Identification – Superego part 4
We invest ourselves in our relationship blueprints. We invest our life energy into ideas and concepts. Psychologically this is called cathexis: the process of investment of mental or emotional energy in a person, object, or idea. That’s the dictionary definition. What’s actually invested is our life force, our being, our soul, if you will. This can be useful of course but it can go to extremes where we literally become our ideas or become someone else or become a role.
Identifying with something in a way where we lose ourselves is an example of one of those negative extremes. The internalized relationships that we have been discussing for several weeks (self and other, child and parent, and all the split personas involved) are examples of rigidly fixed identifications. They make up our relationship blueprint. What was supposed to be a brief positive identification with a parent for the purpose of development has become a lifelong negative identification as the child we were in relation to some difficult aspect of a parent.
The most common conscious identity is of a good child pursuing some version of it’s ideal self that mimics the “ideal” qualities of one or both parents. Johnny strives to be a wealthy, intelligent, caring person like his mom and dad were. The most common unconscious or buried identities are the “bad” parts of the child parent relationship. They are a needy child paired up with an unavailable parent and an angry child who has turned against their needs paired up with a rejecting parent (Fairbairn). Mommy please help me, and I’m tough, I don’t need anybody’s help. I would add a collapsed child who has given up on relationship altogether paired up with nothing (Guntrip’s regressed ego), as well as, a fearful child paired up with a destroying other and a castrated/masochistic child paired up with a taking other.
Regardless of how we interpret the splits in personality, they are all identifications. We are usually identified in the child or subordinate role but occasionally take on the parents or superego role.
We focused on disengagement last week. Disengagement really means disidentification. If we stay engaged with our superego, either acquiescing or negotiating or counterattacking, we are actually staying identified, usually in the child’s role.
So how do we disidentify? Pushing those identities away, i.e. repressing them, doesn’t work. That just makes them stronger since they operate invisibly. We have to bring what’s going on to conscious awareness and recognize it. Then we have to disengage from the superego so we can see what’s going on. In other words, stop the attack. That was our focus last week.
We are taking disengagement to it’s conclusion this week. If we really want to make headway in permanently dissolving these internalized relationships we have to experience where they come from and who’s involved. Then notice that we have invested ourselves, cathected, those identities. Finally we have to ask ourselves, Are we really willing to let those relationships go? Remember they are not actually real relationships. They are imprints of relationships used as a map of how to get by. Still, each of those is an enormous step.
Let me make it clear that we can’t just cut them out. That would be like losing parts of ourselves. We have to actually bring those identities into consciousness while being willing to let go of those personas. This way we regain our life force. We are not just burying the problem children and antagonizing others. It’s kind of like bringing all parties involved to a round table where they meet each other take off their masks and become one self, one’s true self, one’s presence.
This can be disorienting because they have been our guides. They have been our map. They have been our very identity(S)! To actually be willing to let these guides go two things are needed. One is good current real relationships for support and, often, to learn simply how to relate. Secondly, we need contact with the qualities of our true nature, Strength, Compassion, Intelligence, and so on. With this external support and internal support our development resumes, not as fixed child parent identities, but as ourselves.
Remember these identities have been in operation for decades. It can take years, sometimes even decades, to dissolve them. Fortunately, even if our relationship blueprint is not fully dissolved, the more we are aware of our relationship blueprints the less restricted our actions are in any given moment. And some moments count more than others, like a job interview, or getting married, or a first date, or making love… or the moment now.