My friend, a fellow therapist asked me about the book I have just written and is about to be available for sale called Unloved Again. I explained to her that it has to do with adult unwittingly submitting to the tyranny of their “introjected“ parent and surrendering to the fear of their “introjected” child both acquired during their earliest years.
An “introject” is a remembered identity we adults react to as applicable to our current lives, give them an inappropriate reality. History is something to learn from. It is not occurring in the present unless we make it happen. We all have “introjects.” However, when the parent is very hurtful, that person exists in the adult’s brain as a locus of power and hatred. The same thing happens with the “introjected’ child. If the child is fearful and submissive with threatening parent(s), that child’s “introject sends desperate feelings to the adult. Unaware of these historic dimensions of his mind, he responds to these feelings and messages as appropriate.
I explained to my friend that many of my patients have complained that other therapists did understand their problem. They said I did. I was shocked at my friend’s reaction to this, an intellectually superior putdown. She let me know that by speaking about “introjects,” I was saying something all therapists knew about as she did thanks to her training. She was indirectly asking what I added to the picture. She made me think I should trash my book or feed it to goats.
My readiness to feel worthless spoke of the power of my negative parent “introject,” the critical parent who always rejected anything I did. I think her parents did the same to her but she was now in the role of her negative parent “introject” and enjoyed treating me as victim. None of this conscious.
My response to her was a self-inflicted stab to my creative heart and a disregard of my understanding arrived through years of studying the problem. My child “introject” groveled before the critical “introjected” parent who wanted to smash it for having the nerve to study the consequences of critical parenting. My adult fell into the trap and wondered if i had anything new or relevant to say.
It is interesting how studying one’s pain can give rise to insight. I thought about the difference between labels and true knowledge. You can correctly label something in order to shove it out of your mind and keep it from your heart. To only think with your brain is a kind of short circuiting, like Tin Man in The Wizard of Oz. To only know with the brain is not to know at all. In the same way computers which seem to think are instruments following a program written for them by humans.
To know is to feel. To know and feel is to understand. A therapist who knows and feels what his patient says, feels the “introjects” agony of punishment and fear of change; feels the terrible connection of the child as victim to a tyrannical parent. The child “introject” tells the adult to surrender to his lover. Searching for love from a hating parent figure can last a life time. To feel and know this causes the adult to surrender his “introject’s” useless quest.
For my friend the therapist to speak to me this way had a cruel quality. I thought enough about why she needed to say that all therapists know about “introjects” so that she could dismiss my suggestion that she give a course or at least a class on raising a child who is organically damaged, the way she had done for so many years with her own child and knows more about than those who study it in books.
It is her parent “introject” that rules her. It makes her fear being found wanting or even adequate on the subject. Her mother, herself a therapist, was always ready to attack anyone who claimed to know anything in her field. In charge of an institution for disabled children, she was dead set against her daughter raising her own disabled child – “put him in an institution” she said. She would be angry at her daughter’s claim to hope. She would not support her daughter’s arranging for 19 years of therapy and special classes for the boy so that despite frequent failures, he might have a life.
Oh no, she could not offer a class my friend told me. Said she was too frightened and could not say why. I said she would be a better therapist if she did, which she resented because it pushed her closer to the edge. A person cowering in fear before a task which is in no way earth shattering but tells herself that it is, cannot help a patient who suffers from same. You can not get someone to go beyond you when the reason you don’t go there is fear of your punitive “introjected” parent. You namby-pamby the patient to hold them back, help them take baby steps but not too far and not too fast. They are not to outdistance you which would show you up. You are to cower together.
There is knowing and knowing. Many therapists despite years of psychotherapy, probably with therapists who were afraid of their own “introjects” and were controlled by their own inner child’s phobic responses, cannot understand it in self or other. Understanding requires feeling the agony and tyranny as well gaining distance in order to develop a perspective.
With the “introject” as with all things, we have to go through what we are afraid of to get to the other side. We have to go to the beginning, to the place of fear. We do not know what to do since our terrified child “introject” and/or terrifying adult “introject” is running the show. We stay and explore, take one step at a time. Some kind of path will emerge. Courage comes after doing the feared act. Along with it comes growing up.
I need to add that now I realize that her dismissal of the introject as something to deeply study was directed by her tyrannical “freezing parent” to her terrified “frozen child” and had nothing to do with me, we remain friends.