Children learn, over years, that objects don’t stop existing just because they have left the field of vision. Peek-a-boo is fun(ny), or terrifying -and stops being fun(ny), or terrifying – for precisely this reason. And this is why blindfolds are hot to some, and overwhelming to others.
Those of us who’ve suffered one or another childhood trauma often struggle with a more subtle challenge than the simple version informing peek-a-boo. “Out of sight, out of mind” describes this, in a way, but without capturing the pernicious elements of impaired object permanence in adults.
Fear of abandonment is, or can be, a symptom of impaired object permanence. It is for me.
A big part of what I get from distant buddies is balm for my wounded sense of object permanence. It’s an imperfect balm, to be sure, because a) my distant buddies are human, and thus imperfect, and b) they are human, and thus have their own desires, their own needs, their own motivations, and these inevitably conflict, even if only in minor ways, with my desires and needs.
The way my impaired object permanence afflicts me is twofold: first, in the obvious way, that I do suffer a bit from “out of sight, out of mind.” If we are corresponding constantly, if you’re constantly keeping my cock hard, I’m good. But if your interactions with me flag, if they’re intermittent, or worse, unpredictable, inevitably, you will start to fade in my mind. I say “worse, unpredictable” because I’ve learned that a highly effective way to counter this impairment is with promises kept. Tell me I’ll hear from you next Friday, and disappear until then? I’m actually pretty ok with that. Disappear without warning? Or don’t deliver on Friday? I’ll be devastated, because I’ll imagine you’ve abandoned me. And I’ll either put you out of my mind, or obsess about how to get you back. Which makes it sound more intentional than it is. You either will simply be out of my mind, or I’ll become obsessed.
Which illustrates the second way this impairment afflicts me: because I’m a narcissist (?), I imagine that everyone is like me, and thus, if someone disappears unexpectedly, or simply is intermittently present and absent, I imagine that person is intentionally doing to me what I fear. Not rationally, no, but on a more primal, bodily, omnipotent level. On some level, I actually imagine my fears have the ability to control, magically, your motivations (since, evidently, they don’t control your actions).
I’m perfectly capable of imagining all the actual reasons for your disappearance, or unpredictability, but my ability to imagine them does little or nothing to counter my age-old fear, no, certainty, that abandonment lies at the heart of my experience. And nothing you can say or do will convince me otherwise. Other than, perhaps, proving me wrong.