So, I'm in session with a man who is recounting a story about how angry he was with his wife because she told him that she would call him after her meeting and then didn't call until 11:30 pm. They are currently separated because he decided at one point that he was in love with someone else and told her about it. After he actually moved out and in the moment where he was about to remove his wedding ring, it hit him like a thunder bolt that he had made a gigantic mistake. He rushed back to her begging for forgiveness. He began a campaign to win her back.
How then do we understand how his process of thinking he was in love with a woman he didn't really know and how he was not in love with his wife whom he knew or at least thought he did, only to discover that he actually didn't know how he really felt about her? If this sounds convoluted, well it is. This is the Rubik's Cube of psychological dilemmas. To unravel all the components to the mystery of his behavior we needed to dig down into the layers of his personality.
As he recounted his story about why he was angry with her he described getting in his car and driving by her apartment. I asked why and he told me that he wanted to make sure she was alright. As we pursued this driving expedition it turned out that he didn't drive over to see if she was OK but to see if she was home and just didn't call him. This tip off inevitably lead us to his core issues. He didn't feel important, he never did growing up. Ah ha! Now we could proceed upward.
Layers: First hurt, then anger, then a paranoid response, "she's messing with my mind," we move downward to the grandiose response, I am the good one, I will go by and check on her, to abandonment terror and ultimately to the feeling of being unimportant and unlovable. Quite a mix.
We talk some more. It comes out that he felt unimportant during their marriage because of her devotion to her career. She had talked about relocating if some of the offers she was getting came through. His work made it very difficult for him to relocate. This feeling he had that her career was more important to her than he was started an emotional chain reaction to the point where he became enveloped in a fantasy about another woman who he believed would love him and only him. Breaking down the fantasy lead us again to the same core issue, albeit many layers down.
Doing psychological archaeology is the act of sifting through our reactions to significant others in a way that not only let's us know who we are and what has affected us but how to use this material to connect. Making intimate connections is the goal of all healthy interactions. Understanding the layers that lie beneath our first reaction allows us to uncover our own yearning for love and intimacy. Obviously, we should not try to do this at home. We ultimately will know when we cannot sort out the conflicts and dilemmas and chances are it is more complex than you know. Understanding our own unique set of layers enables us to know who we are and who we are with.