By Andrew D Atkin:
The Walking Man: How and why a neurosis is formed.
Once upon a time there was a walking man. The walking man loved to walk. One day, as the walking man was walking, he came up to a bridge. The walking man casually walked across the bridge until he got to about half way. It was then that he looked down and made a horrible discovery.
What he discovered was that the bridge was only one foot wide, and that he could slip and fall to his death at any time. This terrified the walking man to the point where his fear threatened to overwhelm him (too much to consciously deal with). Of course, the walking man could not afford to feel the fear if he was to cope with the situation and survive. His consciousness needed to be devoted towards survival. So what happened?
What happened was the walking man became unconscious, that is, unconscious to the sensation of fear as induced by the dangerous bridge. This cut-off process is called repression. It is a natural survival mechanism. It’s not that the feeling of fear just "disappeared", it’s that it became unconscious (our conscious brain blocked it off, it did not "destroy it").
As the walking man’s fear became detached from his consciousness, his defence (which was to walk in a straight-as-possible line) was still operating, as it obviously must. However, as the defence was isolated from its feeling, it had effectively become a compulsion*.
*I should clarify that our need to act-out is experienced as an "urge" - a trauma-induced drive, a compulsion. Mostly, we only feel the urge, not the repression that’s creating it.
So the walking man walked "fearlessly" to the end of the bridge in his compulsive manner.
Whoops! When the walking man got to the end of the bridge we made a very interesting discovery. Although the walking man reached the end of the bridge and was on safe open land, he was still walking in a straight-as-possible line!…WHY?
When the walking man got to the end of the bridge he entered open land with a repressed feeling. That repressed feeling was constantly pushing to get into his consciousness. The repression made him feel as though he was still walking on dangerous ground. In response to this, he started head-tripping over the possibility of earthquakes - his brain rationalized the fear in the 'open land' context. To keep the fear out of his consciousness he continued to act-out, he continued to walk in a highly cautious straight-as-possible line.
From the walking man's viewpoint he is not responding to an internally generated fear, but only what he interprets as external reality - but he is "wrong". He cannot deduct that his feeling is a subjective reaction and that his brain is merely looking for an external rationalisation for his feeling state to project onto. The great confusion for the walking man is the belief that the external situation came first, as opposed to the feeling. He can't be blamed for this, as his subjective experience qualifies the perceived situation as being the cause of his feeling because that is exactly how he experiences it. He cannot usually see that his 'today' is really just a symbolic derivative of his yesterday.
The vast majority of us are stuck in our childhoods in the same way that the Walking Man is stuck on the bridge. Early childhood trauma, in particular traumatic deprivations associated with a lack of genuine parental love and very serious infantile trauma, forces us into a psychological 'prison' that ultimately overwhelms adult life. We basically remain children (emotionally) acting out our past in an adult context.
A more comprehensive explanation:
Understanding Mental sickness:
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