What They Want
This is what they wanted, evident, by age eight, the people perpetrating on me attack my body, and it hurts but I can ignore that since what they’re after is my mind, my soul, my freedom, pleasure, my sense of ease and security, my pride, my delight. I’ll tell you how I knew this: My actions had no impact on them. Their treatment of me was inner directed, random, their demands of me non-specific or inconsistent, they didn’t want me to do anything better, didn’t want me to be good, to improve, to behave … It wasn’t about that. I’m still learning, it wasn’t about me. Their only goal was the complete breaking down of personality. They needed me to think and feel and become something else, something ugly, corrosive and corrupt, a mirror. They wanted to watch this version of me take form, they wanted to be the ones who caused the transformation and wanted to be known by me as the ones who caused it.
In my experience in the hall of mirrors that is life with the narcissistically-arrested, what they wanted was the destruction of oneself, because the other had no place in their intrapsychic world. I don’t know, maybe I was lucky, the destruction took more the form of stamping out. Stamping out any little sign that your child, your wife (cringe) was that most intolerable of things, a separate person. Showing pleasure, having a thought, these were dangerous things—I did them anyway.
It’s damn hard to understand these people. You have to get a feel for the oceanic greed of the human child before the age of three, perhaps before two and a half, which is when the bloody warfare breaks out between the child who wants to remain, have and be All, that oneness with mommy—and the second, developing awareness that not only are there huge rewards for breaking down and sharing, you simply have no choice. In most cases, life impinges and the child gives up its primary, narcissistic ego in favor of the world in pieces, and begins to assemble those pieces into a pleasing, good-enough emotional and mental whole. One in which other people are not resented for their very existence, but are instead wanted and desired for all the richness they bring. The child comes to love life and the people in it, the capacity for interdependency blooms.
The children who don’t make it—the child who lives in an adult body but never grows up—I think is predisposed to this failure. Genetic or other influences upon the body leave these children with minds that can only go so far. The elasticity stops, and a life of what are, fundamentally, tantrums, is all that follows. Imagine having no tools to make your way among people, save what you can guess at, or are perhaps clever enough to mimic. Life would be above all, an intense frustration, and, frankly, there would be no point to love, to that which gives and acts for the betterment of another for its own sake. The task goes unperceived.
My thoughts today run along the lines of trauma and trust. We depend upon shared perceptions, yet at every turn, there are people with all sorts of power over us who don’t think the same way at all. One trusts them at one’s peril; when you are small, of course, you’ve no other choice.
Hell, isn’t a great deal of culture—books, art, films—about the fact that we as individuals have, at bottom, very few choices, and how to live with that. Here, in the present, is where we find the echoes of childhood. The mirror.
image: beppe k via flickr