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Home arrow Psychology arrow Subjective Darkness: Depression as a Loss of Connection, Narrative, Meaning, and the Capacity for Self-Representation


Ultimately, Lena was just beginning to find her own voice with which to articulate her experiences of distress. This breakdown in communication seems to represent a familial, intergenerational tradition of silence surrounding existential and psychological pain. Each of Lena’s family members struggled in their own way, but much of the dialogue that could help to name these collective wounds was muted, kept secret, or else enacted in ways that obscured the origins of the multiple traumas. As she reflected on her own story within the broader context of her family narrative, Lena began to comment on the missing links in her own history and the ways in which even the things she did not know had had a profound impact on her life:

I think like maybe I did go through a lot because . . . I mean I don’t remember a lot of what happened and, like you already know there’s like still, there’s a lot I don’t know about my family, there’s still a lot that I don’t know like I’m just slowly learning these things from different people in my family and like as I get older, but I’m not- I don’t get surprised like I used to it’s just, I’m just always hearing more about like my father and my mom, like just all these different people. I think maybe I did go through a lot because of just the the impact it had on me, and just how I live my life. Like I don’t think I can function well enough.

For the majority of her life, Lena has lived an existence in which she consistently feels misrecognized and misunderstood. In addition to the pain caused by the absence of emotionally supportive figures in her life, she has the added difficulty of being constantly invalidated by those around her. Lena’s pain is denied and negated by people who compare her suffering with the plights of those who are less fortunate. Amid her anguish, she is told that she is inadequately grateful. This results in a complete foreclosure of any narrative that she tries to develop of her inner world. In turn, Lena enacted her pain for many years through substance abuse, self-injury, sexual promiscuity, suicidality, and aggression.

Lena’s subjective experience is saturated with loneliness, for the dynamics within her family are hostile and disconnected. She experienced a major loss and disruption in attachment early on in her life when she was separated from her family of origin and placed into foster care. On her return, she felt deeply uncomfortable with the fighting, physical and verbal attacks, and persecutory nature of relationships within her family. Relational difficulties based on these dynamics pervaded Lena’s world in early childhood, and they seeped into the social realms of other forums, including school, her neighborhood, and her working life. Her family’s inability to see her has made it difficult for Lena to come to know herself, and she is therefore working to develop her own voice amidst refusal, misrecognition, and negation. It is likely that through this process of coming to know her own narrative and therefore know herself, Lena will be able to construct meaning from her experiences that will serve as a source of hope and repair.

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