The False Self

In the cases on which my work is based there has been what I call a true self hidden, protected by a false self. This false self is no doubt an aspect of the true self. It hides and protects it, and it reacts to the adaptation failures and develops a pattern corresponding to the pattern of environmental failure. In this way the true self is not involved in the reacting, and so preserves a continuity of being. However, this hidden true self suffers an impoverishment that derives from lack of experience.”

Donald Woods Winnicott, (from “Clinical Varieties of Transference,” 1955-56)

“…Even so, the woman persisted in my mind, manifesting in an increasingly fanciful manner, which, while being almost wholly of my invention, was as enticing as it was disconcerting…

So it was to be on the subsequent Tuesday that I disguised myself accordingly, giving a fair amount of consideration towards the persona which might best suit the ineffable Mrs. Keller. I settled on Stephan Peterson, an unattached middle-aged bibliophile with a kind-natured, if not somewhat effeminate, disposition; a myopic, bespectacled character, attired in well-worn tweed, who had the habit of nervously running a hand across his unkempt hair while tugging absently at his blue ascot.

“Begging your pardon, Miss,” I said, squinting at my reflection in the mirror, assuming what I believed would be my persona’s polite and shy first words to Mrs. Keller. “I’m sorry, Miss – begging your pardon -”

Adjusting the ascot, I realised that his predisposition for flora was to rival her love of all things which bloomed. Tousling my hair, I was positive that his fascination for romance literature was unsurpassed. He was, after all, an avid reader, preferring the detached solace of a book above most human interaction. Yet at his core he was a lonely man, existing as someone who, as he had grown older, had begun to contemplate the value of steady companionship. To this end, he studied the subtle art of palmistry, more as a way to make contact with others than as a means for divulging future events; if the correct palm were to rest briefly within his hand, he imagined that the fleeting warmth of it could sustain him in the months thereafter.

And now it is here that I cannot envision myself concealed behind my own creation – rather, when recalling the moments of that afternoon, I am removed from the proceedings altogether. Instead, it was Stefan Peterson walking into the declining light of day, his head lowered and his shoulders drawn toward his chest…

Yet he was resolute upon his mission, bringing himself to Portman’s prior to Mrs. Keller’s arrival…”

From: A Slight Trick of the Mind (2014), by Mitch Cullin.

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