I had a psychotherapy session on Monday June 5, 2017. I discussed the material in the following blog post. I talked about my two dreams about Craig. It was all new material.
At the conclusion of my discussion my therapist said, “It comes down once again to your feelings of engulfment about me.” She seemed to filter out all the new material. Maybe it overwhelmed her and she needed to simplify.
Out of curiosity I went back to my the list of symptoms that I gave to the therapist at my first session in April. I indicate on the list which symptoms are related to engulfment and which are not. For the most part my symptoms are not rooted in fears of engulfment.
1. I was the scapegoat in a dysfunctional, disturbed family that featured emotional and physical abuse.
The scapegoating in my family was not directly related to the issue of maternal engulfment.
2. I tend to be the scapegoat in groups. I become the target of warded off aggressive and libidinal impulses of the group.
The scapegoating in groups may be directly related to maternal engulfment. My fear of engulfment may impair my ability to participate in group process.
3. I have a high level of subjective psychological distress. I ruminate obsessively on my past.
Obsessive rumination about the past may be a symptom of trauma, not maternal engulfment.
4. I have low hedonic capacity. I do not experience pleasure.
Low hedonic capacity is not a direct result of engulfment.
5. I have a lifelong history of social withdrawal and isolation. I show schizoid detachment, consistent with have had a cold, emotionally unresponsive mother.
Schizoid detachment may reflect my relationship an emotionally cold, unempathic mother not engulfment. However, schizoid detachment can be associated with a mother who vacillates between engulfment and lack of interest.
6. I dismiss the value of relationships, consistent with avoidant disorder. Avoidant disorder is associated with having had a rejecting mother.
Avoidant disorder is often a response to a rejecting mother, not an engulfing mother.
7. I show a tendency toward intense, primitive idealization. According to Salman Akhtar (Jefferson University) omnipotence, denial, and idealization are the three constituents of manic defense. Winnicott noted that the use of manic defense is typical of individuals who dread sadness and are unable to mourn.
Idealization as a manic defense does not appear to be related to engulfment. However, idealization as a defense against maternal engulfment does raise the issue of engulfment. According to Kohut a child with absent, neglectful, or inconsistent caregivers who do not adequately mirror the child may foster the development of an adult who is mirror hungry and seeks out others to facilitate a feeling of being special.
8. I live in a fantasy world. I seem to prefer fantasy to reality.
Fantasy is not necessarily a response to engulfment, except to the extent the schizoid spends his mental time with an active fantasy life as a substitute for contact because of a fear of engulfment.
9. Psychological testing disclosed serious, if not severe, character pathology. The test results confirmed the experience of scapegoating and abuse (i.e., elevations on the Family Discord and Social Alienation Scale for Schizophrenia on the MMPI).
My severe character pathology is not in total a response to engulfment.
Notwithstanding my character pathology, clinical examination shows a competent, mature, emotionally regulated presentation, consistent with “disguised presentation.” Disguised presentation is found typically in trauma survivors.
10. I have a lifelong history of dysthymia (characterological depression) and anxiety.
Dysthymia and anxiety do not appear to be a direct result of engulfment.
11. I struggle with intense feelings of alienation. I feel as if I am like no one else in the world. This is the flip side of my idealization. I idealize those few people who mirror me.
Feelings of alienation can be a result of abuse. To the extent that my feelings of alienation are the flip side of my idealization, there may be a tie-in to the issue of engulfment.