THE CALAMITIES OF CHILDHOOD
This post was prompted by the follow Daily Post Challenge. “Life is one after another. Do you remember your first loss? For many people around the world this is a complicated, if not emotional, anniversary. To keep things simple and open to your own point of view, please remember something important you’ve lost that you want to remember and think about. And write about what you chose and why.”
I am going to write about 9/11. On that morning the first plane crashed into the tower as I was driving to work; it was a beautiful, clear, crisp day. I was on the Hutchinson Parkway heading toward the Bronx from Westchester County. I was listening to the news and when I heard on the news that a plane had hit one of the World Trade Center Towers; I stopped and called my husband. He was watching the news. We assumed it was a tragic accident. This thought was probably prompted by memories of when a plane it the Empire State Building.
I continued on to work. A few minutes later I reached a point on the Bruckner Expressway, where one could see most of New York City laid out before you. So I saw the first tower burning. By the time I had parked and entered my office, the second plane had hit and it was clear to me, we were at war.
At the time, I directed a Family and Children’s Mental Health Crisis Team and my 9/11 day was spent dealing with the chaos created among my staff and in the surrounding community at large. We were a state funded program; a state official was visiting the agency. He asked me to help set up a help line and we were one of the first such lines. A useless gesture as there was nothing a help line could do, but it kept us busy.
The official was afraid to take a train back to his home upstate, so David and I drove him halfway to Albany where his wife picked him up. Driving back toward the city was eerie. Trucks blocked from entering the city lined the Thruway; very few cars were going our way; occasionally, an ambulance or fire truck flashed by us, sirens blaring and lights blazing. Most upsetting was the orange sky hovering over the city and the faint whiffs of smoke.
Only when I got home around twelve that night and my husband turned on the TV, did I see the Towers fall. I could not watch; I cannot watch the rebroadcasts. My sons both flew in from the west coast as soon as they could and both headed down to see the destruction. It would be three years before, I let myself go there.
Charles Brenner, a Freudian analyst, names four types of loss. He calls them the Calamities of Childhood. Here they are:.
- Loss of Object. Think of Linus sitting in front of the dryer waiting for his blanket to dry. I still regret that before I went off to college I felt compelled to trash my baby pillow. How I loved that little feathered thing. I have spent the time since trying to find a pillow that has just the right amount of softness and regretting what I did to myself. We lost much more when the towers came down. After the towers came down, when I would drive to my work, I would look for them in the skyline. I hadn’t loved them, but the object loss was great.
- Loss of Love. That often comes with the capacity to think about various alternatives. An adopted child might accept the adoptive parents story that their mothers placed them out of love. The changing thought processes of adolescence focus the adopted child on the fact that many mothers do not place children and question their parents love. My mother was emotionally abusive, but I never questioned my father’s love until in late adolescence it occurred to me that he allowed the abuse. Loss of love. When the towers fell, with it went a lose of love and that loss was replaced with a keen sense that people out there hated us.
- Castration Anxiety. (Brenner was very Freudian.) Castration is thought by Freudian analysts to be the final punishment for one’s bad deeds or thoughts, so I term this one Loss of the Good Self. The towers fell and one of the loses was of our good selves. Not only were we hated, but many, many people were eager to tell us how bad we were and how deserving of punishment. The voices still go on and on, telling us the World Trade Center Towers fell because of our actions.
- Penis Envy. Something according to Brenner, women and men experience; boys that their Daddy’s is bigger and owns Mommy; girls that they don’t have one. I term this Loss of Mastery.I think of womb envy; when a man who can’t get it up or eventually loses that capacity he suffers from both Castration Anxiety, Penis Envy, Womb Envy and loss of the ability to master his body. The fall of the towers was a loss of mastery, others had been able to wreck us. We were powerless to rescue many, and the rescuers became second line victims.
STAYING STRONG TIPS
The major question is how do we survive these calamities that are part of life. That is large part of what Emotional Fitness is all about, strengthening the ability to endure and go on when sad, bad, or mad feelings visit. I have managed to keep moving fotward by “recognizing the lose; allowing the hurt; taking good care of myself physically while I heal emotionally; doing the best I can to continue to do what keeps me strong: combating negative voices saying I deserve punishment; looking for lessons; remembering what matters; forgiving myself and others, and practicing my 12 Daily Emotional Fitness Exercises. Usually I do well, but it is never easy.
Share, care, and stay strong.
IMAGE BY: Sunday Mercury