My story of relationship with mother

E-CENT Paper No. 10

The Story of Relationship: Or coming to terms with my mother (and father)

Copyright (c) Dr Jim Byrne, January 2010

“Whoever inquires about our childhood wants to know something about our soul.  If the question is not just a rhetorical one and the questioner has the patience to listen, (s)he will come to realize that we love with horror and hate with an inexplicable love whatever caused us our greatest pain and difficulty”.

Erika Burkart, quoted in Miller (1983)[1]

1. Preamble

In an earlier paper, I mentioned that I had a partial Freudian analysis at the age of 22 years.  It was incomplete because I could not act upon my analyst’s advice:

‘My analyst (had) announced my challenge at the final session we had together:  “You need to examine your relationship with your mother in particular”.  This was where the analysis failed.  Why?  Because I had no ‘schema’, or map, definition, or any other ‘handle’ on the concept of “relationship”.  I had no awareness of having something called “a relationship with my mother”.  I had no idea what it could possibly mean to “examine” something called “a relationship”.’  (E-CENT Paper No.4[2])

My mother and I were never close – and the situation with my father was no different.  All of my subsequent relationships with women were affected by this central fact of my early life:  Just as my relationships with men were affected by my poor bond with my father.  In Emotive-Cognitive Embodied Narrative Therapy (E-CENT) we maintain, in harmony with Freudian psychoanalysis and the Object Relations School, that the earliest family relationships form the non-conscious, mental templates for all subsequent relationships; and that problems in those earliest family relationships need to be corrected as we proceed through life, if we are to achieve reasonable relationships with others.  We also maintain that human beings are essentially emotional beings, and that our reason and thinking skills are overlaid upon a bed of emotional wiring.  Thus our earliest emotional experiences are formative, and set certain limits to what can be done, thought and felt in later life: unless and until we digest those experiences, drain them of their emotive charge, and file them away in inactive stores in background memory.

There is, of course, a deeper level to human existence, which is explored in various spiritual traditions, and that is our relationship to everything that is: to infinity, to eternity, to the absolute of which each individual thing is a small part.  To exist as an isolated consciousness is a problem for each individual, and I will try to look at that aspect of human existence at the end of this paper.

However, in this paper I mainly want to apply some of the ideas of psychoanalysis and Object Relations, in an E-CENT format, to try to resolve my problems with my mother in particular.  (I will also necessarily have to include some consideration of my relations with my father).  In the process I will be illustrating how seriously E-CENT takes early childhood experience, which is quite different from CBT and REBT.

The central tenet of Freudian psychoanalysis is that repression of traumatic experiences is at the root of all neurotic disturbances.

Given that I had some significant disturbance in my ability to relate to others over the first three decades of my life, I need to ask myself: Did I have some traumatic experiences which I then repressed, which account for how I was in relationships?  (My ability to relate to others is much improved in recent decades, because of various therapeutic processes, but may still benefit from completing this work of analysis of my relationship with my mother [and to some extent with my father]).

So in this paper I will be looking for evidence of repression of disturbed experiences to do with my mother [and father] in the first few years of my life.

Freud (1910/1962)[3] said:

“Since these repressions belong to the very early years of childhood, the work of analysis leads us, too, back to that period.  Our path to these situations of conflict, which have for the most part been forgotten and which we try to revive in the (client’s) memory, is pointed out to us through (his/her) symptoms, dreams and free associations”.

What is sought is to make some repressed experience conscious, and then to complete our experience of it; to resist the temptation to push it away; to simply allow it to be; and to accept that that was how it was, no matter how unpleasant that reality might have been.

Why would we do this?  Because of the belief that once we have ‘completed an experience’, it goes into the background of life, and ceases to have a strong emotive charge.  And to ‘complete’ it means to allow it to be; to accept that it exists; to accept that it happened; to embrace it, despite its painfulness; and to chew through it, digest it, and thus to ‘draw its sting’.

One of the main ways we do this in E-CENT is to get the client to tell their story, in writing or verbally – whether that be a story of relationship; or about their origins; or about some life transition; about their career; and so on – and to face up to the buried bits of the story, to try to unearth them, to digest them, and thus to allow them to be: meaning to be accepted as former realities, which will draw their sting, and then allow them to go into the background of life, and not to keep rattling away in the ‘basement of their mind’, throwing up neurotic symptom after neurotic symptom.

