The overhead projector is making its electric sound from above my head, spitting out black letters on a white board. The theme is affect integration in psychotherapy, the Ph.D. Project of my colleague, Nils. He’s moving to Oslo very soon, leaving us others behind in the small place where I now have worked for two years. It’s Tuesday morning, and we always have some presentation then. Last Tuesday I was in the spotlight, talking about trauma and the treatment of it.
Psychology, like other sciences, have a lot of jargon that sometimes need explaining. On of these expression is what I will write about now, which also is what Nils I talking about. Integration. It’s really not an especially pretty word, it gives associations to the sounds produced when you drag some item over a blackboard. It’s not like the pretty Italian words, rolling around in the mouth and room like it belongs there, caressing the target. But it’s not always the pretty things that matter the most, sometimes the glitter and glamour is just that, with no depth or meaning. Integration is so much more than that, when you scratch the surface its real beauty comes alive.
Two threads are not necessarily pretty themselves. One white, and one black on are just that, naked in their aloneness, longing for a partner. It’s first when they get twined together, the whiteness surrounding the dark places, that it comes alive. Think about the yin and yang. What would it be if not the other color stood by it? What would the magic scene of schindlers list, where the redness screams for attention in an otherwise colorless movie, be without the grayness? This is, as I see it, an example of integration, where the whole is more and better than its parts. It’s like making good food, the ingredient in themselves doesn’t make the mouth water, it’s the combination that gives extra flavor and meaning.
With a lot of real life problems, this also applies. It’s the people comfortable in their own skin, accepting their natural tendencies and integrating it with society, that feel complete. If a puzzle is not put together in the way it’s meant, the result won’t be right. Fitting the wrong piece into the puzzle, doesn’t work. For a human this could be inhibiting natural tendencies like joy and sadness, because the integration of preferences and logic, doesn’t combine. It’s like trying to shape someone into what you want them to be, but no matter what, the picture will not be anything else than what it was supposed to be. If forced long enough, the person will try to keep the picture together, using superglue on those pieces that doesn’t slide together naturally. It’s some integration, but not the one meant to be.
In my work I see this every day: People want to feel joy, but shame stops it from surfacing, boys want to laugh and talk, but the thoughts of somebody disliking them, abort the tendency of fun in its first trimester. It’s even more noticeable after trauma, when a lot of different roles develop that make them follow a script, often without vigor or satisfaction. It’s memories kept away, true selves locked in closed boxes and lives never lived. It always pains me to watch this in reality: The wonderful woman, who carries Everyone else’s weight in addition to her own, the man in a destructive relationship who thinks he doesn’t have the right to be happy, or the child quenching her own happiness because she doesn’t dare to laugh in a house full of gloom. The feelings, needs and tendencies, doesn’t fit into the picture someone’s trying to make, and therefore they are hidden, forgotten or forced into the wrong part, since it has to go somewhere. This is the point when the integrated system break down, where fast solutions have to be executed to compensate for the losses and keeping the organism functioning in some way. It’s when the flower shreds some petals to keep from being blown over by harsh weather, and like the bee delivering the deadly sting to protect its queen. Who of us hasn’t experienced being defensive, destruction the very same things we really longed for?
Hopefully it’s never too late. Even when a completed picture has scratches and left-overs from glue for the sake of getting everything right for the second time, the picture can still be pretty and important. Isn’t it a fact that it’s the worn and torn pics on a scrapbook page we fall for. The old photos that tell a history of a life lived? I believe in integration. In putting pieces where they belong, even when they weren’t right the first time. I think that each time we let somebody just be, whoever they are, we are helping them patch up the wrongs, and even adding the little extra that self-confident people spread without knowing it. We are all small saviors, plucking harmony and tolerance and watering others with it.
- Your Map of Reality Was Written in the Womb: Falls from Grace, Chapter One – Prenatal and Perinatal Psychology and the Phenomenon of Re-Experience (apocalypseknow.wordpress.com)