To be validated as a child is highly important in creating a functional and psychologically healthy adult. When this validation is not received and a child is invalidated, it can lead to all kinds of problems
If a child is abused in some way, one of the most important things, if not the most important, is for the individual to be validated and acknowledged for what happened in their childhood.
In order for what has happened to be healed and processed the individual will need to be acknowledged and validated for their story.
Acknowledgement And Validation
It is the moments in their history when they were abused that need to be heard. This could be called the inner child or the traumatic memories that are giving off emotions, feelings, thoughts and sensations. It does not matter what it is classed as.
What is clear is that in order for the individual to be able to move on from their past; the past has to be validated and acknowledged.
The problem here is that it is highly unlikely that the perpetrators of this abuse will ever be able to validate the Childs experience. If they had as much awareness then they would surely not have carried out such abuse in the first place.
And this is what creates so many problems for the individual who was abused; to move on with their life and in their journey to becoming a functional human being for the first time.
This is a result of the amount of power caregivers have over their children. The caregivers are god like; the Childs whole survival rests on them. For the child to go against the parent’s word would be associated as death by the child. Rejection and abandonment could ensue if the child was to go against their caregiver at that age.
So, it is clear to see that as an adult it is not necessary to have the same caregivers to survive. And if this is the case, why do people that were abused feel the need to have their caregivers validate them?
I believe that the reason for this is that the part of them that needs their validation is not the conscious part of the person. The part that needs the validation is the inner child that was abused. This inner child remembers everything that has happened. It is said that the inner child lives just above the stomach. This child is powerless and vulnerable.
What Happens Then?
This inner child or memories of the past constantly appear in the present moment. And when this happens the body reacts as is did during those early moments of abuse. Years might have passed, but the body still responds in the same way.
It is then normal and natural for the inner child to look to the original abusers for the validation that it desperately needs to heal and process what has happened. And this is when the pain begins all over again.
The normal response here could be denial and complete dismissal of what has happened by the caregivers. And then again these caregivers might also still behave in the same way.
And when this happens the individual that was abused all those years ago can easily become frustrated and hopeless; falling back into how they were made to feel all those years ago. Rage and anger can surface as a consequence of this hurtful invalidation.
For these individuals to be abused is more than enough and yet to experience denial and invalidation on top of that; creates more pain and suffering. And they have more than likely been invalidated from the moment they were born.
This can lead to numerous consequences. Either the individual can begin to question their own story; maybe they are making it up or overreacting. It can also lead to the motivation to seek outside or alternate validation; in the form of a therapist, alternate family member, support group or friend for example.
The first option can create serious consequences. One thing that could happen out of the caregivers denial of what happened is that the individual who was abused starts to believe what the caregivers are saying.
Here the individual will further identify with how they were treated all those years ago; continuing to harm themselves internally and externally. They might even fall into the trap and start to believe that they are lying and that there is something wrong with them.
What makes it so hard for them to break out of this cycle is that if the caregivers are denying what they are saying and if their reality is mirroring back to them how they were treated all those years ago, it becomes close to impossible to break away.
The second option of seeking alternate validation is likely to be the most successful. Here, they will not be denied or dismissed; they will be acknowledged and validated and done so without judgment or blame.
This will cause their inner child to grow and harmonize within the individual. And this will allow the individual to observe the inner child; as opposed to being the inner child.
After the abused individual has been acknowledged and validated by these alternate means; it will start to become possible for them to validate and acknowledge themselves.
This is important; because a lot of time and energy can be wasted looking for validation from the original abusers. And more often than not, this won’t be possible.
A New Story
And the better one can observe their inner child and their story the easier it will become for the individual to get in touch with their true nature.
A new story can be created; a story that empowers them and reflects who they really are. They can come to know that they are not their past.
Abusive parenting is often something that goes on covertly in our society. To the outsider it might not even be noticed. With how a family or parent presents themselves to the outside world being the complete opposite of how they our behind closed doors.
These people can hold positions of great responsibility and even socially acceptable roles. Making them appear to be highly unlikely to be abusive to their children. Then there are parents who don't hold such high positions and these are the ones that are often portrayed as more likely to be abusive.
However, it is evident that is doesn't matter what roles someone plays in a society or how acceptable they may appear; parents from all backgrounds and walks of life can be abusive.
What Is Abusive Parenting?
Abusive parenting can have many interpretations and mean different things. If one has been abused they will naturally associate abuse as being what they experienced. For some it might have been physical and for others it might have been emotional abuse for example.
In any case what is occurring is the Childs boundaries are not being respected. The child is also being seen as an object and a possession of the parent.
There is a quote in the book; The Prophet, by Khalil Gibran that says 'they come through you but not from you'. Here he is referring to how children are expressions of life and are not owned by the parents. This is clearly not the outlook of an abusive parent.
The abuse I am referring to is the kind of behaviour that is carried out on a regular and consistent basis. However, occasional abuse could be just as destructive. We are all imperfect human beings who all do things from, time to time that are not always supportive for example. But I believe that there is a fine line between the odd behavioural mistake here and there and abusive behaviour.
Children are both vulnerable and dependent on their parents; their own safety is under their control. And as a consequence of this; the parents exercise such power and responsibility. The question is: what happens when parents are irresponsible and abuse the power that they have?
What happens is the children are taken advantage of and our seen as objects for the parents to control and to treat however they wish.
These parents are likely to position themselves as people to be feared. Using different forms of intimidation to control and influence their children. Their children will not be able to develop a relationship of trust and safety.
And this is only normal for a child if it is never sure what will happen next or how its parents will behave. The child will then experience fight, flight or freeze on a regular basis.
