Excerpt About Shell
Experiencing the hurt for not being seen as a wound is not merely a metaphor. The student actually feels wounded, not only in the emotional sense, but literally, almost physically, as is clear in Nyland’s report. The wound feels like a cut in the chest, as a gash, as if one’s heart were physically wounded. There is the physical sensation of a painful cut, and this sensation of pain is inseparable from the emotional feeling of hurt. The emotion and the sensation comprise one state, an emotional wound that feels like a rip which hurts emotionally. This gash is not actually in the physical body; it is a cut in the shell, a rip in the structure of self-identity. The shell is beginning to disintegrate as a result of the loss of the mirroring. The wound is the sign of the threat to the cohesion of this structure. In fact, any narcissistic disturbance involves some level of breakdown in the structure of identity. Unempathic or insensitive responses from the environment affect the self like a stab of a knife. We actually feel stabbed, pierced, cut to the core. We naturally feel great resistance to experiencing this wound. We are terrified of falling apart, of losing the integrity of our sense of self, of disintegrating and disappearing. No wonder we feel we need mirroring for the preservation of the integrity and cohesion of this self-structure. The glue that keeps this structure together is missing at this point. This is literally true, almost physically true.