical to the infant’s brain-mind-self growth and development.
Without access to other appropriate (secure attachment) caregivers, the infant’s brain-mind-self will not develop in an ordinary way. Its body will of course continue to develop, but the self of the infant-child cannot possibly find its way into being a cohesive, integrated, clear and affirmed self-hood.
Whatever the break was that happened within my mother’s brain-mind-self, it had consumed her by the time I took my first tiny breath into my body in this world in my lifetime. She was prevented from ever looking at me and being able to allow my individual self to be born. She could only see some split-off part of herself in me that she hated and wanted to destroy.
Her mental illness (I believe psychotic borderline) left no room for Linda to be present in my body or in my life. All I could do was remain buried alive, hidden from her view, protected only by the miracle of life that demands that people remain intact, separate from one another.
In the meantime all the trauma she caused me from birth built my brain, the only one I have to use to get along in this world. That my brain could not include clear and definable connections to my own selfhood HAD to be the result of my mother being not only my primary caregiver, but with the exception of early contact with my 14-month-old brother and very occasional exposure to my father or grandmother, she was my sole caregiver.
I can try to describe every resiliency factor I can think of that probably contributed to me being able to survive my childhood with my mother so that I appeared on the adult end of my life to be mostly intact and ‘ordinary’. At the same time, however, I have to include my dissociational abilities as being the most important resiliency factor I have.
The real me I was born as could remain hidden and protected from my mother where she could not reach me. At the same time the self of me could not come out into the world to play, grow, learn and live. My self could not be recognized, could not express myself. My needs were not met except as they invisibly allowed me to continue to exist without my mother ever being able to stop me except by killing my body (which I helped her not to do).
Evidently I was born strong. But who and where and how the essential me is in the world still remains extremely difficult for me to detect. I can sit here writing on this pad at this moment in time with this pen in my hand and hope I am at this moment able to open a clear, true pathway that allows the real me, the hidden-away-from-my-mean-mother me, to speak these words.
It’s like I have to keep the deep, pure waters within myself perfectly still without a single small ripple in order for the real me to appear in my life. I do not believe this is the way ordinary people have to engage their self. Life is busy. It is full of stimulation and changes. One’s self is supposed to be able to maintain its integrity in spite of external (distracting) factors.
It is only when the environment I am in is quiet, peaceful, safe and predictable that I can experience my core self. Once anything hits my inner still pool and causes a ripple, my inner me vanishes and I cannot reach her.
When a disturbance happens, a frantic feeling that translates into anxiety follows, as professionals call this state along with the host of other labels they insist on using to describe what my fragile connection to my own true self looks like or seems like from the inside of me.
I am left having to be so careful – so full of care concerning my self in this world — now at 58, because nobody was there in the beginning to do it for me. I can think about my connection to my self in today’s world as being like a frequently ‘dropped call’. When life challenges me, the resulting disturbance inside of me causes a ‘call lost’ reaction. Then some version of Linda has to keep on going, the best way that it-I can until circumstances change and complete calm around and within me returns.
Believe me, this is a hard, hard way to be in this world.
posted also on main page November 5, 2009