They will soon form an identity of shame; that there is something inherently wrong with them. It would be too dangerous to blame the parents for such abuse. With the child being in such a precarious position the child has to blame themselves. And this is due to the child being so powerless and if it were to see the parents as inadequate it would experience further feelings of rejection and abandonment.
Experiencing Shame or guilt for example is a natural part of being human; what is not normal is when these feelings are felt for prolonged periods of time. If we lie or cheat it is natural to feel guilty or shameful, but is these feelings are constantly felt they become destructive. And by having these early traumatic experiences, one can be in a perpetual state of shame or guilt.
It's Who I Am
This is because one can come to identify with their experience and believe that they are inherently faulty. And this is not much of a surprise; if the people who were meant to care and love for the child behaved in such an abusive manner.
It is then highly unlikely the child will be able to develop real self worth or self esteem. And this will cause them to constantly look outside and to the views of others to define if they have worth or not.
The child was never loved or accepted for who he or she was; it was brought up to believe there was something inherently wrong with who it was. And if there was any love and that's a big if, it would have been conditional and based on certain requirements being fulfilled.
This of course, has the potential to lead to all kinds of emotional and physical problems. These include: Depression, suicidal tendencies, self loathing, self harm, isolation, overeating, underrating and numerous others.
Another consequence is that the children are likely to grow up with the perception that people are abusive and that people cannot be trusted. That it is not safe to be around people.
The ego mind will then create an association of safety around this kind of behaviour. Because this behaviour is familiar and is the first experience that they have had of people; it will lay down the foundations for how people are.
The body remembers everything that has happened. It might have been removed from the mind, but it still exists in the cells of the body. When one is experienced to painful situations it is often normal for that person to cut themselves off from their body.
When the mind dissociates from this pain and trauma it allows the mind to gain a sense of control over the experience and it is also the minds way of protecting itself. This defence mechanism is utilized to ensure ones survival.
And if we were to take a closer look we would most likely see that this is what happened to the abusive parents all those years ago.
The abusive parents are likely to have had a childhood that was just as abusive; the abuse might have even been passed on from one generation to another. If one has experienced abuse, they know how destructive it is and therefore the last thing they would want to do is to carry out the same behaviour to another person. And yet this is often what happens.
Logically this doesn't make sense and this is because in order to understand the reasons for their behaviour we have to look at it from an emotional angle.
Ultimately their behaviour is not conscious and they are unaware of what they are doing. This is not to say that what they are doing is right. They still carry their pain and have never processed this pain; and so the abused become the abusers.
So by abusing their children they are acting out this pain. This pain is years old and has nothing to do with the children or child involved. Their feelings of anger, revenge and rage for example are being released.
And as a result of the parents being abused by their parents, they were then not able to develop functional boundaries. Boundaries allow one to have a sense of self and to have a sense of individuality. They also allow one to know where they begin and end and where another person begins and ends.
This process doesn't usually happen to people that are abused. And if the parents have no understanding of what boundaries are because of their own childhood, it is then highly unlikely that they will be able to create boundaries for their child.
Of course many years would likely have passed since they were abused and there are plenty of examples where abused children don't go onto to abuse their children as a result of becoming conscious. However there are also plenty of examples where the same behaviour is carried out.
When the ability to be conscious is not exercised and different defence mechanism are in place it makes it a lot harder to change this dysfunctional behaviour. If years have passed and nothing has changed it is easy for a human being to become like a robot.
It then becomes extremely difficult to admit to ones behaviour and to remove the denial that is often created through years of repression.
Having no conscious awareness can lead to a life of reaction and impulse. And this is why the less awareness one has the more likely it is for them to be abusive and dysfunctional. It could then be said that repression is a precursor to abuse.
The more aware and conscious one is the less likely they are to abuse another or to abuse themselves.
I believe that one of the purposes of a relationship is to lead one back into wholeness. This includes the relationships we have had, the relationships we have and the relationships we will have in the future. They each contain the experiences and situations that are perfect for one to regain their inherent wholeness.
To use the world wholeness implies that we are not already whole and that we need others to make us whole again. This is not the complete truth, but it is true at a certain level of awareness.
I would say that our true nature is wholeness and that what stops one from knowing and being whole this is the ego mind. This happens because of the ego minds tendency to see everything as separate and external.
So at one level we are whole and have everything we need, but at another level we can carry the perception of being empty and alone and that in order to feel whole and connected we need another to complete us.
Why Is This?
During our childhood years we do not have the capacity or the resources to look after ourselves. We are powerless and dependent and rely on our caregivers for fulfilling all of our needs.
The needs I am referring to our: acceptance, validation as well as continued touch and attention.
Our ability to self-soothe and to emotionally regulate ourselves is first achieved through the help of our caregivers. Our feelings have to be validated and mirrored by others, because without that we wouldn't be able to describe them or even feel that we exist.
What Happens Then?
What often happens is that we don't receive the validation or mirroring that we need. These incredibly important psychological needs are then ignored and neglected. The ego mind then doesn't have the opportunity to internalise these feelings. This then cause's one to feel the feelings of; emptiness, alones and that there is something missing.
And if we cannot self-soothe or regulate our own emotions there will also be more of a need to rely on others to do this for us. This will create more reliance and dependency on others.
If there is the feeling that something is missing, it is only natural to look outside of ourselves and to others to fill the emptiness that we feel inside.
When adequate nurturing does not occur and one is exposed to continued experiences of rejection, abandonment and isolation; it causes one to feel that something is missing.
This is the result of these early experiences when something was missing and because of what needed to happen did not happen. And although many years have gone by and the original memories have disappeared, the emotional memories are still there.
Present Day Relationships
The mind will then come to associate wholeness as something that is only possible through being with another person. This means that the relationships we have with other people will trigger the original trauma that has not been processed.
