Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Shadow Side of Dependency

            Dinner with L. and D., it seems like just a couple of weeks ago, but was actually about two months ago.  We made some notes at the time, and we’re still thinking about it.  In the middle of that dinner, Brooke turned to L. and said, I want to tell you something that I’ve only told Peggy and no one else.  This happened back in Rehab.    Peggy, you were just sitting on the side of the bed, we were just talking about something, not anything very important, but it just came into my head, a clear voice, I hate you.  It’s come back now. The fact that it’s come into my head two years later, says something. 


            The voice that says I hate you is the voice of an infant.  I am that infant, at least some of the time.  Peggy and I used to talk about my physical state two years ago when it was just beginning to show some signs of returning motor function breaking through the paralysis; we said that I was in some ways like an infant—learning to speak, to breathe. Now I recognize that at least some of the time my psychological state has been that of an infant too.  


In talking with my psychiatrist friend K., I’m reminded of a book by Melanie Klein called Love, Hate, and Reparation.  She doesn’t dismiss hate, but sees it as an emotion like many emotions, one that should be not shied away from, but admitted, because only when you feel guilt for the hate can you start the reparative process that leads to all forms of creativity and love.  Awful as that moment was to me when I heard that voice inside me say I hate you to my wife, whom I’d always thought I loved, the shadow side came out of dependence and revealed itself, revealed its darkness.  Somebody, one of K’s teachers I think, said, there’s gold in that hatred, in the shadow side.    If you can talk with it, K. was saying, envision it as anything but a person—an object, say, or a stone, even a horse or a bull, you can recognize it and deal with it constructively.


According to Kleinian theory, infants hate their caregivers as much as they love them, and when they hate them they feel guilt about that, if they’re going to go on the journey of life—they need to feel guilt, because the hate isn’t deserved.  The love of the caregiver, whether the mother or someone else, for the infant is deep and real, and when the infant gets to the stages of reparation it wants to give back.     Maybe I was at the beginning of this stage when I said I love you to D., though I hadn’t hated him or L., only Peggy.


Did I say that in my head, that I hated Peggy?  I indubitably did.  Nothing could take that away.  I felt terrible.  But I lay there, only a couple of months after the accident, still comparatively recently paralyzed, and tried to figure it out, why do I hate her so?   It was a sharp, stinging emotion that got covered over.    But now, two years later, despite our many expressions of love, we’re trying to bring what hasn’t been fully acknowledged out into the open, and a repeated tinge of hatred has reawakened that is helping to bring that out of the shadow. 


            The shadow is something you cast over it to obscure it.  The second shadow is all those things we’ve been having to recognize, like finding that after all this suffering and effort to come home, after all these pages of love story, we find ourselves at least for some time alone together.  Alone.  We have to wrestle with our psyches; we have to be aware of the dozen caregivers’ psyches; we have to wrestle with intrafamilial tensions, we have to wrestle with all these emotions--but the minute you stop being afraid of them they lose their power over you.  They evanesce. 


They should evanesce.    Something that hasn’t been achieved by me, says Brooke, is a kind of love that goes beyond all these binary emotions, love/hate primary among them.  In the cave at Dunhuang, at the beginning of the Silk Road in western China,  where Buddhist pilgrims stayed and worshipped, there are many many paintings, done over centuries.  The one I was most struck by was one of the Buddha undergoing his last temptations from the Satan-equivalent, Maya.   Maya sends all these dragon-creatures at the Buddha, and the dragon-figure is a central theme in the painting, but you see how the Buddha’s love and compassion, and his equanimity, make it impossible for these forces of hate and anger to corrode his heart.    He sits safely in that space, on the right-hand wall of the cave, and has sat there so to speak for hundreds of years.



These may seem to be just the ravings of a castaway, Brooke said, but there may be some truth to them, and the truth is that there’s a tighter, more subtle relationship between love and hate than the usual dichotomy we recognize.



                                                *           *            *


This discussion began a couple of months ago, as we’ve just said, when D. and L. came over, bringing dinner, and it was we think part of the adjustment that is involved in coming home.   We talked about hate and love, and about how honest the subconscious could be, when a sentence like that could seem to come out of nowhere, I hate you.  It was a little bit like a moment in Torrey when we were standing on the porch of our cabin, and there were two boys with a gun in the field down below, and some deer, and my subsconcious said, shoot it, like some aboriginal moment that goes back 60,000 years to the most primitive hunting instincts of prehominid beings.  Did I mean it?  I thought it, though I’d have been horrified if they did it. 


Yes, I’m amazed at how honest the subconscious can be, the shadow of the shadow-side of dependence.  This feels like so much a part of the texture of genuine human emotion.  So much of our lives are artificial, or culturally shaped, that they don’t seem entirely real, that unbearable lightness, insubstantiality of being.   But this raw stuff cuts right through; it feels entirely, completely, even overly real. 


When you said goodnight at South Davis, Peggy, or when you come downstairs in the mornings here at home, which has also become a ritual, often I love you, sometimes I hate you.


