We come into the world alone although accompanied by our mother, and it is her first gaze into our eyes that is so important. Our attachment is, in part, determined by that transmission of love, pleasure and relief in her eyes. These may be our first experiences of idealisation by our mother. If she has difficulties producing milk then she may, although not always, devalue her child; here then is our first experience of devaluation.
Male children, being different from their mother, are often idealised more than female children. Idealisation may be a seam running through their early life. Perhaps, when devaluation occurs, it is outweighed by the feeling of being on a pedestal.
Nursery, playgroup and school are the next challenges to every child. Learning to play with other children, seeing adults in a different context to those at home are important lessons. Idealisation may well occur in these environments, often as a way of encouragement.
Teenage years are clouded with hormonal changes, rebellion against parental values and the discovery of sexual interests. By this time most children have experienced both idealisation and devaluation in a variety of different circumstances.
But what about those who have, for any number of reasons, failed to appreciate and understand its significance? They may weave a course through life and escape transferential experiences; or they may become involved with someone whose personality is very different, a disordered individual. In this situation the initial idealisation represents something very special, as if on a pedestal of infinite height. Then, quite by surprise, devaluation and splitting takes place. The fall from high altitude is horrendous and damaging.
This individual was in some way predisposed to being hurt in such a way. Narcissism, vanity, ignorance or blindness prevented them seeing a clearer reality.
Whilst there is considerable support and therapy available for those suffering from borderline personality disorder, quite justifiably, little is there for the survivor of this borderline relationship!
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