This will create common themes, which will include: relational loss and relational rejection.
These experiences could be classed as part of life. And that no matter who we are or how hard we try we will never be able to stop relationships coming to an end or to remove the experience of rejection.
The Past Returns
We can see that it is not that these experiences are a problem per se and that what causes them to be so painful is that they are triggering old memories.
This was a time when rejection and loss would have felt like death. And during those early years our whole ability to survive depended upon our caregivers being there for us.
In the very beginning we can see a certain cycle can occur. And that in the early stages relationships have the potential to fulfil all or most of the needs that we are missing. At this stage one will feel as though they are whole again.
However this feeling will likely come to an end at some point. This could be through one person ending the relationship or both agreeing that it's time to move on.
The cycle will then conclude with the whole appearing once more and the feeling that it can never be filled. Here loss and rejection have the potential to appear in an extreme way. It can feel like the end of the world and this is not something anyone would want to experience very often.
The relationships that cause the most pain are often the ones that have the biggest potential for our own growth. They are showing us what we need to process in our own history.
In the presence of the other person and having the other person in our life we will feel all of the feelings that we missed. This is why it is so powerful and can affect our lives in so many ways. We feel alive again and this aliveness is reminding us of who we are.
Our Journey To Wholeness
It is these original traumatic experiences that have remained frozen in our bodies and minds and due to this they are causing us continual suffering. And by being with another person we are being reminded of what we have forgotten and need to realise
We have projected our forgotten parts onto other people and done so without realising it. This is how the ego mind works; it can be seen as a problem or it can be understood and used to our own benefit.
As we continue to become more conscious and have relationships that are more conscious; our perception of what a relationship is will change. To realise that another person cannot give us anything. All another person can be is a messenger and a mirror to that which is already there and is our true nature.
If you feel this has been of value to you please leave a comment or get in touch with me. And feel free to share this article. I appreciate your comments and views.
Oliver J R Cooper
It can be difficult to describe what abuse is and this is because the word 'Abuse' can mean different things to different people. For one person it might relate to emotional pain, for another it might involve physical pain. With there being different degrees of pain and hurt within these two forms of violence.
As a general guideline: this could be behaviour that occurs here and there, without it happening often enough to cause too many problems. Or it could be experienced to such an extreme that one's life becomes unbearable.
In this analysis I am going to be looking at what I currently believe causes abusive behaviour and the type of individual that commits abusive behaviour on a regular basis.
The Dictionary.com Definition
Here, it is described as the following:
• To use wrongly or improperly; misuse: to abuse one's authority.
• To treat in a harmful, injurious, or offensive way: to abuse a horse.
• To abuse one's eyesight; to speak insultingly, harshly, and unjustly to or about; revile; malign.
• To commit sexual assault upon: Obsolete - to deceive or mislead.
What comes to mind when I think of abusive, is compromise. When one is abused they are not being respected or treated in a humane way, they are being treated as objects. The abused person's feelings do not register to the abuser and if they are recognised, it is not enough to end the behaviour.
Empathy And Compassion
If one can't feel their own feelings, it is then a lot easier to do destructive things to another. The question is: why wouldn't the abuser have the ability to empathise or to be compassionate with another person?
It is said that the ability to empathise and to be compassionate is developed through caregivers that display the same behaviours to their children. This is also known as healthy mirroring and validation. What also happens through this process is that the child feels noticed and acknowledged, which are of paramount importance for the development of a healthy sense of self.
The child can then internalises these behaviours and as a consequence will show compassion towards themselves and they will also have the ability to empathise with others.
The Real World
This is of course what happens to a child that has caregivers who received the same or similar behaviour from their caregivers or who made up for what they didn't receive through their own development.
When this behaviour doesn't happen and the child is not mirrored and instead experiences: neglect, abandonment, rejection and invalidation from their caregivers. What is then internalised is a far cry from what the above child internalises.
The Childs basic psychological needs are then deprived and neglected. Although the child might receive food and shelter, these are not enough to create a functional human being. To be accepted, validated and loved are just as important.
And when these needs are deprived and neglected, it can lead to feelings of abandonment, rejection, suicidal tendencies and depression. This can cause one to grow up to feel powerless and invisible. And common emotions that can result from this are: anger, frustration and resentment.
And if one feels invisible they will do whatever they can to gain attention or whatever they can to not be seen. With the first being an example of an abuser and the second being an example of an abused person.
One Generation To Another
So unless one makes a conscious effort to fulfill these needs before they have children of their own, this will be behaviour that can easily be passed on to the next generation.
To digress slightly, this is where DNA is often misunderstood. What also causes illness to be passed from one generation to another is the fact that the children usually take on the same behaviours and attitudes of the caregivers who have the illnesses. This behaviour and the perception that this creates is rarely observed or changed and this leads to the same problems being created.
Our ancestor's pain and trauma are passed on from generation to generation. And it will continue this way until it has be processed in some way and put to an end.
The Abused Become The Abusers.
In an ideal world people that have been abused would have the opportunity to process their past. However in the society we live in, repression is more likely to occur.
The odd person might see a therapist or work on their past themselves, but on the whole these traumas don't get dealt with. What usually happens is that the pain gets acted out and the same roles end up being played all over again. And these become the dramas we hear about in our conversations with others and in the conversations in the media. What happens is then labelled and added to the statistics.
When this pain is repressed it then causes one to react in life, to lose conscious awareness and to commit the same behaviour that was displayed by their abusive caregivers. The abuse has not been acknowledged and processed and is still going on inside the individual.
When this pain is still going on inside of the individual and the ability to observe has not been developed; the same abusive behaviour is likely to be performed. This is because the ego still perceives the present moment through the eyes of the past. It does this because it only feels safe when it experiences what is familiar.
