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Negative Merging

Diamond Approach

Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom

From the teachings of A.H. Almaas

What is Negative Merging?

Diamond Approach Teachings About: Negative Merging

Failure to Adequately Meet the Infant's Needs

The symbiotic phase does not comprise only gratifying experiences; it includes many painful and frustrating experiences. When the infant's needs are not met adequately or immediately, he cannot but experience frustration, rage and other painful affects. But the infant's experience of this negativity is not experienced as his own or his mother's; it is part of a merged relationship. There is still no clear concept of self and other, and no clear boundaries between the two. Thus the frustration and suffering can only be experienced as what we call "negative merging," in contrast to the positive merging of the experiences of gratification.

Frustration Dominates Negative Merging

The positive merging is dominated by the presence of the Merging Essence; its representation is an attempt to internalize it. On the other hand, the negative merging is dominated by a primitive affect of frustration.

Genetic Source of Negative Merging

It is important to consider here the genetic source of negative merging. Object relations theory would consider the source to be primarily the frustration and inadequate gratification in the interaction between infant and mother. This is clearly true, but we see another important, but rarely recognized, source: the infant is actually in a real merged relationship with its mother, not only a delusional one. In other words, the consciousness of the infant not only does not differentiate where a certain feeling is coming from, but is also in a complete state of empathy. The infant feels everything in the environment, especially in his mother. This is what it means to be in a merged state; it is a merged consciousness, not only a perception of common boundaries. Thus the mother’s state has a direct effect on the infant. Mothers know this phenomenon very well. Psychotherapists know this both from their empathic capacities and from the reports of their severely disturbed patients who cannot tell their feelings from those of others. During the symbiotic phase the infant is in complete contact with the mother’s consciousness. He feels her joy, her fear, her anger, her pain, her frustration, her weakness and so on. But he is not aware that these are the mother’s feelings, for he has no sense of a separate self. So what he feels and what mother experiences make up the content of his merged relationship with her.

How Attachment Operates as a Kind of Negative Merging

In the previous chapter I looked at how this sense of separate individuality leads to the idea of personal experience, having your own experience, which is one of the ways the ego principle dims the light. I’m looking now at another way the dimming occurs because of how we experience things, and that is attachment. In all of your experience there is an element of attachment. You are attached to the good thing and you want to hold onto it; the bad thing, you want to push away. In both cases the ego principle is at work, believing that there is me and there is the other. I can hold onto the other or push them away. If you hold onto them, you create your own family, your own tribe. If you push them away, you create enemies and the like, and wars start. So that’s how attachment operates as a kind of negative merging. When our light is dimmed by the ego principle and its sense of ownership, the desire for merging and union with the divine turns into attachment. Attachment is a substitute form of merging—one with frustration inherent in it—and it’s the only merging the ego is capable of.

Negative Merging in the Process of Essential Realization

Another way this defense manifests is when the individual has an experience of separation and individuation, which happens frequently with students in the process of essential realization. The individual becomes engaged in fights, arguments and negative conflicts with his love partner or spouse. Individuation means separation from mother, and since there is always a projection of mother’s image on the love partner, he tries to increase his attachment by feeling negatively connected. It is a negative merging and not merely a negative object relation because one feels he is bad and the other is bad in the same way. The self-image has the same emotional quality as the object-image. One is angry and the other is angry, for example, and it is difficult to see who started the whole thing. One can identify these negative merging situations both by seeing the absence of differentiation and by observing the quality of the negative affect permeating them.

Negative Merging is Not Really Merging

Negative merging is not really merging; rather, it is two trying to be one while still maintaining twoness. Since this can never happen, there is always frustration. When I say that the negative merging, or the attachment, is hell, it doesn’t mean that freedom from it is heaven. We think of heaven as pure non-suffering, peace, rest, comfort, gratification, fulfillment. All of these things are what we call essence. However, if you are attached to essence, what do you increase? Not heaven—you accumulate hell. We cannot try to free ourselves from hell in order to go to heaven. What we need is to objectively understand the root of this vicious cycle of attachment. We need to see the basis of all this suffering for what it is. When attachment itself is experienced without the object of attachment, without attention to what you want to have and want to hold on to, when the sensation itself is felt, it is experienced as deep anguish, totally intolerable. We normally avoid this experience by not focusing on it; whenever you are attached you are in this suffering but you don’t know it. So the obvious question arises: what can we do about it? But where is this question coming from? From our attachment to pleasure, our wanting to avoid pain and frustration. But this is the very nature of attachment, the very source of all desires, the Ouroboros eating its tail.

Negative-Merging Affect is Pure Suffering

When the need is not met, the heightened state of arousal and tension remains, and the Merging Essence is not released. This is clearly not healthy for the nervous system, for its function of autonomic regulation is being impeded. This state of contraction, which is the outcome of undischarged mounting tension in the nervous system, is frustration, the primitive affect characterizing negative merging. We call this affect "negative-merging affect," expressing its relationship to the state of negative merging, but distinguishing it from the undifferentiated object relations themselves, which are colored by the affect. This frustration, this painful and primitive affect is felt as pure suffering. It is the specific feeling of suffering. It is not just pain or anger or fear; it is emotional suffering in its purest form. It is the suffering at the core of all human pains.

Negative-Merging Affect Manifests as Many Kinds of Desires

The presence of negative-merging affect in the personality manifests as many kinds of desires. Since it is a state of painful undischarged tension, the desires are ultimately for discharge, though the objects of desire will vary greatly. And since only Being is a Presence without negative-merging affect, then our ultimate desire must be for realizing Being.

The Core of Suffering

Negative merging is a powerful force in the personality. It is the core of suffering, the basis and the fuel of all emotional conflicts, of all negative object relations. It is in the deepest core of the unconscious, in the merged representations, manifesting in the more superficial layers of the personality as the various conflicts and distortions specific to the later stages of ego development.

The Tremendous Mountain of Hope Supporting Negative Merging

Negative merging, and the attachment to negative relationships, is produced by the part of you that doesn’t want to give up. There is a tremendous mountain of hope supporting this part. This is what I sometimes call the libidinal ego, the ego infused with libido, full of energy, vigor, strength, and instinctual intelligence. Because it is always going after this wonderful object, and because most of the time it cannot attain it, it ends up in a frustrated, ungratified condition, which we call negative merging. If we inquire into our various relationships, especially the object relationships we enact in the world, we find many varieties, but underneath them, much more hidden than most forms of relationships, is the libidinal relationship. This is the powerful part of the ego-self that embodies the animal soul and all her tendencies, which becomes constellated around the infantile desire, hope, and wish for the wonderful object, the libidinal object that will gratify all of the soul’s needs and desires. The libidinal ego is the instinctual and infantile source of attachments and desires, and typically is split off from our conscious experience.

Undischarged Frustration

Negative merging is undischarged frustration. And because the frustration is undischarged we lose or fail to develop confidence. This undischarged frustration is nothing but an undischarged blockage on the physical level which reflects the loss of confidence on the mental level.

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