1. First-person failures
A place to start my own story is to tell about relating with no collectivity. I'll outline what has happened to me when not connected to a field of collectivity, which motivates me to seek that collectivity. As with all of us, my set of experiences is unique, but no aspect of my experience is unique or special. And, just to be clear, when I write ‘failure’ I am simply referring to the fact that these episodes turned out in ways that I neither liked nor anticipated.
I was educated in single-sex boys boarding schools, with no hint of education about emotionality in general, or how to treat members of the opposite sex in particular. No help with that came from parents or siblings. I didn't develop the kind of friendships where I felt comfortable talking about these matters. But an internalised imperative to “grow up” led me to try, in my naive way, to get into some kind of promising relationships.
My first marriage was also my first serious relationship (and hers). Not surprisingly, in retrospect, I made many mistakes. I was basically clueless as to what was going on emotionally. I was always serious about trying to make the relationship work, but one day, deep into trouble, I was told that it was “too late”. My father had disapproved of the marriage, but it was easy to ignore the advice of someone who was himself so lacking in family relationship skills. I carried on having relationships after that, with a bit more caution, but no more real insight.
I reckon that my long-term obsession has been with being understood, perhaps as my take on being accepted as a whole, not just as a disembodied intellect. My mother's relationship with me set up a pattern of being loved, at least apparently, on the surface, with great affection, but not feeling understood.
So when I met a single woman who seemed to have a genuine curiosity about me, I was very quickly hooked, and that turned into my second marriage. It never occurred to me to seek out the help of others for worldly wisdom. After all, I had been educated into supreme intellectual self-confidence, and no one was able to help me to see that the emotional realm is quite different in quality, and that people are extremely complex beings who do not behave, and cannot be understood, with reason and intellect alone, even if explicit conscious agreements are made. What was going on underneath, emotionally, remained out of my sight.
Since then (again, with hindsight) it seems that the relationships I have been stuck in have been the ones where, again, I have felt ‘loved’, but not understood – not fully accepted as who I am. I can then be trapped in a situation where I want to stay in a relationship – obsessed with attempts to fix it in making myself understood, of course – where there is in fact little chance of ever being understood, and where I feel I have to hide the unacceptable parts of myself. And what is really going on ‘underneath’, so to speak, remains in the dark to me, partly because my lack of emotional confidence makes it easy for me simply to accept what the other person says is going on. Who am I to know better? Women are meant to be the experts on emotion, aren't they?
My inclination at this point is to ask, why? In my next piece of writing I'll look into two theoretical frameworks that might help to clarify why it is not only me who has difficulties in relating with no collectivity.