The more unrealistic such feelings are and the less they fit present reality, the more clearly they show that they are concerned with unremembered situations from the past that are still to be discovered, If, however, the feeling concerned is not experienced but reasoned away, the discovery cannot take place, and depression will be triumphant.
After a long depressive phase, accompanied by suicidal thoughts, a forty-year-old patient was at last able to experience her violent, very early ambivalence in the transference. This was not immediately followed by visible relief but by a period full of mourning and tears. At the end of this period she said:
‘The world has not changed, there is so much evil and meanness all around me, and I see it even more clearly than before. Nevertheless, for the first time I find life really worth living. Perhaps this is because, for the first time, I have the feeling that I am really living my own life. And that is an exciting adventure. On the other hand, I can understand my suicidal ideas better now, especially those I had in my youth – it seemed pointless to carry on – because in a way I had always been living a life that wasn’t mine, that I didn’t want, and that I was ready to throw away.’
Alice Miller – The Drama of the Gifted Child p.78
The achievement of freedom from both forms of narcissistic disturbance in analysis is hardly possible without deeply felt mourning. This ability to mourn, that is, to give up the illusion of his ‘happy’ childhood, can restore the depressive’s vitality and creativity, and (if he come to analysis at all) free the grandiose person from the exertions of and dependence on his Sisyphean task. If a person is able, during this long process, to experience that he was never ‘loved’ as a child for what he was but for his achievements, success, and good qualities, and that he sacrificed his childhood for this ‘love’, this will shake him very deeply but one day he will feel the desire to end this courtship. He will discover in himself a need to live according to his ‘true self’ and no longer be forced to earn love, a love that at root, still leaves him empty-handed since it is given to the ‘false self’, which he has begun to relinquish.
The true opposite of depression is not gaiety or absence of pain, but vitality: the freedom to experience spontaneous feelings. It is part of the kaleidoscope of life that these feelings are not only cheerful, ‘beautiful’ and ‘good’; they also can display the whole scale of human experience, including envy, jealousy, rage, disgust, greed despair and mourning.
Alice Miller – The Drama of the Gifted Child p.77