January 18, 2006

Page 12

While each person is different in details, the broad sketches of how people
normally progress from infancy to maturity are fairly clear. The stages are
well-known and well-documented. While each stage is important, some of the
earliest stages are the most critical.

When a child is two years of age, they haven't yet developed the sense of
self, what some writers call the "analog I." In the normal course of
development, the child begins to become aware that the parent is separate from
the child, and over time comes to a full understanding of what it means and
becomes reconciled to separateness. Kindergarten normally starts around the
time that this process reaches the point where the child can tolerate being
away from their parent for half a day.

During the course of this process, there is a point, normally around the age
of three, where the child is in full rebellion against the realization that
the parent is separate from them. This is completely typical and normally it
ends within a year or two.

Psychologists have a lot of names for the situation where this normal
maturational process has become derailed. The names reflect which stage went
awry, or what particular feature of the person, usually an adult by this
point, is dominant. The names are of different personality disorders, such as
Borderline Personality Disorder, Narcissistic Personality Disorder, and
Antisocial Personality Disorder. These names just differentiate among
situations in which the person under discussion has a blurring between self
and non-self and the degree to which the person acts on that blurriness.

Basically, what happens is that the child becomes stuck at this point, and
grows up into an adult whose basic personality is that of a three year old
child. They won't be retarded in the typical sense - they'll have language
and intellect appropriate to their chronological age - but their motivational
and belief system is that of a three-year-old. They will have the verbal
ability and experience of an adult and they will put it into the service of
fulfilling the needs of a child who wishes to be in a state of union with the
parental figure. When they enter into relationships, they aren't looking to
have a mutually supporting and nurturing relationship between two equal
partners who are facing the world together and finding joy in the alignment of
goals, objectives, skills and abilities. These people, these emotionally
stalled adults, are looking to recreate a specific situation in which they are
the child again and the partner is the parent, and the parent is in service to
the needs of the child. Not only is the parent figure in service, but the
partner/parent must not have needs of their own that go against the needs of
the child. If the partner has the nerve to have a need of his or her own, the
broken person flies into a rage, just as the toddler rages when he or she
realizes that the parent is a separate person. Each time the partner diverges
from the image the disordered person has, the disordered person relives the
experience of the three-year-old and behaves just as rationally.

Few normal adults would willingly seek to have a romantic or marital
relationship with a three year old. However, the people who have these sorts
of disorders have become skilled at getting their needs met, and at the age of
three, the moral sense has not developed, so they have no moral inhibition
against doing whatever they deem necessary. This is why what we call
antisocial personality disorder (or sociopathy) is frequently present along
with the other features of this disorder. Like most diagnoses, sociopathy
must rise to a certain level before being considered clinical, but even when
it's not at that level, it is almost always at the sub-clinical level.

When people have a good social support and family structure, the people around
them help them steer clear of individuals with disorders like the above.
There are times, though, where what happens is that the disordered person is
able to co-opt their target's friends or family, or drive away some or all of
the support structure. At other times, their target doesn't have much
structure - they've moved or otherwise pulled themselves out of their
structure, one or more family members die, or other events leave them
vulnerable. When these things happen, the disordered person may be able to
establish themselves in their target's life in such a fashion that, even
though the target may be fairly healthy, they become embedded in a sick
situation and find themselves being supported only in becoming emotionally

Posted by scott at January 18, 2006 03:26 PM