GOOD BREAST/BAD BREAST
This post is my summary and extension of Melanie Klein’s paranoid-schizoid and depressive positions. When we are born somebody cared for us. We didn’t understand that. All that was real for us was the holding, feeding, changing, and soothing.
We didn’t understand that we were babies. That we were one of billions of beings. That we were growing. We didn’t conceptualize anything to start. We just were.
In this early stage there is only 'food' and 'no food'. There is no 'making food' or 'finding food'. We are hungry, we cry, and food arrives (sooner or later).
There are two breasts: a good breast (that feeds) and a bad breast (that does not feed or turns away). There is no mother. Just objects in the world helping and not helping us. Soothing our nervous system and filling our stomachs. Leaving us hungry sometimes. (I mean this in a positive way - all babies cry sometimes because they are hungry - this isn’t neglect but inevitable frustration).
This is how it should be.
As time passes, we begin to resolve the black and white experience of infanthood. We realize that we have a primary caregiver (or two) - a whole being, separate from us, with whom we interact. And there are other beings, too. And there is the cat. And a tree. We begin to realize that we are part of an interrelated network that is the universe.
This happens if we are held through the pain of this development. We need to be allowed to struggle with our frustration and to have our needs met eventually if not immediately. When we are sure of warmth and sustenance and love we can handle the fact that it doesn’t always come to us immediately.
Most of us live somewhere on the continuum between black and white thinking and realization of our interconnectedness. Often, when we are hurt, we retreat to more infantile ways of perceiving.
If someone leaves us there is only us having been left. Even if conceptually we know it is more complicated than that we feel as if it is only us. Left.
All of this is physiological - our triggers are felt in our bodies.
When we feel that people are there to meet our needs we are falling back into an earlier developmental stage. Nothing wrong with that. But important to notice.
When we’re back in the “I’m not getting what I want” stage, we have to let ourselves be there. Healing is in the working through. It’s not in judgment.
By expressing our feelings of being left and allowing a different experience - allowing others to be with us even when the departed party is not - by learning to receive what is available to us from others, from ourselves, from the earth - we grow through our feeling of abandonment. Its time-consuming. And very subtle. But real.
And as we grow we come in touch with our unimportance. Our embededness. And those things - they’re crucial.
The ability to tolerate our unimportance as well as our importance - in healthy rather than triggered ways - is work to heal much that is wrong in the world.