RUMPELSTILTSKIN IS MY NAME!
One of the symptoms of a narcissistic personality disorder is the terror of saying, “I’m Sorry'” It is rather like the fairy story of Rumpelstiltskin * where the protagonist is in terror of anybody finding out, or speaking his name. The inability to say ‘I’m sorry’ is often linked with an inability to say, ‘Thank you’. In both instances the inflated ego lives in terror of fragmentation…
At the same time as I was thinking about the meaning of the absence of any ability to pronounce the modest phrase, ‘I’m sorry’, I wanted, by contrast, to describe something tender and poignant; to find a distraction, or contrast to Rumpelstiltskin, which is a story I have always disliked. Interesting too that the name, in the Grimm’s version, ends with ‘skin’. The narcissist, beneath their reptilian scales is thin-skinned and lives in terror of psychic deflation.
Yesterday, I was on Zoom with someone and we were discussing the fact that not only did the course of true love never run smooth but in their case both of the lovers were so wounded by their parents in childhood their adult default positions mirrored each other, and are still ones in which they both regress to childhood, to the locus of their fears of parental retaliation. I referred him to my favourite treatise on love; how misunderstood the text is when referenced, as it frequently is, as an easy introduction to the Shakespeare canon: A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream. One of my favourite aphorisms in the play is the sentence, So quickly do bright things come to confusion. When anybody holds on to a default position that is located in the powerless response of a child, rather than the autonomy of the adult, there is the risk of ‘things’ coming to confusion. ‘Things’ is a modest word, a utilitarian word, and yet like the word, ‘anyway’ it is pregnant with meaning.
Yesterday, the ‘lover’ said, “We are both suffering from a bereavement of love from our parents.” Normally, he is not inclined to such heights of poetry. I was silenced; astonished, almost to the point of tears. At the end of our session I said, ” Today I heard one of the most beautiful sentences since lockdown began.” I repeated it to him, ”We are both suffering from a bereavement of love from our parents.’ “Oh,” He said. Expression a little terse at my interruption. “Where did you hear that?” Where indeed…
- It is alleged that the folk story of Rumpelstiltskin in one version or another has existed for over 2000 years.
- The name Rumpelstilzchen in German means literally “little rattle stilt”, a stilt being a post or pole that provides support for a structure. A rumpelstilt or rumpelstilz was consequently the name of a type of goblin, also called a pophart or poppart, that makes noises by rattling posts and rapping on planks