julie reshe. INTIMACY AS TRAUMA

Julie Reshe, PhD

Julie Reshe, PhD, states that no person is entirely self-sufficient, would not need support, would not be traumatized by the people closest to her and would not be in dominant relations. Why is a self-sufficient, independent and untraumatized personality a harmful myth?

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The mother of the boy with severe genetic abnormalities shared her story. Learning that her son cannot speak and will never become independent, she began to lead an isolated way of life, avoiding other parents and not allowing her son to talk with one-year-olds. She could barely listen to parents’ stories about the successes of their children and be seeing her child next to “normal” children, one of whom he would never become. Moreover, it seemed to her that her son could not socialize and would always be an outcast.

Having dealt with the shock state in solitude, she nevertheless decided to try to lead a more social way of life. Now she is happy with this decision because her son has friends. Without restraining her tears, she tells that his best friend — a boy without genetic deviations — offers her son to pull him by the hair and pretends that he likes it because his best friend is having fun. One day she saw a friend of her son, thinking that he was alone with him, took a napkin and wiped the saliva from his face, remembering that his mother usually does so.

Intuitively such example of friendship is associated with the epithet “real.” It is strange that when it comes to the relationship between two people without genetic deviations, this intuition does not work. Positive psychology as the ideal of relations promotes communication of self-sufficient personalities, not causing them discomfort. The only problem is that a self-sufficient person is a myth. Even under the condition of absence of genetic deviations, any person is a set of all kinds of other types of deviations. For example, does not the boy with plain weirdness, who has chosen himself as his best friend, someone who needs his saliva to be wiped from his face? Since the self-sufficient person is an invention, there are no such relations, the participants of which would be entirely self-sufficient.

Recently, there are more and more tests in the network suggesting whether the person is in a dominant relationship. The most advanced of the tests, following the modern emancipatory tendencies, are recommended to leave the relationship in case the result of the text is affirmative. The catch here is that many of the questions from such tests can also be considered a test, whether you are in a relationship at all. Moreover, not only close relations but even any fruitful dialogue can be considered a dominant relationship, because each of its participants justifies their position, trying to “impose” it on its interlocutor. If the interlocutor is open to dialogue, he can listen to the arguments of the other and change his position, thereby becoming a victim of “domination.”

To describe the friendship of the mentioned boys, the term “dominant relations” also fits. Moreover, each of the friends can be considered as the one who dominates. A boy with genetic abnormalities, being dependent, needs the support of a friend and can not answer him the same — to be friends with such a child inevitably means to be used by him. Whereas his best friend is forced to treat him as less independent than himself and, accordingly, as to the one who he takes care of.

***

With the prescription to avoid dominant relations, another prescription of positive psychology is associated — to avoid any traumatic situations, including those that suggest traumatization. But are close relationships possible, the participants of which do not hurt each other?

In his essay, “Emma” Lyotard is developing an extraordinary philosophical image of the child.

He interprets childhood as an initial receptivity and predisposition to traumatization. Childhood, according to Lyotar, does not end with the onset of adulthood, it remains in adulthood as a vulnerability. Thus, childhood is a constitutive part of adult life, manifested in situations where an adult feels defenseless and open to traumatization.

The inner child in Lyotard’s philosophy radically differs from the concept of the inner child offered by positive psychology. The latter urges an adult to heal his inner child, while the inner child in Lyotard’s philosophy is essentially incurable, more than that, it symbolizes something opposite to any healing and therapy; he is traumatism itself, the presence of which is a condition of any close relations. According to Lyotard, love is possible only when adults resort to the initial potential of traumatization, in other words, “love exists only insofar as adults assume themselves as children.” Proximity is manifested as defenselessness before another and, accordingly, openness for traumatization.

***

Not only is the experience of close relationships with necessity a traumatic one, but also any process of acquiring any other significant life experience. According to Freud, in the process of development, trauma is inevitable. Drawing a parallel between physical trauma and mental trauma, he argued that “a psychic trauma or the memory of it acts like an alien body that, after penetrating inside, remains an active factor for a long time.” Thus, trauma is the result of the presence of an alien body that cannot be accumulated by the body. In the case of psychological trauma, an analogue of an alien body is a new experience, because it is by definition different from the old, that is, already available in the individual experience, and therefore is alien to it, and therefore can not painlessly merge with it into a single whole.

It is astonishing that traumatic experience is usually remembered with regret, as something that could be avoided. Such thinking loses sight of the fact that if from the early childhood a person would not be regularly injured by the new environment, she would not even have learned to walk.

I do not know who benefits and why the myth of the possibility of a self-sufficient, independent and untraumatized person is so widespread. I have not yet met a person who was entirely self-sufficient, would not need support, would not be traumatized by the people closest to him and would not be in a dominant relationship.

Don’t get me wrong, I am for equality, but for equality of people, understood as a mash of deviations, strangeness, trauma, lack of independence and inadequacy, and not for equality of self-sufficient untraumatized personalities. Simply because the latter is incompatible with reality and therefore a dangerous myth.

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translated from Russian by Anna Novikova

Julie Reshe, PhD

Written by

▪️ Professor of Philosophy (Global Center for Advanced Studies) ▪️ director of GCAS Institute of Psychoanalysis ▪️ Necropsychotherapist ▪️ Online Counseling

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