Beginnings & Endings

"Before we embark on any new venture, we weigh up whether it is worth taking the risk to face the as yet unknown. In spite of all the limitations and frustrations of our present life, sticking to the same role, the same way of conducting our individual and institutional life may feel easier, a safer option. The saying Better the devil you know - than the one you don't, gives expression to the feeling that however uncomfortable and unsatisfactory our present state at least it is known, while the unknown holds the potential of danger… Change is threatening; it needs faith, hope and courage to embrace new experience. 

"Most beginnings require us not only to let go of what we are familiar with but also relinquish something that we value or some advantage associated with a previous state. We may look forward to the gain that we hope will accompany every new stage of development yet at the same time some good aspects of the previous phase may have to be relinquished. These losses are likely to make us anxious and angry at a time when we might expect to be happy. Resentment at what has to be given up may seriously interfere with the enjoyment of what the new step we have taken may have to offer.

"Yet being able to be aware of and face these losses allows us to some extent to prepare ourselves mentally and emotionally. If we avoid doing so it makes us even more prone to being overwhelmed by panic when the dreaded event actually occurs. We may feel ashamed of the emotional turmoil we find ourselves in, be reluctant to admit it to ourselves and inclined to try and run away form it. Alternatively we might be over-whelmed by our painful, disturbing emotional state but fear that there is no one who can tolerate our fears, anger, grief, depression and despair. All this may make us reluctant to communicate, to share our feelings with others. There may be no partner, friend, colleague willing to listen, for many people are afraid that they will be infected by another person's painful emotional state. Much suffering therefore goes on silently with individuals being left to manage their pain on their own, making it all harder to bear. We may try and run away from the pain of loss but unless we have lost or are about to lose, we will not be able to internalize/preserve within ourselves what has been of value in the past as well as trying to avoid what is painful by blaming others we tend to project into others the unwanted destructive aspects of ourselves...

"The dread evoked by even ordinary endings becomes understandable if we realize that they stir up fears of the loss of security, of being abandoned, left to die. These powerful feelings stem from earliest infancy, the time when our life of being carried in the womb comes to an end and the cord connecting us to mother is cut. Equally our excitement and anxieties at beginnings has its roots in the experience of the newborn opening his eyes to a whole new world, one that as well as being terrifyingly unfamiliar is also full of wonder and beauty. I believe that human beings have from the very beginning of life a need and capacity to seek connections. The newborn cut off at birth from the physical connection with mother, the source of his life, seeks to reconnect to the mother's body and her resources. With mother's help and understanding he uses his sensual and mental equipment to gradually explore and understand what he encounters outside and within himself. The anger and anxiety caused by being weaned needs to be understood and the baby helped to see that mother is still available and loves him. The child gradually becomes aware of wider connections, the interdependence of mother and father, of the family and others in the outside world, and at some later stage of human life and the environment...

"Not only is the infant extremely sensitive to the emotional life within mother conveyed to him in a myriad of ways but he also becomes highly receptive to the responses evoked by his own actions, his physical and emotional communication. I believe human beings have an inborn moral sense a conscience that even in babyhood can make us concerned at the damage inflicted by greed and destructiveness in action or phantasy. In contrast, the connectedness of something within, and beyond ourselves that is creative, life enhancing, fills us with wonder.

Isca Salzberger-Wittenberg