The Nightmare of Plenitude
Nancy Barton

The sudden appearance of something familiar—what you wanted most—surfaces within the frame of what appeared to be a larger more uncertain world. You thought you had struck out on your own, moved away, arrived in the big city or small town, the university, or the commune, that was to provide a fresh start, but the spectre of the too-close-to-home rises up. You unravel, thinking and forgetting, opening and shutting the cupboards of your mind over and over. And now you are on the kitchen floor, listening for the scurrying feet of mice behind the doors. It’s a relief, something to focus on, a problem to solve – but can you can stay down there, stopped in your tracks, listening, dreaming obsessively of pest control? How did this happen? Everything went too well. You were offered a chance, maybe one too many. You wreck, how will you survive this success? Call it the uncanny, the too familiar in the impossible place, where it should not belong. Too pretty dolls & beloved corpses come to life; your hands are stained with the blood of those you wished to their deaths; the mother is yours. That bigger world, mediated by rules and orders, dissolves into the grandiosity of infancy you crave so much that you cannot bear the trace of it.


She is the (m)other of anxiety, the one you want. In Mourning and Melancholia, Freud tells us that we can lose someone without knowing what we have lost in them. Anxiety is what we gain without knowing what we have gained in our triumph. The mother, our phantasm, is gained and lost over and over, fort & da. Like a B-novie femme fatale, whenever she shows up there’s trouble. Maybe she holds our hand as we look in the mirror that first time, and when we turn to her, the discovery of our newfound – and separate – image reflected in our eyes, does she lose too much at that moment? Does she hate us then as well?





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