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Today I would like to talk about a very frequent topic in the psychotherapy of adolescents. It is not, of course, a question here of dealing with everything relating to depression, but of seeing something that I think is extremely important.

I’m talking about that situation in which there is an identification that is the unconscious introjection of a more or less authoritarian figure that makes us feel bad when something particularly valid and vital is realized. I’ll explain better starting from a very frequent dream: I was making love with my girlfriend but at some point, my mother enters and we get dressed in a hurry. Here we have to think that in reality obviously there is no mother who entered during sexual intercourse but that mother to whom reference is made is an internalized object that basically works as a superego, a judge, as a policeman and therefore creates a dimension of internal conflict between a push to achieve something valid and a severe internal rebuke. We can find this in the wake in those situations where after having made something beautiful, one feels very bad. People often reproach themselves: I was too spontaneous, too open, I was not in my place and things like that when reality tells us exactly the opposite. Or it happens that after doing something beautiful, for example, a difficult test passed brilliantly, comes a very strong depression. Here we must consider how much something which long ago was external, meaning a violent and repeated judgment by a parent, a devaluation, for a series of mechanisms that here it is not appropriate to deepen, is then internalized and then becomes part of someone’s own internal reality and it is as if it became a second identity that tends precisely to repress, to prohibit and therefore to clash with the healthy coexistent identity and thus leads to an internal conflict, intrapsychic, insufferable.

This unbearable internal conflict is often “solved” pathologically, in two ways, both unconscious. 

In one case, just to avoid this harsh internal judgment, the kid lives far below their chances and does not even realize they are depressed. They’re convinced they’re this way, that they’re not up to it. They no longer feel that internal bite because those realizations that would be within their reach are avoided by them. Here we are faced with a situation of depression that, however, is not at all experienced as such. There is no mother who breaks in while making love with the girl because he does not make love with the girl anymore! His girlfriend is not the one that makes him dizzy, the one he really likes, but at most the one who takes care of him, who is close to him, almost a friend who accepts him for what he is, who assists him “lovingly”!

Another frequent mode, still unconscious and pathological, of “solving” the internal conflict is to put in the other that strict internal judge. The intrapsychic conflict disappears projecting on another person (father, mother, professor…) that internal prohibition thus reaching a very angry and blind relationship with the other that is thus experienced as the cause of all problems, giving them a huge power that the boy or the girl will try furiously to counter ending up very often destroying themselves. Therefore, there is a relationship that does not admit any separation or even a refusal because in the other there is also a part of oneself and therefore there is an alliance, an invisible collusion with the violent other.

It is obvious that if a psychotherapy effort works, this internal conflict is resolved because the identification, the introjected object, the superego disappears. However, and this passage characterizes adolescents, the kid is still forced to live within the family walls and must live with this that has now become an external oppression against which, however, now has an absolute clarity, they don’t get confused anymore and the No, inside, is strong and safe. But once we have arrived here, and that is that this judgment or this reproach has become exclusively external, you will still feel a sense of annoyance, but it will be very different from the previous situation. What is clearly noticeable in the kid is the passage from this unbearable anger to a situation of calm where surely oppression continues to be experienced but they will no longer feel more guilty for a beautiful realization that instead now will allow him to do, recognizing the limits and the envy of those who react badly because they lost their vitality, the sexuality, the joy of living, and then became violent. It must also be said that sometimes it happens that parents start a crisis in front of his healthy movement of the kid and succeed in achieving a new and valid relationship with their son or daughter. 

I think that in a period like this, even though we are not 14 anymore, we all feel an oppression, to which it is right and desirable to rebel. However, it is essential to have clear ideas not to fall into a violent and sterile blind rebellion that does nothing but restore the status quo, often worsening or even legitimizing it.

Marco Michelini

Thanks to Chiara Fanasca for the translation of this article


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