Falling Into Invisible Wounds

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Michael Eigen, PhD

Dan:  I’ve fallen down three times this week. I am beginning to wonder. Some moments I think there must be something wrong with my brain or my knees or hip or balance. Or maybe I am not paying attention. My head it somewhere else if it is anywhere at all. My mother used to say, “Danny, your head is in the clouds.” I used to wonder what’s wrong with me. Where is my head? I would look up at the sky and try to find it. What do you think? 

M.E.:  I’m not sure what I’m doing qualifies as thinking unless fantasy is also a form of thinking. I have read that it is but I also have read it is not. One author I read contrasted fantasy and dreaming, calling the latter thinking and the former a waste. But I am seeing a little child trying to learn to walk, falling down, picking himself up, stumbling, falling, trying again.  

Dan: I can feel that – trying and trying, failing, trying again. Reminds me of Beckett’s phrase, something like fail, fail again, fail better. But I don’t think I am failing better. I think I am in danger of hurting myself badly. I am afraid of breaking.   

M.E.: I can feel that. Can you say more? 

Dan: The more that is coming is that I get up in order to fall. I am trying to fall. I am trying to lose my balance. Something does not want to stand.  

M.E.: Something wants to break? Or get it touch with what already is broken? 

Dan: That comes pretty close. Something broken. I try to break myself to feel what is already broken. 

M.E: Sometimes I think it is frustrating not to be able to fall forever. You fall and hit the ground, a limit. One keeps hitting limits. 

Dan: Or limits keep hitting you. But there are other places. If I were an astral body I could fly or fall forever.  

M.E.: Planet earth is awfully inconvenient that way, you keep bumping into things. You keep bumping into yourself. 

Dan: When I was little – maybe three, four, before I went to school –  I was alone a lot. 

M.E.: All by yourself without anyone around or do you mean you felt alone. And if so, when did you feel alone most? Least? 

Dan: No – I mean all alone by myself. My father worked and my mother would leave me all alone in our apartment and she would go out and do things. Sometimes I cried or played. And sometimes I would look out the window and see things – strange things, some of them flying in the air, some climbing up the building. I realized there was something wrong – wrong with me. With my own mind.  Something wrong and no one could help me.  When I was much older and learned the word trauma in high school and college I would think that’s it, that’s what I have, and named it the trauma of aloneness. Can aloneness be a trauma or did I make this up? The aloneness of trauma. 

M.E: If you are making this up it is still something to pay attention to. It sounds like something you really feel – really felt. 

Dan: Are feelings reality? 

M.E: Deeply so. 

Dan: When I was growing up feelings were something to laugh at, make fun of, unless I fell down and felt hurt, if there really was a wound someone could see and take care of. Sometimes I wondered if I really hurt myself more, like falling out the window or down the steps – wouldn’t that cause alarm? Wouldn’t that be real? 

M.E:  And what about invisible wounds that no one could see, that only you could feel? 

Dan: (Beginning to weep). I feel like crying, but am so angry that this could be true. 

Can there be angry tears? Angry and sad tears at the same time? 

M.E.: For all the wounds one thought were not there, that were unreal. Are we sensing together that sometimes wounds that can’t be seen can be more real than those that can? 

Dan: More than sometimes. [A long pause, tears]. Wounds are crying. 

M.E.: Tears visible as well as invisible. 

Dan:  Do you feel these things too? Do you have wounds that can’t be seen? 

M.E.:  I have a hunch you can see some when you look at me. 

Dan: When I hear you too, your tone can make me feel the wounds within. I used to be afraid to feel this. I felt I would never come back. I’d be swallowed by whatever my mother meant by clouds. Clouds are hungry for wounds. Wounds hide in clouds. 

M.E.: And now? 

Dan:  I feel I’m feeling a little more, a little bit more what I’ve been afraid of feeling since I was little. Not just afraid but not knowing how. Not learning how to feel what can’t be felt but makes you tighten around it. This must be what people mean by being haunted. I am a haunted house and you are too.  

M.E.: It is good to air our ghosts together, at least a little. 

Dan: A little – a little relief, a little opening. My breathing feels more relaxed. I didn’t know it was tight.   

M.E. Maybe there’ll come a time when you won’t have to fall down so much to contact yourself. Maybe you can find other languages besides injury. 

Dan: Yes, I think that’s what we’re doing now, the two of us. 


Michael Eigen, PhD is author of twenty-seven books and many papers. He teaches and supervises at New York University Postdoctoral Program in Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis and the National Psychological Association for Psychoanalysis. He has been Editor of The Psychoanalytic Review, received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Association for the Advancement of Psychoanalysis and Hans Loewald Award from International Forum of Psychoanalytic Education. He gives a private seminar on Winnicott, Bion, Lacan and his own work ongoing forty-five years.