Monday, 15 July 2013
"Closet narcissistic" mum: enacted mother & enacted child
Lost self. This mother was not going to allow any sort of bond with her child. I see her holding a baby and really feeling the baby to be not of her. She accepts the baby into her arms and assumes a beatific pose, as if the baby is blessed who comes into her arms, whoever the baby is, and this blessedness is for others to see. That is the important thing. She imparts bliss, but generally. This particular little human being who has come into her arms is a baby in general. Without the presence of others to see her enactment of good mothering, then… nothing. The baby is responded to exclusively as a means to be seen by others to be doing something well, in this case, mothering. The baby is not felt by her to be of her, a little life in her care, for her to nurture, who needs her. The possibility of receiving love has never happened to this mother, so there is no concept of love coming from the baby for her that could be anything for her. Who she is precludes receiving love from any place which she cannot simultaneously feel to be adored and special by others. She needs to be able to conceive of herself being seen by others to be loved by the one whose love those others also wish for, so she can conceive of herself as envied. In order to ensure that, Yes, the one who loves her is the one whose love the others do envy, the one needs to be a super-being. This baby, like everyone in her real life, falls short of that super-being. If they are there at all, it can only be as a kind of proof of her own specialness. This baby can’t be of her because it is so needy crying raging distressed. To allow attachment with the baby and identify with the baby’s vulnerability and mess and glee and drooling, would explode her self-image. Having this mess and vulnerability in her, she would no longer be desirable to the super-being whose love she must continue to feel. Without the fantasised love of the super-being, there is nothingness. There has never been love for who-she-is, and in the absence of the love for who-she-is, who-she-is has simply not happened. In the place of who-she-is is a fiction, a kind of enactment of a blessed and good child, which self-image is all there is, and is sustained only as long as she can find this enacted self mirrored in the world, which is other people’s idea of her. Her way of mothering is a performance, an enactment of what she thinks is others' expectation of how good mothers are when they mother well. She enacts good mothering, and somehow, with her body (it is unmistakeable, however hard it is to describe what exactly she does) communicates “Now I am mothering”, and one feels oneself under a pressure to not be seen to be inattentive or unresponsive, and one is pressed – without anything having been said – to acknowledge her effort-ful mothering by mirroring it, enacting being a good child. One is pressed, therefore, to participate in her enactment. What passes between mother and child, then, becomes an unspoken collusion for nothing other than to elicit admiration from on-lookers of the scene for the enacted good mothering. Of any real bond and feeling of connection between mother and child there is nothing. The entire engagement is geared (without anything explicit having been said) to propping up her self-image and distorts proper relations. Where is the child in this? Obviously not there. For him the enactment is in place of who-he-is. The one can’t go on simultaneously as the other goes on. That kind of separation between character and self really only makes sense if there is some stable self to which to return after the character goes. Now I’m a father, I’ve seen the way she “plays” with little children. She observes. There is no shared enjoyment. Her enjoyment, I have learned, is smothered by my existence. I recall being with my daughter in my mum’s home. Toys are out on the floor. I allow myself to be with my daughter’s game, in her world, give myself up to it. And the response I have from my daughter invokes envy in “treasure chest” granny. She is angry and envious towards my daughter, who is getting my attention. And what does she do? She sits nearby, looking on, and holds herself apart in a very communicative way. She communicates something… what is it? She has become an observer on something that is nothing to do with her, as if me and my daughter (her son and grandchild) are people in general. Experience, where she is at, is always somewhere remote, in the past. It is as if she has been cut off from where she is, and she is not engaged with us. She tells us that we and this moment mean nothing to her. Readers may like to watch a short YouTube video by psychotherapist Joseph Burgo, who talks about damaged self(-esteem) and "narcissistic defences" with insight and compassion, with reference to film portrayals.