the role of the analyst

Regarding the post I wrote yesterday, about my mother, I have to wonder. People keep other people emotionally captive, but it often works both ways — people keep themselves captive to others, as well.

A couple of days ago I dreamed of someone who was my girlfriend for a few years many years ago. I dream about her all the time, so she clearly absolves a rather critical symbolic function in my mind. I have dreamed about her for decades. I haven’t seen her in decades. There have been stretches of months in which I dreamed about her every night. All these dreams are consistently torturous and nightmarish.

But this is besides the point. The point here is that, later that day, I found myself making a thought experiment I make all the time these days. What if I felt so at peace with my sexuality that I decided to live with a woman instead of with my husband?

This prospect is terrifying to me on about sixty-seven fronts, but the one front I had in mind in that moment was, “How can I do this to him?”

But this is besides the point. The point here is that, on that day, I also thought of that long-ago yet so present girlfriend and thought, “How can I do this to her?”

Once I realized that this is what I was thinking I had to be blown out of the water. And I was. This is a person I haven’t seen in decades! She is married! I don’t owe her anything.

And yet, I feel I owe her the world.

Which brings me to my mom. Is she holding me hostage or am I holding myself hostage to her? Does she consider me her savior or do I consider myself her savior? Of course these two options are not mutually exclusive, nor are they exclusive of a number of other options. But this is a thing I learned in the process of doing psychoanalysis. You can’t fix these dynamics through sheer self-understanding, or sheer willpower, or sheer anything. You have to let the structures that keep you captive be dug out of the foundations that hold you up and gently, be lovingly dusted up, looked at, readjusted, maybe reassembled. And you can’t do it on your own. All this dusting up and readjusting must be done with another.

This is the myth that is holding so many of us truly hostage: that we are supposed to fix ourselves, become better persons, on our own, through sheer determination. Why have we created this poisonous fiction? Why are we all so terribly wedded to it?

Art by Mark Spain