This has created a blockage in the mind and the body; it has remained frozen in the past.
So with these feelings, emotions and sensation still existing in the body, the ego mind and the body will continue to interpret and experience the present in the same way as it did as a child. And if this is the case, it is not a surprise to see the same dysfunctional behaviour.
External And Internal Abuse
It could be that the individual carries out external abuse in the relationships in their life; however they could just as easily be attracted to others that are abusive.
Here the same roles are being played out, with them taking on the victim or perpetrator roles. It doesn't have to only be experienced externally either.
It could be said that because of their past, the person that displays abusive behaviour is abusing themselves just as much, if not more than they are abusing others. This is because the original abuser has been internalised. And even if the original abuser is not longer alive or around; they still have the potential to exist in the mind of the abuser or abused.
Here the voice exists like a parasite in the mind, merging with the mind and this makes it hard to notice and eliminate.
This shows that it is typically a two way relationship. With people who have been abused being more likely to be attracted to an abuser. If one has been abused in their younger years and it has not been looked at processed, the mind will then continue to associate this as what familiar and safe.
It will also mean that the abused will put up with this behaviour later in life. If this is what they have experienced as a child, one will then think that it is normal and all they deserve.
If one was abused by their own caregivers, it is only normal for them to assume that this is how people are that that the world is therefore unsafe and dangerous. And also that people can't be trusted.
To experience abuse can be extremely traumatising; with the consequences of abuse having the potential to last a life time. Time is said to be one of the greatest healers. Being around supportive people that one can feel safe around and who can listen without judgement is equally important.
This could be in the form of friends, family or a therapist. Here they will listen and acknowledge what is being said without judgement or blame. This is a process that cannot be rushed, and will happen in its own time and when one is ready to face what has happened. There is not a right or wrong time, only the time when one feels ready to undertake such an important step.
The Iron Lady - My Interpretation of the Metaphors
It wasn’t until after I had seen the trailer that I become interested in watching this film. I didn’t know much about Margaret Thatcher (Not that this film can be completely trusted in its portrayal of her), but what I did know is that this looked to be a powerful film. The films tagline ‘never compromise’ also caught my attention.
Now that I have seen the film I would say it demonstrates how our childhood can influence our later life; in terms of our behaviour and what we want from life. It shows the pros and cons of how society was. And it signifies what can be achieved when one is determined and committed to their purpose. There are of course metaphors in this film; however my primary focus this time is on the films psychological aspects.
These psychological aspects and metaphors of the film are my personal view and are based on my own interpretation of what these metaphors and psychological aspects are and there meaning. They are in no way the right or only interpretation, they are just my view. I would also like to add that this is in no way a judgement on Margaret Thatcher or her life. This is just my interpretation of the film and what the film displayed.
This will mean that I will miss out certain parts and only describe what stood out for me and what I felt was significant. There will also be parts that I don’t understand and that will also be a reason as to why it has not been mentioned. This will also mean that it will not be like a story board and that I won’t be describing the whole story.
So with the disclaimer of sorts out of the way, let’s begin.
The film starts off with Margaret Thatcher (Meryl Streep) in the present day. Here, she her begins to have flash backs off her younger years.
Air Raid Siren
In the first scene of Margaret (Alexandra Roach) as a young girl, we are taken right back to the war; with her and her family hiding under a table. This shows that her family was not a like normal family. Her family probably had very little time for her as their own business needed so much of their attention. The amount of time and attention available to Margaret must have been limited by this business. Once this is over we see Margaret at a local political speech; where she hangs onto every word that is being said. It is clear to see that she is intrigued by it all.
After this we find that she has been accepted to go to Oxford University. She calls her mother to tell her and her mother says that her hands are wet and walks off.
It is at this point that we begin to get an understanding of her upbringing. Although this is a one off occurrence in the film (typically films only include what is meaningful and parts that are the most symbolic for the development of a story), it could be interpreted to mean that her mother is distant and doesn’t seem too interested in her daughter’s achievements. This would have felt like rejection and abandonment to Margaret.
During the first moments of her political career we see her form a relationship with a man called Denis (Harry Lloyd). And when he asks her to marry him, she says that she doesn’t want do what women usually do.
Denis agrees and says that it’s because she is different that he wants to marry her. With Margaret having a very masculine side to her, it is inevitable that she is going to attract a man who is easy going and somewhat submissive.
During a scene where it goes back to Margaret in the present day; she mentions how people of today want to be someone and before they wanted to give something.
This shows a radical change in how society is today and that people’s mentality has altered. Margaret is generalising of course and yet I think it is clear to see that what she says has some truth to it.
In today’s world the focus is more on the individual than it is on the society. And because of this, it would be natural to assume that people are more evolved than before. But the fact that people are trying to be someone as opposed to giving something shows that this is far from the truth.
What it actually shows is that peoples own ego needs and basic survival needs have not been met and to compensate for that they are trying to gain the approval and the acceptance of the world in order to know who they are and to achieve an identity.
If they knew who they were and their needs had been met, then they would more likely be in a position to make a different to the world. This is because they have taken care of their own basic needs, which has involved them taking from the world and now they can give something back to the world.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that before people were more evolved, what it could mean is that before it was more of a compromise for people and that now it has gone to the other extreme. So that people can really make a difference to society and to the world by taking care of themselves first.
Margaret’s children are seen to be chasing her car; wanting to go with their mother, but they are left behind.
We see her children being ignored and neglected in this scene or at least it could be interpreted that way. Perhaps this is how Margaret’s mother was. When Margaret received her letter of acceptance into Oxford University her mother was apathetic.
In The Kitchen
Denis (Jim Broadbent) is cooking and soon after Margaret comes in. Here she soon takes charge and takes over the cooking. She says that she is going to go for party leader.
