Unpleasant Truth



There is a long list of entries I would still like to add to this blog – and this one isn’t on it – but, as it turns out, this is what I’m writing now.

Currently, I’m sorting through half-written short stories, a few poems and some loose ideas. Among my notes, I found something my shrink had told me to read, months and months ago,  which I had forgotten about.

It was a simple Google Keep note, made on my phone originally, instructing me to read what Freud had written on narcissism in 1919. 

It took less than two minutes to find “The Uncanny” a paper Freud wrote in 1919 which clearly explains the development of narcissism during childhood as a splitting defence to overwhelming reality in the absence of enough support. Of course, Freud is not known for his brevity, so it took me more than two minutes to read the paper, but the gist of it is fairly simple.

Nadine Gordimer had a not uncanny way of using the word uncanny. The translator of Freud’s paper might have done better with “disconcerting” but Freud spends a substantial part of the paper explaining the German word which he had used (and its antonym) and … it was meant to be much scarier than disconcerting or uncanny.

When telling me to read the paper, my shrink did not remember its name – which makes perfect sense since it’s somewhat of a misnomer and the shrink speaks German herself – so she probably remembered the German word, which would have been of no use to me. However, she remembered the year 1919, which is significant to me because Freud might have had use for the term cognitive dissonance in his paper, but it was only coined in 1957 by Leon Festinger.

I mention cognitive dissonance (a term I only learned recently) because it explains why I did not find and read the paper as my shrink had instructed. Over the years, aforementioned, one and only shrink got me to read not only Freud but Bowlby, Winnicott, Klein, Bion, Lacan and Adam Phillips – to mention a few.  Not reading a simple 21-page paper, makes no sense.

Cognitive dissonance is the experience one has when an action and belief won’t quite mesh. In my case, it worked like this. The shrink says to read Freud’s paper on narcissism. This must mean the shrink thinks something in the paper is applicable to me, but the paper is on narcissism and that is something negative. Narcissistically, I don’t want to learn that I use, what I perceive to be, a negative defence. Therefore I reject the idea and don’t read the paper.

Here is the main point: 

Sometimes you go to someone to help you with a problem – it’s a long, difficult battle – and later, so much later that it couldn’t possibly be any later … you are the last person to realise that you have been the problem all along.


So, am I upset with myself?

Of course! If it had been just me, it would have been a different matter, but I’ve certainly made life hard for all the people who dared to care for me.

At the same time, I should find some nondestructive way to proceed. I don’t quite know how, but it should be building not breaking.

In reading around on the Internet I found www.psychotherapy.co.za and an amazing article by David Wilson on Self-Esteem and Narcissism which I will have to reread quite a few times.

While reading Wilson’s article, I’ve had to clean off my glasses a few times today. Yes, I’ve cried a bit. At the same time, he emphasises how things cannot be rushed. You just cannot discover yourself in an ad break’s time and I really don’t know if I would have understood “The Uncanny” if I had read it earlier. Cognitively it’s simple enough, but it would have been easy to reject it as not applicable.

What remains is utter diffidence and contrition from where I suppose I’ll heed Wilson’s advice on delicate sleeping and eating and combine it with reading and writing.



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