A Portion of the Backstory: A Connection Between Judy and Me

By Edie Boxer

Boston, Massachusetts November 21-23, 2008: Encounters and Escapes: Danger and Desire in the Analytic Connection: Judy Vida and I were each presenting at the Conference, but it was later during the weekend when Judy suggested thinking about a venue to give our papers together. I wondered what she had in mind. Then, when the opportunity to have our essays and comments published on the IFPE Online Journal became a possibility, I began to think about how each of us created our personal stories and how or if the two papers might influence each other. Judy wrote, “A backstory is always there.” (Page 6)  Although I was yet to discover and understand the significance of our narratives, her words felt extremely important and exciting.

I wrote in the first part of my paper about exploring my fear of death. Discovering the reason for my vigilance about the finality of life helped me to expand my mastery over what I still, however, consider a fearful aspect of living. It wasn’t until I read Judy’s paper, “What’s Missing,” that I began to realize that there may be more to thoughts about dying than, as I wrote in my paper, “the incomprehensible notion of no longer living my life.” Judy wrote on the final page of her paper this last sentence, “The connections are the point.” I began to think about not only fearful endings but also the longing to connect.

It seemed that the first point of connection between us was in Judy’s description of her relationship with her mother that stimulated my own thoughts about my mother and myself. The pain, disappointment and loss of us long before she died can easily be retrieved from my memory. Reading Judy’s words, I knew that we shared similar feelings regarding our mothers’ impact on us. Judy’s honesty in discussing her relationship with her mother (speaking of Simone de Beauvoir’s memoir A Very Easy Death: Judy writes, “Simone de Beauvoir can bear to be with her mother as I can not with mine.” Page 9) reignited my long held realization that my mother and I had a very dissatisfying relationship. Both of us knew it; but never talked about it. I also know that my mother and I had –or at least I had—a very deep connection that rarely felt self and other affirming, sustaining, and vitalizing. I believe that the connection, in part, had to do with my longing for her to offer herself so that we could resonate with each other. I always hungered for my mother’s words that might have helped me tolerate feelings such as my fear of death born out of my parents’ tragic loss of their newborn child. But, I have come to know that my mother could not /did not have the capacity to be the kind of mother that I wanted. My wishing for her to be different was not powerful enough to make our relationship work; still over eighteen years after my mother died, the wish can reappear.

Perhaps as a way to develop an alternative to the disappointment I know, I attempt to be available to those who can offer me a new relationship. I am drawn to the personal qualities of the other who has the capacity to listen, understand, and acknowledge me. My experience of being connected to Judy reveals the other side of the pathological self-centeredness resulting in my mother’s needs being superimposed over me. Instead, Judy is the other person who brings something of herself to me/us: an offering of herself that I can resonate with and choose to connect with. The connection between Judy and myself that extends back several years before the IFPE Conference in Boston is one that I experience as helping me towards a path to life not death.

Through several readings of Judy’s paper, I paused to reflect and identify with more of her thoughts and feelings: …”writing that is empty of the personal has no interest for me and more than that, is impossible to understand. When I am writing, the trail of my thought, feeling, and memory illuminates the inquiry, allowing a deeper penetration into the work, and a deeper penetration of the work into me.” (Page 3) “All backstories call out to be told; the more unknowable, the more desperate the cries.” (Page 11) I have learned that as I read and write, I gather dissociated thoughts and feelings and experiences that ultimately lead me to know and understand more about myself and the other. The discovery of another point of connection makes my “cries” feel a little less desperate.

Judy writes on the final page of her paper: “… I think we have to live long enough, and then look and feel, feel even more deeply as we risk entry into a space that may have no dimensions and no bottom, where we will think and reflect for a while and then hoist ourselves back up in the company of some others.” (Page 13) I did not know when I casually (but just a “bit dissociated”) suggested to Judy and Steve Kuchuck, that perhaps Judy and I could each write a bridge between our two papers. I thought that my writing would be a discussion about death and mothers and that would be that. I had no thought that my writing would result in a portion of my backstory that I needed to tell. It has been a painfully revealing, but exhilarating and vitalizing experience. Thank you, Judy, for you and for your paper that gave me the opportunity to be more available to myself and to others. I welcome your thoughts as you read this bridge. I welcome the chance to be together again- this time online.

Edith (Edie) G. Boxer, M.S.W., PSY.D. has a background in early childhood intervention and prevention at both on-site and home based agencies.

A graduate of The Institute of Contemporary Psychoanalysis, Los Angeles where she graduated in 2001, she is currently co-chair of the Admissions Committee, a Board member, and a Training and Supervising Analyst. She is also a student in the three year program, New Directions, A psychoanalytic writing and critical thinking program of The Washington Center for Psychoanalysis.

Clinically, Dr. Boxer is very interested in contemporary psychoanalysis as it emphasizes the collaborative healing capacity of the analytic relationship in order for the dyad to incorporate the patient’s unique, subjective experience as well as engage both the analyst/therapist’s and patient’s subjectivity. Building on this context, she credits Phillip Bromberg’s work on trauma and dissociation as well as Judith Vida and Gershon J. Molad’s Autobiographical Seminars as instrumental in her clinical thinking and its application.

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