Object Constancy

I really, really don’t want my blog to read like a cheap psychology journal.  It probably does, but that’s not my intent.  I do think psychology comes into play with D.I.D., but I don’t think psychology itself is the answer to life’s problems.  I believe Jesus is the answer, and has the answers.  He knows how our brains work (having…you know…created them, and stuff), and he knows all the fault lines where they have deviated from what he intended.  Having said that, though, I think there is some truth to be found in psychology, since he gave us the brains to think and learn and discover.  Psychology, like anything else, was never meant to be understood apart from the whole person, including the spirit and our spiritual nature.  This is where we run into problems; when we try to separate the mind and spirit and body, and treat them all as if they’re totally separate, which America has essentially been doing for years.  But I digress.

Object constancy (sometimes called object permanence).  We as a system pretty much don’t have it.  I’m speaking collectively, because it’s not just a problem with one or two of us, or just with the youngers.  It’s a problem for everybody.  I get by, by acting like I don’t care.  But the truth is, I do care.  I have simply become convinced over the years that my not-caring act is the only way to keep people from feeling smothered or drained.  Not-caring is the only way I know of, to take responsibility for the crippling anxiety and terror I feel so often, wondering if I am going to lose everything and everyone I love.  Wondering if they’re going to inexplicably walk away, or if my life is suddenly going to blow apart like it has so often before.  By keeping a handle on all that anxiety, and not expressing it to other people (no, really, it would be a constant thing and drive you up the wall), I have been able to keep a few people around by not driving them away with all the fears.  So far, it’s the best I can do.

But what is it?  Object constancy is a term brought up most often by people who treat clients suffering from Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), which is something different than D.I.D. but can have some crossover in similarities.  I’m not going to expound on BPD because if you can read this blog, you can Google it if you really want to know.  MediLexicon defines object constancy as:

1. the tendency for objects to be perceived as unchanging despite variations in the positions in and conditions under which the objects are observed; a book’s shape is always perceived as a rectangle regardless of the visual angle from which it is viewed.

2. in psychoanalysis, the relatively enduring emotional investment in another person.

But personally I prefer Out of the Fog’s definition which says:

“Lack of Object Constancy… An inability to remember that people or objects are consistent, trustworthy and reliable, especially when they are out of your immediate field of vision.”

How this translates into our daily life is, we have a hard time remembering that someone who cared about us the last time we saw them still cares about us, both in the interim, and upon the next time we see them.  Unless we are in constant contact with loved ones, we have a hard time holding onto feelings of being loved unless someone is physically present in front of us, demonstrating that they care – whether it’s by talking to us, hugging us, or just being in the general vicinity without harming us (hey, we try not to have standards that are too high).

A blogger who goes by the name BPD Bunny describes it like this: “…it’s the emotional equivalent of typing up a Microsoft Word document that can’t save.  Every time you close the window, whatever you’ve written is gone, and you have to start again.”

As described in the quote above, this is essentially a failure in the ability to see relationships or experiences as having any degree of continuity.  Every encounter with a person, sometimes even individual moments with a person within the same encounter, are seen as separate and without any previous relational context.  Practically speaking, it means that in my world, just because you are calm and loving one minute means absolutely nothing.  You might turn on a dime and become an enraged psychopath who’s trying to kill me in just a few seconds.  This is not meant to be a reflection on you personally, but more a generalized opinion of the world and principles gleaned from the particular cross section of people I’ve known.  My moments are all detached from each other, and so is my judgment of such.  I have a hard time drawing a broad, sustained conclusion about someone based on my entire history with them, because my entire history with them is not fluid for me.  It’s not that I don’t remember my history with you at all, it’s just that it’s not automatically connected, in my mind.  Every encounter, rather than being strung on the same string like a string of pearls, is chaotically scattered on the floor, not touching, unrelated.

In a similar vein, I oftentimes have a hard time comprehending that people care about me at all, which is accentuated if they are not physically in front of me at the time.  Note that I said comprehending, NOT believing.  Those are 2 totally different things.  Believing is choosing to accept that something is true.  Comprehending is being able to grasp what something means.  In part this has meant that over the years I have learned to be much more careful about what I tell people, because confiding some of the (even minor) horrific tales of my past has more than once caused a soft-hearted friend to cry at the thought of someone (e.g. me) having to endure what I’m describing.  This never fails to surprise me.  I honest to God cannot comprehend why they would cry.  When they say “I’m sorry” (for what happened), or “I’m crying because I love you,” I honestly – awkwardly – don’t know what to say.  Not because I don’t also love them or appreciate them, but just because, honestly…I wasn’t expecting, or aware of, that on an emotional level.  Cognitively I can say “So-and-so loves me.”  But I cannot connect that cerebral thought with why they might cry at hearing one of my stories.  So I have gradually learned that talking about it needs to be done with a lot more caution.

Not sure that I really gave any particularly helpful information in this post.  I have a headache.

As an aside that has little to do with anything, here is something else I came across.

 – The Grenade

I haven’t read The Fault In Our Stars; I don’t know anything about it, other than…it’s popular.  I’m guessing it’s yet another love story.  I’m not specifically planning to see the movie, either.  But I found the above clip when I was looking at something else, and it expresses something I’ve felt pretty much since I was old enough to talk.  I am afraid of hurting people.  Not just the little, inevitable, “oops I need to be more careful with my friends” kind of hurt.  I am afraid of wounding and damaging them the way I’ve been hurt.  – by accident, because I’d of course never do it on purpose, but nevertheless…I’m afraid that that’s just who I am.  I’ve never heard it spoken by an actress in a movie before.  Anyway, it moved me.  Cheers.  ~J8


3 thoughts on “Object Constancy”

  • 1
    pepeshrimp on August 10, 2014 Reply

    First time I got the concept of “not being able to comprehend that someone cares” in a way that i could wrap my head around. Thank you.

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