It’s you I like,
It’s not the things you wear,
It’s not the way you do your hair–
But it’s you I like.
The way you are right now,
The way down deep inside you–
Not the things that hide you,
Not your toys–
They’re just beside you.
But it’s you I like–
Every part of you,
Your skin, your eyes, your feelings
Whether old or new.
I hope that you’ll remember
Even when you’re feeling blue
That it’s you I like,
It’s you yourself,
It’s you, it’s you I like.
It’s You I Like
~ By Fred M. Rogers © 1970
I’ve been re-reading a lot of Ronald Fairbairn’s works lately. An object relational psychoanalyst- writing through the 1950’s – a man who worked with abused children, “shell-shocked” war vets and introverts. He was number one on my theorist hit parade for many years, but dropped off of my radar after reading and re-re-reading him – I must have decided that I’d digested his message completely (foolish of me) – and incorporated him into my infrastructure.
I didn’t forget his amazing contributions to psychoanalytic thought: His most seminal contribution is a construct known as ‘The Moral Defense” : the way children, especially abused or neglected children but also all children, find their parent’s destructive aspects so intolerable – while they remain so dependent and for years beyond – that they take the burden of their parents’ badness onto themselves. Maintaining primal attachments at the greatest cost by talking to themselves in the parents’ bad voice, believing that if only they were “good” inside or at least better Mommy or Daddy would love them more, or at all.
I didn’t forget his ideas or even forget to give him credit for his perceptions. I forgot him. I forgot his writers voice, the way that he never stopped advocating for “unanalyzable” clients in the face of the traditional Freudian analysts who had historically rejected anyone who has sustained a real psychological injury, or blamed them for manufacturing their own ills. I forgot his loyalty to sexually abused children and adults, and his belief in them and in their stories of trauma. I forgot that he thought mandating clients to lie down on the couch to be coercive, and potentially retraumatizing, and really just a way to protect analysts from the clients’ relational hunger and legitimate needs. I forgot his unceasing willingness to stay near his clients – to let them look him in the eyes and to look back – as they talked about their most personal private thoughts and beliefs – about their bodies, about sex, about defecation, about God. I forgot how his belief that clients come to therapy to seek salvation – forgiveness for their sins and freedom from the demons that haunted them – meant that he was committed to seeing them as loveable in the face of their darkest deeds and secrets, how it meant that he would try never to flinch in the face of their most traumatic memories, and how he would allow himself to be hated, to withstand the full force of his clients hate, so the hatred could be released and modulated.
I missed Fairbairn, as a voice, as a teacher, a role-model, a surrogate.
I realize that when I’ve described myself in the past as a theory-wonk, that is not exactly true: I am really just a theorist-wonk, a psychoanalytic groupie. A goofy geeked-out fan-girl, nothing more.
As a young child I was crazily devoted to Fred Rodgers. (If you don’t know who he is, or if you do you should really read this. Really. Do it. I re-read it all the time.) I kept my secret devotion hidden well into upper elementary school and beyond. I had his song books and read his gentle lyrics over and over basking in their paternal kindness. By junior high I had transferred my crushing to Carl Sagan, to Walt Whitman. By high school, George Bernard Shaw, Oscar Wilde, T. S. Eliot. By college: Ibsen, Checkov, Kant, Hegel, Keirkeggard, Buber, Freud. Graduate school led me to Fairbain and Winnicott, and Kohut.
I realize that one of the reasons that I don’t read as much fiction as I should is that I don’t want to read about imaginary character’s relationships to each other – I want to be in imaginary relationship to the philosopher without a fictional middle-man separating us.
Fred Rodgers would sit down and break the fourth wall of my television screen to show me new things, to tell me about something he learned that day, or something he had thought about. To tell me that he liked me just for being me, to tell me what might come next, or not to be afraid of having “scary bad wishes” because wishes don’t make things come true. He spoke directly to me, giving me guidance that led me through the spiritual thickets of my childhood.
Post-graduate studies brought me many more such guides -Searles, Sullivan, Guggenbuhl-Craig, and most influentially, Jung.
There are women too, a good handful: Mahler, Miller, VonFranz, Anna Freud, Klein, Bebee, Ornstien, Stevens Sullivan, – but clearly these imaginal compensatory relationships skew toward my daddy-issues more than my mother-complex.
I read and re-read and revisit these men’s and women’s words over and over – grateful for their mentorship, for the kindness and generosity in their voices, for their willingness to speak their thoughts out directly, unfiltered. To hear of their patience, and their warmth, their limitations, their forgiveness of themselves and others, their willingness to press or even fight against the prevailing models to be sure that the client population they served would be considered, to hear them talk of “real relationships” and “life-long self-object needs” – to watch them debate respectfully and civilly even when they disagree vehemently or hold personal dislikes or even hatreds. To watch them battle against practices that they believed re-traumatized or damaged or omitted too many. They are all limited, bound by their histories, pathologies, narcissisms and their own era, but their commitment to psychoanalytic love, love with out using the word, still shines through their jargon and their own woundedness.
To hope to be as brave and clear, committed and creative in my own small way.
To try to give of myself as generously – and not only to my clients – but to offer my own voice – to break through that fourth wall and talk through the screen to anyone who needs to feel forgivable and worthy of patience, and deserving of kindness.
To say, as all these guides have said in their own language, through their own filter and stance – as Fred Rodgers said to me through the TV screen (as I try to repeat each day in session after session) over and over, each week, without fail:
“There is no one in the world just like you. And I like you just the way you are.”