It is here that we can see her childhood patterns emerge once more. Her daughter feels left out as does her husband. They want Margaret to be there for them, but she is too busy with her own life and doesn’t have the time for them.
Just like where her mother was too busy to see her acceptance letter for university, Margaret is playing the same role by being too busy for her family. The way that Margaret is behaving here could the result of having her own needs neglected as a child and of having to work from a young age. And now she is taking care of herself, but she is also neglecting her own family
During one of Margaret’s speeches she says that because of Britain’s past, Britain is always looking to the past to decide what it is going to do and what it is capable of.
And as America has no history it has nothing to look back on and therefore they can choose what they are going to do and that they have no past to limit them.
I think this is a fascinating way of looking at it. This is not only relevant to countries; it can also be applied to people. It is our past and the story we have created as individuals that will typically define what actions we will take in life and what we are capable of.
There if often talk of erasing ones memory; however this could lead to one making the same mistakes. What is far greater is to remove the emotional charge of one’s memories. This way one is less likely to make the same mistake again and be able to progress without being tied down emotionally.
In the scene where the politicians are all sat around the table; Margaret says that the rest of the politicians feel guilty because they haven’t had to work their way up like she has. And that because she came from nothing she doesn’t feel the same guilt as they do, because she deserves to be there.
I am no expert here, but this is surely a common occurrence with politicians. And this of course makes it hard for people to relate to them and for them to relate to the general public. But Margaret didn’t have this problem and this must have aided her in becoming as successful as she did. It gave her authenticity and realism.
When Margaret is getting her eyes tested she is asked what it is she is feeling. Margaret says that people are only interested in what people feel now and not in what they are thinking.
Here she mentions the following quote – “Watch your thoughts, for they become words. Watch your words, for they become actions. Watch your actions, for they become habits. Watch your habits, for they become character. Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.” This is a profound quote and one that she clearly heeded. What she was specifically referring to by what she said is unclear and could be interpreted in numerous ways.
In today’s society the media is everywhere we look and has the power to influence us on every level. This of course removes the need for one to think, because it has already been done for us. Critical thinking is rarely encouraged or taught. Making people susceptible to believing everything they see and hear. The ability to question is often under developed.
When it comes down to selling things; feelings are always targeted, this is because these are often uncontrollable and unable to be challenged by logic. It could be said that money is often made from fulfilling people’s wants and not their needs.
The End Of Power
In this scene we see Margaret Thatcher leaving her position of power. She looks saddened by this and rejected. We have seen throughout the whole film how Margaret has continually been dismissed and rejected and now this must feel like the biggest rejection of all. She was also different to other women and must have felt isolated by this.
This could be a metaphor for how she felt with her own mother. And now she feels rejected and isolated by the whole country.
In the final scene Margaret appears to let go of the delusion she was having and Denis goes from her mind. We see him walk off into the distance and he soon disappears.
This could be interpreted to mean that she has finally moved on from the past and is ready to move on with her life and into the present moment.
We can see that Margaret Thatcher was an incredibly strong woman, a woman that suffered numerous setbacks. But these setbacks never stopped her and only made her carry on and fulfil her purpose. She was clearly a role model for women during her time in power and for many years after. And perhaps even too this day there are people who see her in the same way.
I have intentionally avoiding going into the political side of things and this is because this write up is not about politics; it is about understanding or at least trying to understand Margaret Thatcher at a psychological level. This article was not written to make judgments as to whether she was a good politician or not.
It also shows how success and the pursuit of one’s dreams can cause other areas of life to suffer. This is especially true when one has a family to think about. Margaret Thatcher was different; not only on the outside, but on the inside. She thought differently and behaved differently.
Intimacy can mean different things to different people. It is a word that has numerous meanings and interpretations. The meaning I am going to be looking at here is closeness.
Although closeness is usually experienced in relationships of the opposite sex, it can be experienced in any relationship where there is an emotional connection. And an emotional connection can also be felt with friends, colleagues and teachers for example.
The Fear Of Intimacy
To become close to another involves opening ourselves up and a natural consequence of this is that our defences are dropped. We are then vulnerable; which is perfectly normal and part of being human.
However this feeling of vulnerability can be so strong and so overwhelming that it can cause one to retract and avoid closeness altogether.
For others it can mean that they will allow closeness to occur, but only so close. And if it were to go any further than what they are comfortable with; they will likely retract and wait for the level of closeness they are comfortable with to return.
Where Does It Come From?
So where does the fear of intimacy originate from? Through my own experience and research I would say that the fear of intimacy is created during our younger years. What happens during that time and how we interpret what happens is what causes the fear of intimacy.
It is the relationships that we have with our caregivers that have the potential to define how comfortable we are with intimacy throughout our whole life.
The Forgotten Past
Everything that has happened during those years is often largely forgotten about. What are not forgotten about are the emotions, thoughts, sensations and behaviours that these experiences have created.
These can seem random and to just happen, without cause or reason, when the opportunity for intimacy appears.
The primary relationship that one has during their early years is usually where ones meaning of intimacy is formed. It is during this time that the mind forms associations of what is safe and what is not, in regards to emotional closeness. It also forms associations of what happens when intimacy occurs and what intimacy is.
I believe there are three main scenarios going on here. Which are: the distant caregiver, the hot/cold caregiver and the overbearing/smothering caregiver. These are fairly lose descriptions, as they can merge together; with each scenario having the potential to combine and influence each other.
This is the caregiver that is rarely around physically. It might also be a caregiver that is around, but is emotionally unavailable when they are around. So either way, they are not present or available.
