Psychic Space vs. Psychic Intrusion

“But sometimes your light attracts moths and your warmth attracts parasites. Protect your space and energy.” Warsan Shire

Psychic space is about that which affects the psyche. Psyche is defined as our soul, mind, or spirit. Psychic space is an absolute human necessity, a lifeblood for mental health. Psychic space boils down to boundaries that protect our psyches from other people’s psyches. These psychic boundaries allow us to have a mental identity and dignity because they confirm our separateness from the other. Psychic space is an ego boundary, an internal strength, where a person is allowed guardianship of their inner space and life.

The use of these words may provoke an apprehension, or craved distance for the very linear or rigid thinker. It’s outside of their social norms to talk about this so there might be a tendency to back up. There can be the assumption with this language that we’re dealing in esoterics. While much empirical, scientific data undergirds the reality of these aspects of our personas, I still notice upon using the language ‘Psychic Space’ in my practice, I often will need to define its connotation. After explaining the reference, I will get the distant nod communicating a remote understanding, or rather a sort of inner recognition of something they know on deep soul level but it hasn’t quite made it up to full cognitive awareness. When the person’s true thoughts/ideas/emotions are “leaked” to me, they appear on the left side of their face where our emotions are held. These flickers on the left show me whether; the client is either operating from a very depleted amount of psychic space, or it is a concept that will require a great deal of further growth. Either way, I hold my hunches lightly, often not sharing what I’ve observed, but I file that in my mind as an aspect of where they might be in their mind development and where that might take us in our future work.

If we were not allowed this type of space for mind development during early attachment formation, we enter adulthood with an immature mind that will threaten our integrity and identity. It will be an adolescent mind in many respects. Psychic space is what the parent allows at the proper time for the infant to realize, while the infant is still dependent, that the parent and infant are separate beings (at approximately 7–12 months). This plays out in infancy with examples like; when the parent leaves the room, the infant has the confidence that the parent will return. They are now two subjects relating to one another versus the child being the only object in his/her own world. This mind development (which is different than brain development) continues as the child grows as parent allows child opportunities to try things without interference from the parent. Unhealthy interference (psychic intrusion) from the parent will look and feel like a barrage of words/do’s/don’ts/hyper-awareness/intrusion in their thought life so they don’t have the “psychic space” to create an idea or thought about a situation before the parent intrudes injecting their ideas/parents expectations are felt regarding desired child responses-acceptable responses/lack of parental attunement to child’s intended cue/a misreading of hoped for communication by the child/parent pushing their idea of how child should be or become rather than parent learning who child is and fostering growth via the cues of the child. Mind development is about having the room (Psychic Space) to test our thoughts to determine if they guide us well. If we haven’t been trusted to grow this confidence in our own thoughts, we miss this crucial stage of mind development which is what creates a sturdiness of self in adulthood. If a parent doesn’t communicate their criticisms orally about child’s ability but rather silently contemplates them, a child will pick-up on these thoughts symbiotically, via body language cues, and internalize these doubts as their own and as being true. The message then becomes that their thoughts, mind, and intuition are not worthy guides, and an over-dependence on parent will build. An adult with an under developed mind will possess an over dependence on their offspring or partner for pleasure, acceptance, approval, safety, expectations, provision, adulting. Psychic intrusion leaves child or adult exhausted, bored, irritated, stressed, anxious, threatened, overwhelmed or depressed.

When dealing with someone with insufficient psychological maturation, they might show up as self-protective, defensive, withhold from risks, inability to apologize and take ownership of what is theirs to own and what isn’t (therefore projection), not respect another’s boundaries, judge the boundaries others have set/don a persona of over self-importance/or always needing to be at the center with wit, charm, magnetism, talent.

The hallmark of healthy relationships in parent-offspring, friendships, or partnerships is mutuality and the understanding that no one is fused to another. We are allowed our own thoughts, and our own physical and psychic space to make choices, and to adequately hear our own voice which is where we get back in touch with, and hear our desires accurately. There should be a sense of a lack of imposition or expected outcome from the other. It is within these contexts that we have the freedom to choose or keep choosing who we want to have within our lives. To be in the company of someone who honors psychic space is to feel at ease, and living at a pace that is congruent with our insides. Psychic stability is to have a solid understanding of yourself in relation to the world.

Psychotherapist * Founding Member and Monthly Writing Contributor for @forwomenwhoroar * Memoir “Split” in Progress

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