Excerpt About Inner Support

Feeling the Lack of Our Own Inner Support

The recognition of the need for support, specifically, the need to support our sense of self, will naturally precipitate the feeling of no support, as we saw in the cases above. If this feeling is not defended against, it will reveal an underlying emptiness characterized by a sense of deficiency of support. The emptiness may provoke many associated feelings and self-images, as we have seen, like feelings of helplessness and weakness, and images of smallness and lack of structure. This usually brings up from the unconscious deeply repressed, painful object relations and their associated emotional states of abandonment, betrayal, depression, terror, even fear of death and disintegration. These are reactions to and associations with the deficient emptiness. We must then clarify these reactions and associations in order to understand the genesis of the emptiness. This process requires awareness of, and disengagement from, judgments and superego attitudes about the deficiency. This process finally reveals what the specific feeling of deficiency is, what lack of support makes us feel. We begin to realize that what we feel is that we do not have our own support. This is possibly the first clear indication that there could be such a thing as one’s own inner support, for the sense of self—based on ego structures—cannot conceive of this possibility, just as Kohut could not. This lack of our own inner support feels like a particular kind of helplessness. It is not general ego deficiency, the ego weakness having to do with functioning and one’s sense of being an immature individual. It is helplessness about supporting our sense of who we are. When a student finally recognizes it precisely, she usually feels, “I don’t know what to do,” or “I can’t do anything.”

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