This is the caregiver that has moments when they are around and when they are not, this might sound perfectly normal. However, this is not based on routine or plan; these moments are irregular and uncertain. With the child not knowing, when or if, the caregiver is going to be there for them.
With this caregiver, they are present and are able to be relied upon, however they can cause the child to be overwhelmed and suffocated. The Child's boundaries are ignored; the child is then used to fulfil the caregivers own needs, with the child's needs often being ignored and neglected.
The consequence of this is that one's model of intimacy will be at best skewed and at worst dysfunctional. This of course has the potential to cause years of pain around intimacy.
In the first scenario the distant caretaker is seldom available. This can create feelings of: alonesss, hopelessness, shame, rejection, abandonment, shame and betrayal. This can also form problems around being able to trust people and on being able to rely on them.
With the second scenario the caretaker cannot be consistently relied upon to be there either. This can create feelings much like the ones above, but perhaps there intensity is different. These are: hopelessness, rejection, shame, abandonment and worthlessness.
In the third scenario the child experiences an extreme level of closeness. This can create feelings of: suffocation, panic, overwhelm, hopelessness, helplessness, betrayal and shame.
Reliance And Trust
If our caregivers could not be consistently relied upon or trusted to be there for us, it is only normal for one to doubt the likelihood of being able to rely on or to trust that others to be there either. And if one was brought up by an overwhelming caretaker; it is only normal to expect that from other people if one were to get close.
And if this is the kind of intimacy that is familiar to the ego mind and therefore what is safe and as a result continually attracted into one's life, it is only normal to avoid it.
Fear Of Closeness
The following fears can then be experienced: if we get close to another they will disappear or they will be distant or that we will lose ourselves and become overwhelmed if we experience intimacy.
These fears can then be projected onto others and other people with the same traumas can be attracted to us.
With these original experiences still playing out in ones unconscious mind; one will continue to create the same scenarios, to play the same roles and have others play the same roles as ones caregivers did.
This can cause one to sabotage any chance of intimacy and this is not necessarily because of the type of relationships that they are exposed to, but due of the minds original associations of what intimacy is and the perceptions that this creates.
What also makes the fear of intimacy hard to notice is repression and how ones fears can get projected externally. What I'm talking about here is that the fear of intimacy could show up as external rejection. It could also lead to the rejection of others.
The ego mind will then take on the role of the victim or the perpetrator. If one is continually rejected, the mind can then play the role of the victim. And if it is an experience of continually being the rejecter, the role of the perpetrator could be taken on.
The first position has the potential to cause one to regress back to how they felt as a child, with all those unprocessed feelings flooding back. And the second position will occur through one identifying with the caregiver as a way to feel a sense of power; this will also cause feelings to emerge.
These are two sides of the same coin and are neither healthy nor helpful in the pursuit of intimacy.
Processing The Past
These scenarios and roles will continue to play out until they have been made conscious and processed. The minds tendency is to avoid looking at what is painful and has numerous defence mechanisms to do it, such as the one mentioned above. But it is in facing our pain that will lead to healthy and fulfilling intimacy.
Ones story might be about the fear of intimacy and the pain, suffering and isolation that this brings, but this doesn't have to define one's life.
Black Swan: My Interpretation Of The Metaphors
When I first heard about this film I was intrigued by the story line. And after Natalie Portman had won an Oscar for her role, I thought it must be worth watching. It is directed by Darren Aronofsky, who directed The Wrestler and numerous other films.
After watching this film I was amazed and fascinated by the psychological theme, although there are metaphors involved my focus this time is on the psychology of the film. And the psychology involved is primarily about abuse and the consequences of it.
These psychological aspects and metaphors of the film are my personal view and are based on my own interpretation of what these metaphors and psychological aspects are and there meaning. They are in no way the right or only interpretation, they are just my view.
This will also mean that I will miss out certain parts and only describe what stood out for me and what I felt was significant. If there are parts that I don’t understand myself, that will also be a reason as to why it has not been mentioned. it will not be like a story board where I will describe the whole story.
So with the disclaimer of sorts out of the way, let’s begin.
The Dream And Her Mother
The film starts off with Nina Sayers (Natalie Portman) having a dream about being the black swan. This shows how strongly she wants to achieve this. As it has become so consuming to her that she is not only thinking about it in her waking life, but also during the time when she is asleep .The unconscious mind is displaying this great need of hers.
We are also shown that he mother - Erica (Barbara Hershey) is heavily involved in her daughter’s life. However this could mean two things; that her mother is deeply caring and supportive or that her mother masks her self-centredness through her acts of ‘kindness’ and ‘concern’.
During the first rehearsal we are shown how competitive and cold some of the girls are. It is here that Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassel) first appears. Here he talks about their next production – Swan Lake. This is a story of Duality; of the good and the bad.
She is one of the dancers that have been chosen to audition for the lead role of Swan Lake and this also allows her dream to grow in the real world.
Nina comes across as a timid and shy individual, which would infer that her mother is more likely to be controlling and overbearing as opposed to being truly loving and supportive of her daughters expression as a separate human being.
Nina’s audition doesn’t go to plan. Her portrayal of the white swan is perfect, but her dancing for the black swan is not up to Thomas Leroy’s standard. This is partly because of being interrupted by lily’s (Mila Kunis) arrival. We can see that Nina is putting herself under immense pressure and strain to perform and having lily arrive at such an important time further ads to her troubled disposition.
Speaking To Thomas
Nina wants to prove to Thomas that she has what it takes to play; not only the white swan, but also the Black swan. The conversation covers Nina’s need for perfection and how she has to let go and ‘transcend’ this need in order to become the black swan.
This could be interpreted in numerous ways. Firstly It could be that she had a highly critical upbringing, which has lead her to feel that she is inherently not good enough. This causes her to experience high levels of anxiety and stress whenever she has to perform. For is she was to get something wrong she would feel rejected and possibly even be rejected externally by others, as this is what happened to her as a child.