As Freud (1910/1962) said:

“By encouraging the (client) to disregard his resistance to telling us these things, we are educating (his/her) ego to overcome its inclination towards attempts at flight (or denial, or repression) and to tolerate an approach to what is repressed.  In the end, if the situation of the repression can be successfully reproduced in (his/her) memory, (his/her) compliance will be brilliantly rewarded (with a relief from symptoms – JB).  The whole difference between (his/her) age then and now works in (his/her) favour; and the thing from which (his/her) childish ego fled in terror will often seem to (his/her) adult and strengthened ego no more than child’s play”.  Page 116.

In other words, we will come to recognize that we can accept and tolerate whatever happened, which has been unconscious until this time; we can come to see that it was not totally unbearable, though we ran from it at the time it occurred; and we may come to be more accepting of ourselves, others and the world as a result of our conscious reviewing process.  But this process is as much emotive (or about feelings) as it is cognitive (or about our thinking and reasoning). We have to feel what we originally refused to feel; to face up to strong negative emotions (like grief or anger or terror); to embrace them; and then to allow them to take up their rightful (de-charged, or discharged) place in the background of our lives.

This ‘moving into the background’ is an automatic process which occurs once the emotional charge has been withdrawn from the former experience.  And the emotional charge is withdrawn by fully experiencing the emotions that we refused to feel all those years ago.

The rule then is this: tell your story in detail, omitting nothing, whether it be disagreeable or banal, apparently unimportant or senseless.  (Freud, 1910/1962, page 131).  Feel whatever feelings come up.  Do not resist anything that becomes conscious.  And that is what I must do in this paper about my relationship with my mother (and father).

Freud argued that nobody can understand psycho-analysis unless they undertake their own analysis. (Freud, 1910/1962, page 109). That kind of analysis used to be called ‘self-analysis’, but was later renamed ‘a training analysis’, as this was the form of training that a potential psycho-analyst had to undertake in order to know how to analyze another person.  So far I have undertaken one training analysis, in E-CENT Paper No.4.[4]  In this current paper, I will attempt a more central ‘training analysis’: digging up the early history of my relationship with my mother (and father), to see what can be found and resolved that might enhance the quality of my psychological functioning in the present moment.  (Of course, I have an even more important ulterior motive here.  And that is to develop ways of working that can be used by the readers of this account – and to allow the reader to see what emotional honesty is, in practice).

2.  Introduction

It is just a short while since I completed E-CENT Paper No.9, in which I explored the nature of “the individual” and his/her social roots.  When I had finished it, I passed it to my wife, Renata, to read.  We sat in our living room, on separate armchairs.  As she was reading it, I got in touch with some grief about my mother.  I had never been able to feel anything for or against my mother.  (This is only true because my memories of my mother do not stretch back into the first seven years of my life!)  She seemed (in my later memories) to be a matter of complete indifference to me:  A ‘quite strong’ indifference; which is clearly a contradiction in terms.

But now here I was gently sobbing, right down in my guts.  Fat tears running down my cheeks.  It lasted for a couple of minutes only, but that was at least something: in fact a major breakthrough in contacting some emotion about her – about Maureen, which is how I normally think of her.  Always Maureen: never Mum, or Mammy, or Mother.

…end of extract.

~~~

For a full copy of this PDF pamphlet, please go to https://ecent-institute.org/e-cent-articles-and-papers/

~~~

[1] Miller, A. (1983) For Your Own Good: Hidden cruelty in child-rearing and the roots of violence.  London: Faber and Faber.

[2] Byrne, J. (2009/18) My story of personal origins: A journey through models of mind. E-CENT Paper No.4. Hebden Bridge: The Institute for E-CENT Publications. Available online at: https://abc-counselling.org/my-story-of-personal-origins/

[3] Freud, S. (1910/1962) Two Short Accounts of Psycho-Analysis.  Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin Books.  Page 116.

[4] Byrne, J. (2009/18) My story of personal origins: A journey through models of mind. E-CENT Paper No.4. Hebden Bridge: The Institute for E-CENT Publications. Available online at: https://abc-counselling.org/my-story-of-personal-origins/

~~~

 

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