Excerpt About Idealization

Disruption of Teacher-Idealization

The next stage arises when this idealization of the teacher is disrupted by something that the teacher does or fails to do. It is usually disrupted simply by the fact that the teacher is not perfect and the idealization is not realistic. Regardless of how perfect the teacher might be, she will never fit the idealized image of the student, and the student will at some point notice the discrepancy. When the student sees something in the idealized figure that doesn’t fit with the imagined perfection, there is a disappointment and a loss of the idealized image. The student will experience even slight failings of the teacher as lack of empathy, attunement, appreciation, understanding, sensitivity—but most importantly, as the loss of the teacher’s support. This loss often brings up the defensive reaction of anger, rage, and hatred. The student hates the teacher for not living up to his image of her and feels that she has failed him, or even betrayed him. Psychodynamically, every time the idealizing transference is disrupted, the student experiences unconsciously, if not consciously, the loss of part of his structure, a part that provides him particularly with the sense of support for who he is. This is a loss of the support for the narcissistic equilibrium—the sense of self-esteem and stable self-existence. However, the student does not initially recognize the loss of support implicit in the loss of the idealized object. He first goes on the defensive, experiencing rage toward the teacher, blaming and devaluing her. This rage may manifest as cold withdrawal from the teacher, or even vindictive devaluation. This might seem counterproductive or disruptive to the teacher-student relationship, but it’s actually a blessing in disguise. If the teacher understands the situation and is skillful in her interactions with her student, and if the student is sincere and mature enough, there is the unique opportunity here of the student seeing his teacher as she is. More significantly, there is the possibility of a quantum jump in his inner transformation.

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