So by doing everything perfectly she believes that she will be accepted. The mind works in polarity’s and will see it as either being accepted or rejected; there is no middle ground to the ego mind. However she is finding out that perfection is not what Thomas wants to see.
Thomas wants to see her lose herself in the moment and to become the black swan. If we were to look at the black and white swan as metaphors, it is quite clear that the white swan represents all that is pure and innocent and the black swan represents all that is impure and tainted; the darker side of life.
So then, it is as if Nina is being asked to become and embrace that part of her that she runs way from, that part of her that has been rejected for so long. Acceptable and not acceptable ways of behaving have been defined by her mother.
Nina finds out that she is the swan queen. She experiences mixed emotions by this though, as she feels good and rejected at the same time. Her fellow dancers express different things. Some are supportive and some are vengeful.
Nina Returns Home
Overjoyed by the news, Nina returns home to her mother (Barbara Hershey). Here her mother has a cake ready to celebrate her daughter’s success.
The good feeling soon end as her mother seems to have what could be called narcissistic or self centred tendencies. She is more concerned with pleasing herself than tuning into and recognising her daughter’s needs. Nina doesn’t want to eat due to her stomach pain and I am sure that with being a dancer she also has to watch how much she eats.
At this point the roles are reversed with the daughter acting more like the mother and the mother acting like the daughter. It should be a time for the mother to appreciate her daughters’ success, but it ends with the Nina’s trying to appease her mother.
Nina’s soon gives in to her mother, to avoid being rejected and goes along with her mother’s wish to eat the cake.
Nina goes back to Leroy’s apartment, with their relationship taking on a somewhat sexual direction. It could be said that she now has two people who are taking advantage of her timid nature. On one side she has a mother who is more than happy to compromise her boundaries and now she has a man in her life that is now doing the same.
And by compromising for her mother she gains her approval and by compromising for Leroy she achieves her dreams.
Back At Home
Nina returns home and soon after her mother is helping her to undress. Where she finds Nina’s cut on her back. Her mother accuses her daughter of scratching herself again. And then cites the recent pressure she has been under as the cause of the scratching.
What is not looked at is the amount of pressure she has been putting on her daughter as a result of her own self centred behaviour. Anger if often the result of being compromised; this could be real compromise or perceived compromise. And when the skin is irritable it can be the result of repressed anger or frustration. So her mother could be partly responsible for her daughter’s sore skin.
When Nina wakes up the next day we can see that her room is filled with cuddly toys, this could further show how her mother is keeping her as her little girl and not allowing Nina to grow up.
Nina’s Swan Lake Predecessor Beth Macintyre (Winona Ryder) has been hurt in a car accident. Beth could be classed as the antithesis of Nina. Whereas Nina represents the white swan in everyday life, Beth represents the black swan.
Perhaps Beth has had a similar upbringing, but she has taken on the opposite characteristics. A common consequence of people who are abused is that they become high achievers. This is to cover up their fear of being inadequate. But the achievements rarely have a lasting impact because the trauma from their childhood hasn’t been look at or processed.
In the ballet rehearsal Nina is criticised for being too nice and for not having a backbone. This surely originates from her relationship with her mother. With her mother being so controlling and overbearing Nina has had little chance to develop her own sense of empowerment or the ability to stand up for herself.
On her train journey home Nina is exposed to a sordid experience. Here an old man is pleasuring himself in front of Nina. Although this has not happened to her before, she is used to getting taken advantage of sexually. This is a pattern that was first started off by Leroy.
It would be easy to assume that Nina is a victim here and that she is being chosen at random. However it no doubt reflects her upbringing, where her boundaries were not respected and now the same occurrence is being played out by various men she meets. Her mother most likely wouldn’t allow her daughter to speak her own mind or say no and this is what makes it so hard for her to stand up and to set boundaries with others. And because she carries this deep sense of vulnerability, her behaviour displays this and will continue to attract abusive people into her life.
Here we find Nina and Erica Sitting in front of the mirrors. Her mother is concerned for Nina and doesn’t want her to make the same mistake that she did. And now is the time that we get to see what is really going on with Nina’s mother and what causes her to behave as she does.
Erica says that she gave up her own career for Nina. But this isn’t said in a way that denotes love, appreciation or support. Instead Erica expresses regret and anger and does her best to make Nina feel guilty. To her such things from a figure as important as her mother must be incredibly traumatising. Her sense of belonging and acceptance (which are the foundations of psychological health) could easily have been destroyed. This has the potential to leave her feeling abandoned, betrayed, rejected and ashamed amongst other things.
This also explains why her mother is so controlling and overbearing. She is this way because she is trying to live out her own ‘unlived’ life through her daughter. With her own childhood needs having been neglected, she is now using her daughter to fulfil them. In her eyes, Nina is an extension of herself and not a separate person.
In the next moment Erica wants Nina to take of her shirt, to see how her skin is. To which Nina reply’s ‘its fine’ and resists taking of her shirt. It is also here that we can see how Nina is growing as a person. She goes against her mother’s wishes and joins her fellow dancer Lily (Mila Kunis) for a drink.
After Nina and Lily have something to eat they meet two guys and have a few drinks. Here lily encourages Nina to let go and enjoy herself. So they both dabble in drugs and drink alcohol.
Nina is certainly vulnerable here because she has no connection to herself or very little; she has spent much of her life listening to others. And were she to say no to her mother she would no doubt have be punished, this could create an association of rejection and abandonment around standing up for herself. This will then create a tendency to do what others say; to avoid being rejected. Another consequence of her mother’s abusive behaviour is that Nina’s own sense of self hasn’t been allowed to develop and this causes her to lose herself around others, especially forceful people.
