What it Feels Like to be a Baby Left Alone Too Long

Saturday, September 23

This is what I wrote in my journal this morning.  Friday morning is when I have a phone appointment with Erica, because she is in Keene.

Woke up feeling painfully isolated.  I usually say “lonely” but I don’t think lonely is the right word for this morning.  Lonely is when you are aware that other people exist, they just are not with you.  You can feel lonely in a crowd, that means you are not connected.  I guess that’s really what lonely is, not feeling connected to anyone.  What I’m feeling is that there are no other people in the world.  I think this is a baby before object constancy, when Mother is not in the room.

Talking to Erica on the phone, how I experienced her as very far away.  I said I was trying to crawl to her.  “… set myself to cover the distance.”  Can’t remember where that quote is from.  It carries the sense of the person’s difficulty in moving, and their determination and intention to get there.  Then I realized that I can’t go to her, I need someone to come and rescue me.  But no one will come because no one wants me.  So it’s very painful to even become aware of that need.

In our conversation she would ask “What are you aware of?”  Then I could pay attention to my butt on the couch, my feet on the floor, etc.  I noticed that my toes were curling and uncurling.  I asked if  a baby does that and she said yes.  She said maybe I was looking for something soft, so I put a fleece blanket on the floor, and pressed my feet into it.  Then I noticed how the cushion at my back was rounded to accept my weight.  This is an experience I’ve had in S.E. where sometimes the world curves to receive me.

What am I aware of now?  My butt on the couch, my feet on the cushion on the floor, the warmth of the dog.  The colors of the trees outside my windows, the sun sneaking in behind.  Hot tea.  There’s also a pain in my heart.  I think about the babies whose nurses were forbidden to talk to them.  Some emperor wanted to find out what language Adam and Eve spoke.  But the babies all died of lack of connection.

O yes, forgot, while I was talking to Erica and putting the blanket under my feet, I picked up Kiddo, who’s been here on the couch with the little rescue dog who still has no name.  I picked her up and hugged her, and continued to hug hard after I hung up.  She doesn’t feel like a baby, she feels like someone I can hold on to for reassurance.

Thinking about times when I was rescued: the Black maid, Herman, and Rose Marie.  Rose Marie flew across the country because she could tell I was in trouble.  That’s absolutely staggering to me now.  I think I was unable to take it in fully when it happened.  I could not believe that I mattered that much.

I also was imagining Erica’s constant, detailed, positive feedback, and suddenly saw it from the side of a person looking at a small child as another manifestation of God.

Notes:  “Object constancy” is something a baby doesn’t acquire until between 18 and 24 months.  It’s when you know that even though you can’t see mother, she still exists.  Before object constancy, if something isn’t visible, it doesn’t exist.

In Somatic Experiencing this exercise, of paying attention to your physical body in the present, is called “resourcing.”  It doesn’t work to try to remember anything about your trauma unless you are resourced.

For “language deprivation experiments,” see Wikipedia.

“Kiddo” is a doll I made of cloth for a workshop in Children of Alcoholics.  She is about 18” tall, with a sweet face that is also full of confidence.  when I introduced her to the group, she popped up and said “I’m very intelligent.”

The story of the Black maid and Herman

I realized later that my friend Rose Marie actually flew from NYC to Burlington and rented a car to drive to Franconia.  She’s been living in Seattle for the last 20 years, so that’s where I imagined she had come from.  I think my mind changed the distance to help me appreciate what she’d done for me.

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