Object Constancy – Are you still alive?

The definition of object constancy, according to one of my favourite sites for C-PTSD is “An inability to remember that people or objects are consistent, trustworthy and reliable, especially when they are out of your immediate field of vision

As I understand it, a lack of object constancy is a result of insecure attachments to caregivers when we are young. It means that those who suffer from a lack of object constancy are kinda stuck at that development stage, having never successfully managed to pass through it.  At that age (about 2 or 3), when your caregivers leave, you are naturally frightened, sad and worried that they will be gone forever, but with any luck, you have a decent caregiver who models to you time and time again, that they will return and so you manage to learn that you don’t need to worry – that said caregiver is still “there” somewhere and will return.  You learn to self-sooth and use your internalized image until they return to comfort you again. You gain “object constancy”.

Unfortunately when you don’t have a decent caregiver like moi, you don’t learn that and so when someone isn’t around, you still feel those infantile feelings of abandonment, panic, fear and/or anger and you begin to question whether that relationship even exists anymore. This is what causes the panic, the clinginess, the jealousy and can drive our partners crazy.  It is what makes us feel “needy” when we compare ourselves to others who don’t suffer from a lack of object constancy. Having a lack of object constancy makes us insecure – literally.  For example, if my boyfriend is out and doesn’t contact me all day – I won’t automatically think that he is just busy and will contact me later.  No, obviously he doesn’t love me anymore, is planning to leave me or worse – is dead!! Dramatic isn’t it?

Learning about this has really helped me because now when I get these feelings and thoughts, the adult part of me can (try to) calm myself down. Easier said than done I must say, just see Emotional Flashback? for proof that I can’t think my way out of the feelings, but it does help to understand that I’m not “crazy”. God how hard I used to try to be “casual” and “calm” in relationships – I tried so hard to be the laid back girlfriend that boys wanted but eventually my true colours would come glaring out – usually after a few vinos and that was not a pretty sight believe me!!   The worst thing about this is that when I eventually unleashed the crazy, it was the beginning of the end in my relationships and so my worst fears would then be realised – da daaaaaa!! It’s a wonder I’m in therapy isn’t it?laid-back-gf

Anyway, I’ve been thinking today about all this object constancy stuff in relation to this therapy break… I think this explains a lot for me. It explains why I felt so awful on Monday. She was gone physically so to me, having a lack of object constancy, she was gone forever. That brought all my feelings of panic, abandonment, terror and grief flooding back.  I’ve since calmed down because I can reasonably talk myself down to a degree, knowing that she will be back, just like she has every single time before.  The logical stuff can work to a degree, but poor Little Twink, she couldn’t rationalise that way could she?  She didn’t have a good role model like T showing her this stuff and she didn’t have a “good enough mother” either.

I guess that the fact I can’t “hold someone in mind” positively for very long is probably why I assume nobody can hold me in mind either?  That would make sense.  Clearly I am painting everyone with the same brush!! I did think this morning that Monday was particularly awful but since then I’ve been okay. I don’t know if I’ve just gone into “self-sufficient mode” because I’ve repressed any feelings since or whether I’ve genuinely been able to calm myself down enough with this logical thinking (or if that is even how it works?).  I also thought that although I’m okay, I am looking forward to next Tuesday and that I would absolutely hate it if I no longer had therapy with her anymore.  I also admit (cringing) that it does feel like she is no longer alive when she isn’t here… and that I will be anxious when I wake up on Tuesday – what I am nervous of I have absolutely no idea!!

This is another one of those things that I knew already – but know a bit more today.

T is re-parenting me by constantly showing me that she will return – like, I guess, most people will in this world. …..Just not my mother.

teddy-bear

 

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29 thoughts on “Object Constancy – Are you still alive?

  1. I don’t have object constancy either and usually I’d be seeing my therapist today but it’s the school holidays so she’s off. I feel awful and grieve for her…not rationally thinking I’ll never see her again, but thinking how will I cope alone for another week. It’s an absolute bugger 😦 My husband is out food shopping and I feel dissociated and uneasy until he comes back.

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  2. Great post! I can so relate to this. I’m always worried that my therapist will come back from vacation or wherever she went and not be the same person. Like she’ll change completely and won’t want to work with me anymore. Irrational damn fears. I also don’t like the idea that she has other clients. I want to be her only, or if not only, then her favourite. I told her a few months back that I’m scared I get replaced by another client. But thankfully, she assured me that it wouldn’t happen and that she’ll always make time for me. So I guess she is “re-parenting” me as you mentioned in your post. Obviously we can’t change the past, and neither can our therapists, but they can help us build those neccesary skills that we didn’t get a chance to learn.