They meet two guys and while Nina is with one of them she explains what she does and that she is soon to be in Swan Lake. With her describing it as a girl that gets turned into a swan and in order for her to break free she needs love.
This is surely a metaphor for Nina’s life. That in order for Nina to break her mother’s spell she needs love also. She needs love, support and validation. So she can realise who she is, is ok and acceptable.
In the next scene we see Nina and Lily exploring each other sexually. Now it would be easy to dismiss this scene and to label it as just experimentation and that Nina is simple exploring herself. But what else might be going on here? Although sexual activity is pleasurable to both body and mind, it also has the potential to fulfil certain emotional needs that were not fulfilled during ones childhood. This is why practices such as Tantra say that as one evolves, sex takes on a completely different meaning that the usual purpose of self gratification.
So if these emotional needs that have not been realised; they often will end up being projected onto the other person. And whether this is a man or a woman is irrelevant; as although a man and a woman look different, we each contain both the masculine and feminine within. And while one is with that person they will temporarily experience these emotional needs being fulfilled.
So here I can only assume as to what needs are being fulfilled for Nina through being with Lily. However, I would guess that the primary feelings that Lily causes Nina to experience is love and connection. These are undoubtedly feelings she has rarely felt with her mother.
The Next Rehearsal
Due to what happened the night before Nina wakes up late and therefore doesn’t arrive on time for her rehearsal.
When Nina asks Lily why she didn’t wake her up, she denies that they had been together and that Nina had dreamt it.
This could show how much Nina has thought about Lily and now, just like her ballet dream in the beginning, is now showing up in her dreams. It might also be a hallucination.
In this scene we see Nina throwing her cuddly toys into the trash. This shows that her mentality has changed and that she is rebelling against her mother’s way of treating her. It could be seen as s form of catharsis.
In this scene we see that Nina has become so paranoid about the mark on her back that she is continually experiencing delusions or hallucinations. Through her minds obsession and focus she is now imagining faces.
Nina finds out that lily is her alternate. At this moment she is filled panic and sadness and feels that Lily wants to take her role. Leroy dismisses this and explains that every dancer in the world wants her role and that it isn’t about her.
So it could be that Lily is simply the backup dancer and that her paranoia is irrational. And that her mind is simply filtering her experiences to only see Lily in a certain way. Nina’s childhood experiences of having a mother who was critical and against her, could create the tendency for her to see other people in the same way.
Nina visits Beth Macintyre (Winona Ryder) in hospital and sees her in a wheel chair. Here we can assume that Nina is feeling incredible guilt and self blame for what has happened to Beth.
We also find out that Nina has projected certain psychological aspects that she has yet to embrace onto Beth. This causes Nina’s mind to filter her experience of Beth, so that she only sees perfection.
Nina wakes up to find that her mother has taken off the door handle to stop Nina from going to the concert hall. Here the roles change with Nina becoming the abuser and her mother becomes the abused. This is a pattern that is common, with abuse often being passed from one generation to the other.
The Big Night
After a crazy night Nina goes to the concert hall and prepares for Swan Lake. Here she finds out that Lily will be performing; after her mother had called to say she was ill. Nina disposition has now changed with her taking on more of the Black Swan’s characteristics and says that she is ready to perform
Leroy says to her that she is the only person standing in her way. And that it is time to let her go and lose herself. This could mean that her biggest enemy has been herself. And that it is more a case of finding herself and losing the identity her mother has given her. A common occurrence of abuse and any form of external criticism that’s experienced during ones childhood is that it becomes internalised. The critical voice is then heard within and whether one is around the abuser no longer matters. It then exists like a parasite, taking on different guises and positions; this makes it hard to notice and eliminate.
Throughout the whole film we have seen Nina gradually change and this has been mirrored by her growth as a ballet dancer and through achieving her dream of being the lead in Swan Lake. It is tempting to suggest that Nina has gone through a stage of psychological growth. However, it would be more appropriate to say that Nina has gone from one extreme to the other, shedding her role as the victim and taking on the role of the perpetrator.
Nina performs the role perfectly, but her hallucinations or delusions get the better of her and while she is getting ready she stabs herself with a piece of glass. The psychological understanding that I have does not cover this. But it would surely be labelled as a ‘mental disorder’. And a mental disorder that has surely been a consequence of her mother’s abuse. With a split being formed within and this must be the result of the trauma she has faced throughout her life.
The Black Swan was everything Nina wished she could be and the complete opposite of how she was. The black swan within her was her repressed side. That side she had always hidden from others. For most of her life she played the white swan. But it is highly unlikely that either of these showed her true self.
The White Swan was someone she had to become to please her mother and to survive and the Black Swan was a reaction to being oppressed by her mother. The Black Swan gave Nina a sense of power and although it wasn’t functional, it allowed her to experience what she had been deprived of experiencing for so long.
Nina must have experienced years of trauma through her mother and that’s not even going into what Nina could have picked up from her mother in the womb. With Nina’s mother blaming her daughter for her own ruined career. It could be said that, before she was even born, she felt unwanted.
This shows how dangerous and destructive abuse is. It is something that can go on unnoticed for years and even a life time.
Oliver JR Cooper
Teacher, Author, Transformational Writer & Consultant - With Over 2,000,000 Article Views Online.
That which is contained within these articles is based on my own empirical understanding and is true for me at the time they were written. However, as I continue to grow, what I perceive as the truth will inevitably change and as a result of this - parts of these articles may not reflect my current outlook.
A Dialogue With The Heart - Part One
A Dialogue With The Heart - Part Two
A Dialogue With The Spirit
Why Does He Behave That Way? Why Do I Behave This Way?