Welcome to Format Free Fridays at AskDrDarcy.com, the one day a week when I break the format of answering your questions.
This past week was filled with enormous highs and lows for me. For months I’ve waited in great anticipation of January 26, the date of the debut of a television show for which I provided expert commentary. What I could not have imagined was that my excitement would be overshadowed by the sudden loss of my mentor Jeff Seinfeld who died on January 25th.
The emotional roller coaster ride of this week provoked me to ponder life: What’s the point in making plans? How could I have gotten so carried away over a stupid television show? How could I have been a better friend to Jeff? Was I a good enough friend to Jeff? How will I practice without him?
I indulged myself for several days in these bottomless questions, some of which were rhetorical and some of which were pointless. Eventually after I exhausted myself, I came up for air and I asked myself a familiar question: What did you learn?
I have a fundamental need to learn lessons from pain and struggle. The alternative is to walk away from situations feeling robbed, victimized, disempowered. I believe that much of our experience in life boils down to the meaning that we attach to events. Thus began my search for lessons learned this week.
Jeff was an expert in a psychodynamic theory called Object Relations, which is essentially the study of how humans relate to one-another. A fundamental principal in Object Relations Theory is a concept called Object Constancy, a fancy term to describe our ability to internalize our relationship with another and hold it in memory, so that we’re able to recall the relationship and experience the feelings from that relationship without being dependant on the other person to provide us with those feelings. In short, we achieve independence.
So what was my lesson?
Life is all about relationships and our lessons learned during those relationships, and the essence of object constancy is the ability to carry those lessons beyond those relationships. It’s the crux of what therapy is intended to achieve. Like a skilled therapist, a good mentor teaches his student in a way that fosters independence so that eventually, the student no longer needs the mentor. I wouldn’t say that I no longer need Jeff, but I’m betting he would.