“Trauma in youth becomes attraction in adulthood.” ~ Zach Rosenberg
“You will notice that what we are aiming at when we fall in love is a very strange paradox. The paradox consists of the fact that, when we fall in love, we are seeking to re-find all or some of the people to whom we were attached as children. On the other hand, we ask our beloved to correct all of the wrongs that these early parents or siblings inflicted upon us. So that love contains in it the contradiction: The attempt to return to the past and the attempt to undo the past.”
~ from Woody Allen’s "Crimes & Misdemeanors"
Sometimes we do the “work” of relationship with a flesh-and-blood Other, and sometimes it’s an inside job. Because I saw that my attraction to “Mike” (see Part I for the back-story) was a reenactment of my past wounding, I realized (painfully) that to stay engaged with him would not be a good thing for me.
That left me with the “inside job.” My dear friend, Kim Allouche, a New York therapist, has known me for decades. She pointed out that in the past when I’d been disappointed in love, my focus was on the Other. What were his motives? How could he do that to me? How wrong and screwed up he was. What I was unable to do for a very long time was to see that whatever he was up to and why, I was susceptible and receptive to this type of allurement and I said yes to the invitation. Not seeing that it was my choice (as an adult) kept me in the victim role, the passive recipient of what someone had done to me versus a truer picture: that I was an active and willing participant in what had gone on, unconscious as it was.
What Kim noticed this time around was that I was focused on myself: Why am in this situation, with this person? What am I doing here? I started to understand just how much of a reenactment it was. With Mike, there was a certain felt-sense that was very familiar. He seemed to offer a sense of merger (promise of "oneness") with me that felt similar to other, older Pied Pipers who had shown up when I was very young.
This time I didn’t make Mike bad and wrong, nor did I make myself bad and wrong. I stopped pointing a finger at myself or at the Other ~ new behavior for me.
My psyche really stepped up to the task by providing lots of dreams about Mike, one of which featured the Pied Piper. The dictionary refers to a Pied Piper as “someone who offers strong yet delusive enticements.”
In the fairy tale, the Pied Piper was hired by the mayor to rid his town of its rats. The Piper did so, but the townspeople refused to pay him. In revenge, he played his flute and lured all the children of the village away to a cave, never to be seen or heard from again.
I can see how the Pied Piper appeared very early in my life, as the magical Other who seemed to promise meaning, goodness, wholeness, who would take away my pain and loneliness (both psychological and existential), and ~ even more magically ~ with whom I would remain my idealized, perfect self always.
Part of my process of divesting the Piper of his power over me is to understand his origins, come to terms with the delusive nature of his enticements, and hardest of all, mourn him. That which I so longed for with this particular archetype in the flesh was never a real possibility, nor will it be in the future. As Anais Nin wrote, “Everyday the real caress must replace the ghostly lover.” The fantasy must be mourned so that a newer reality can emerge.
What the Pied Piper also did was rob these children of their childhood; the other part of my grieving process is to mourn the precocious loss of my childhood.
On a lighter note, there’s another part to this relationship work. I loved Mike’s humor, spontaneity, impulsiveness, sense of fun and adventure, aliveness. In truth, these are all aspects that are less developed in myself. There is a finger pointing here, but it’s not in judgment. It points to what I could cultivate in myself so that I don’t need to annex it from others.