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    1. I totally understand how you feel and I feel exactly the same! My T said the other week “you don’t make me do all the work” and inside I was jumping for joy but outside I was like, yeah whatever! So i totally get that. At Xmas there was a Xmas card on a shelf and I saw it and thought who is that?! Haha X

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  3. This is a great post! I know I have attachment issues but hadn’t thought about it in this way before. I don’t have these feelings with my therapist, but I do with my husband and kids, and my friends too, I guess. My thoughts mostly revolve around things like, “Well it’s true, just like I always knew, they don’t really care about me at all. I’m completely worthless and unloved.” Most of the time I’m completely wrong, however, some of the ‘friends’ have left. But, I’m learning that the reasons that they left are about them, not me (which is hard for me to believe). Thanks for posting and giving me a different way to think about attachment. ❤

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    1. Oh what a wonderful comment to wake up to! Thank you so much for taking the time to say that. This is exactly the reason I started this blog to hope it helped others as much as myself! Maybe google a bit about object constancy. I never used to have this with my T until now but I think that’s because I’ve only just started to accept how much she means to me and try to depend on her which is scary. Maybe you’re the same. Maybe not. Either way. Please don’t ever think you’re worthless – no one is and you’re certainly not. We’ve just been dealt a shit hand and need to help ourselves recover now we can.

      One other thing, my T keeps trying to explain to me that because I constantly attract the same type of people (narcissists and avoidantly attached people) that “message” of not being any good is proven – she keeps telling me that not everyone is like that and explains repetition compulsion (another post) which might also help you?

      Xx

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      1. You are so sweet. Thank you for posting! I have found so much support and connection on here, it’s wonderful. I have made a lot of progress with the ‘worthless’ stuff, but it still definitely pushes it’s way into my brain (usually around friendship issues, which have been a big deal for me since my added dx of RA and having to stop working). The last bit you added is also true for me. I married a narcissist so went through the whole rejection thing again. It’s hard for me to articulate, but I think it has to do with how our brains are wired to think about ourselves. It’s easier to continue on the same path than it is to change direction. Consequently, we stay on the path that validates our misguided view of ourselves. Finding and taking a new path is much like being thrust into a foreign land where nothing makes sense and nothing fits with what feels normal for us. Does that make sense? xoxo

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      2. I will read it! It is sad that there is so much pain in the world but understand that there is comfort and hope in knowing that we are not alone. ❤ (Is the post entitled "repetition compulsion?")

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  4. This really resonates with me too. When my T is on leave, I assume she is never coming back. I assume the relationship is lost. I feel totally abandoned. And I know that’s all the child part of me, because the only comfort is literally talking to myself, telling myself that she is still there for me and that she will be coming back. It’s really tough. Laura

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      1. Yes it really is. And it’s easier if I see it that way, I can be a little more forgiving of myself sometimes. It’s somehow easier if I can think, ‘what would a scared 10 year old need?’ – and then try to allow myself that. I struggle a lot with it and with the unwillingness to parent myself, but every now and then it works!

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  5. I started recovery for many of my life issues and drug habits almost two years ago. I found your post refreshing because it’s a nice reminder to remember, even when you already know, that others are going through the same thing and you are not alone. Learning about what it is that is going on with me or that I am going through or that I have been through and that it has a name, helps to understand it better and helps me to feel like I can defeat it. Thank you for sharing!

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  6. I also suffered from a short bout of PTSD for about a year when I was coming off of being homeless on the streets. I was a drug addict and alcoholic, it was a sad existence but now I have 5 years sober and am doing much better. I have turned my life around and am now in college and am taking classes. I love this WordPress thing and am talking about my experiences with non-smoking. I would greatly appreciate it if you would follow me. But either way thank you for your inspirational writings,

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  7. A very thought-provoking post. Sounds like you’ve connected a lot of dots, so to speak, and are getting to know yourself a bit better, which is really positive. I’ve thought about the concept of object consistency before too, though I did have stable caregivers, they just weren’t around all that much because of work, and then losing the closest and only friend I had at a young age, followed by other relationships turning in to bullying etc. It’s easier to extrapolate from your past experiences and apply them to the current and future, even though, like you say, painting everyone with the same brush isn’t the healthiest thing to do, it’s just hard to learn to trust and to understand your reactions to situations. Wonderful post. Caz x

    http://www.invisiblyme.com

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    1. Thank you Caz, thanks for your lovely comments. I hope it has given you some food for thought. I am learning so much about myself at the moment that it’s hard to keep up sometimes lol!! So sorry about your friend and the bullying, that’s awful 😢 xx

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  8. So often we forget we are alive, and that others remain in the world just as we do. Trauma and neglect intensify that. It seems good to keep a sense of humor about it. The quality of the comments here says much about your journey and your capacity to touch others.

    Thanks for following my blog.

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