Question: how does one accommodate hate, or partial hate, or concurrent hate, without trying to obliterate it and without undercutting the amazing love that also surrounds it?   Does one just keep this painful kernel buried inside of some pleasant, soft exterior, or does one recognize it as a full partner in the emotions? After all, hate is entwined in even ordinary loving relationships; it brings us back to the past and the deep strata of our psyche, not just the little wounds and resentments but to deep gulfs of understanding.  Imagine that somebody stands in your way; imagine feeling that you’ve got to get out of the house; imagine someone whose very being shapes you in ways that aren’t your own.   Imagine all the husbands and wives who tamp down the feelings of I hate you until it explodes in rage or violence;  it’s much better to acknowledge what’s there and that it’s in some sense normal, that I hate you that’s part of everyday love.


For me of course, it’s more so, given how dependent I am.  But this will happen to many others of us.  Remember my father, Peggy, or your father, each of them dying of cancer, remember how dependent they each were in their bedridden state at the end?  Did they hate us, in their dependence, even when we were clinging to them so strongly, and with so much love, as they died?


            Maybe so.  Maybe hate just is the shadow side of dependence, unavoidable but  bearable in the end, especially when you come to see how tightly intertwined it is with love.   After all, I hadn’t really focused on that I hate you for almost two years, though I’d revisited it from time to time and it’s still really there, and will no doubt be there as long as I’m still dependent on you in ways I cannot control.   









norm said...

These are remarkable thoughts - the whole idea of any negative feeling toward those you love deeply being natural - almost a ying and yang phenomenon - is something I've never encountered, and I suspect few have. That we don't have to feel guilt when it happens, just understand it as part of a loving relationship.

We will be in Salt Lake May 4 for 3 days, and of course want very much to see you. I'll call a day or two before.


Teresa said...

The poet William Stafford and his wife Dorothy were famously close. Once, when their son Kim was going through a divorce, he asked his father how they got along so well. The senior Stafford answered that it was true, their marriage was 97% sweetness and light. “And the other 3%?” Kim asked. “Pure arsenic,” his father replied.

Your description of Buddha facing his last temptation in the Dunhuang cave, sitting “safely in that space” and able to practice full love and compassion, brought to mind the word querencia, a term that has just come to the forefront of my attention through a visit to a Hispanic ranching community in New Mexico. I had known the word before as the spot in a bullring where the bull retreats to collect himself and gather strength. Throughout the Southwest, it is used to refer to that spot where we feel most at home, literally grounded, and it also refers to the homing instinct, the yearning to return to that place of equilibrium. I wonder if your courage to honestly name such a strong emotion isn’t a querencia, a call home to solid ground.

battin said...

From Peggy: A friend sent me this privately, but because it's so relevant to what had been plaguing us, she's said I can post it anonymously, just as it came to me in the middle of the night:

HI Brooke, Hi Peggy. I couldn’t figure out how to post this as a blog-comment (and I’m not sure I really wanted to make it that public), but I did want to say Hi. When I sat down at the comp tonight at 11:30 pm tonight it was after the coming-to-a-head part of a many-day emotional fight and complete distance from my husband. My main thoughts as I sat down at the computer and tried to find something to connect with on the internet were “I hate him” and “I can’t believe how much I put up with hating him—how pathetic of me”. But then I read your blog, surprised that the focus for this one was on feeling of hating a spouse, and at least now I’m not feeling this and I’m instead pondering all the deep issues raised in connection with the feeling, as noted in the blog. That is, I’m really not feeling the hate any more, but instead intellectually investigated the points you raise about it. (And, fyi, I didn’t find you current blog because I was interested in hate. I’ve followed your blog for a long time and for some reason I checked into it tonight, and it just happened to be on hate.)
Alas, in terms of responding, I have no ability to add anything eloquent/meaningful/equally ponderable---nor even marginally ponderable. You said so much, so intriguingly (is that a word)? I’ll use the excuse that it is now 12:45 am but the real reason is expressive ability and a lack thereof on this end. So independent of the recent blog topic, let me just use this note as an opportunity to say Hi to both of you. Peggy, I know we will meet up at a conference soon. Hanging out with you is always interesting, joyful, rewarding, and intellectually motivating and humbling. I look forward to the next time. Brooke, we only met twice and only hiked together once but I have crystal clear, happy, memories of that hike nonetheless (as well as a few memories in the house, making coffee, finding walking sticks—memories of talking during particular turns in the path and memories of looking out, during the half way point, at others scattered about, while we talked. Precise, detailed, memories, few in number (not like videos, more like three shot snipets, weird in how completely detailed they are visually (though I wonder now about them given what you blogged about revision of memories). Anyway, I don’t know the right words to say : I’m sorry/sad about the accident and all the challenges you have faced. I’m going to assume that you know many many people, like me, who haven’t known the right words so have, sadly, neglected any words, and I’m going to also assume that you forgive/tolerate or even just ignore their ‘inarticulateness’ (--is that even a word?). As Peggy knows, in work-writing I’m pretty articulate. But it isn’t spontaneous. I’ll spend half a day refining a single paragraph and I’ll turn down requests to write a paper because I’ll panic too much about whether my words are clear, meaningful, complete. So I’m not going to try to further refine this email. If I did, I’d never send it.
I hope you both keep writing the blog, but I feel sheepishly selfish in saying that. Not only has the blog allowed me to stay in contact with your lives, it has benefitted me intellectually/emotionally . It is now 1:15. Time for bed here. And for the record, I’m not feeling hate anymore.