It is not easy to let go the outworn life dreams of childhood. Courage and uncompromising honesty with oneself make possible the moment of awakening. It is necessary to be aware of and to fight the recurring temptation to go back to the familiar notions of the past. The resolve to see this past through is strengthened by remembering that a new, adult view of life can be more in touch with the present. It is only by seeing the present clearly that it is possible to cope with the world as it is, let alone build a better one.
When one’s energies can be concentrated on the now, not the then, one can truly be awake and alive.
|Publisher:||Random House Publishing Group|
|Sold by:||Random House|
|File size:||613 KB|
About the Author
Bernard Berkowitz graduated from City College, received an M.S. from Columbia University, and his Ph.D. from New York University. He attended the Alfred Adler Institute and the Postgraduate Center for Mental Health. Dr. Berkowitz has been affiliated with City College and with the John Jay College of Criminal Justice of the City University of New York, and has had numerous articles and reviews published in various journals. He lives in New York City
Read an Excerpt
“I really love her. I always have such loving feelings for her, but whenever we’re together, something happens. I get short-tempered, I pick on her for the smallest things, and then I feel rotten.”
The young man in my* office was talking about his unhappy marriage. He loved his wife, but felt compelled to criticize her and put her down. As the session continued, he was asked about his parents. He shook his head sadly, saying he was sure they didn’t love each other. He was encouraged to talk about his childhood, and it became increasingly clear that somehow it was important for him to believe that his parents had an unhappy marriage. Not only that, but he had an equally strong conviction that all marriages were bad, including his own.
To hold on to his belief about his parents’ marriage, he had to see every marriage in the same way. This was his way of making the present serve the past.
You mean some people actually want to control the past?
Yes. A person can live his life to protect a fantasy about the past. It almost seems as though he believes that what he does now can affect something then. We have seen many examples. This young man, as a child, felt that he was the favorite—that his mother really loved him best. But then he had to reconcile that feeling with the fact that his mother was living with “him”—that ogre, that brute—his father. He had to explain to himself why she was devoted to “him,” why she served “him.” He had to cope with the bad feeling he got when “they” went into the bedroom, closed the door and left him out there, all alone. In order to comfort himself and hold on to the feeling of being the favorite, he made up a little story that went something like this: “It’s not that she loves him best, but she has to stay with him, because she is afraid and because she needs him to bring home money.
Marriage was, from this child’s point of view, a matter of convenience and necessity. Certainly his belief was that people who are married don’t love each other, and he devoted his adult life to proving it. Otherwise he risked having that “all alone and left out” feeling.
Isn’t that a rather unusual story?
We have heard the same story from others, who say, “I look around and I don’t see any good marriages. I don’t see any loving couples. People have to stay together because they get lonely, they need to have someone support them, they need someone to do the cooking and the housework. There is no love in marriage.” If these people who speak this way were to discover they loved their mates, it would shatter the myth of their childhood.
You know, that sounds like so many people who are vehemently against marriage. Do you mean that people who talk that way are just trying to prove their parents didn’t love each other?
For some who take that position it could be the unconscious motivation. What we are really trying to say is that some people, many people, subject themselves to unhappiness for an idea which they no longer clearly remember but which was once important in childhood.
But so important that it continues to affect their lives for years and years? That’s like letting a child run your life.
Exactly. It is just like letting the child in you run your life.
Isn’t it ironic that an adult can be willing to give up the love in his own marriage in order to hold on to the belief that his parents didn’t really love each other?
Yes, what a price to pay to hold on to the feeling of having been loved best. We have known people who have gone even further—people who have never allowed themselves to marry, or to have someone who loves them and whom they can love. Sometimes they say they’d like to get married, but they insist there just isn’t anyone around who is suitable.
That’s too bad.
There’s a lovely young woman who didn’t marry. Her father left her and her mother when she was five years old. She cried and cried and cried, and promised herself that never again in her whole life would anyone mean so much to her that she would ever again have to feel so bad. From that point on, until we saw her, she devoted her life to not having feelings for anyone. She would never let anyone mean anything to her. She saw one of us in private sessions, and we discovered that each time she got to the point where she had feelings for her analyst, she would find an excuse to leave treatment and not come back until she had wiped out those feelings. She did the same thing unconsciously whenever she became interested in a young man. She would find a reason to break off.
You said she did it unconsciously. What do you mean by that?
What is unconscious is a secret from yourself. It may be evident to others, but as the saying goes, you are often the last to know. It is what you have thought and felt, and forgotten and hidden. We mean not only a single idea or feeling but, rather, whole systems of thinking, entire ways of looking at the world and yourself—ways which influence your life, and though outside of your awareness, are inside of you. These ways of thinking and feeling have been described as life styles, life scripts, scenarios, life commands and blueprints. Many wise people have pointed out that we don’t always do what we think we are doing, but even though this truth has been repeated many times, it is still a bit difficult to understand and describe.
Many people move through life as though acting out private dreams, and we would like to describe their dreams in the hope that you may find some clues to your own. We have helped some of these dreamers to awaken from a life dream. Perhaps we can make it possible for you to share their experience.