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Cathexis & Connection

Cathexis: the investment of mental or emotional energy in a person, object or idea.

Freud used the word cathexis to describe an investment of sexual energy, related to the libido.

Of course, Freud believed that everything psychological harkens back to sex, and all psychological dysfunction harkens back to sexual dysfunction. This may have been true in his day, given the societal mores, but it no longer seems so. Yes, we do have difficulty with how we approach sex in this country right now, but what we have more difficulty with is how we approach old-fashioned non-sexual human connection.

The problem is we make things more difficult than we need to. As individuals, we live so much in our heads, so much of the time, that we often fail to connect with others in non-thinking, non-word-oriented ways. We are always wandering about with our stories thrust in front of us, like masks, obscuring who we really are; protecting us.

Perhaps we do this because we feel that if others know our stories, they will understand us. Then they will either chose to become part of our stories in a positive way, or at the very least not become part of our stories in a negative way. Not hurt us. Love us until our dying days.

So confusing. So much drama and expectation.

This is not to downplay the importance of story. It gives our brains something to play with/work with, after all. It also provides us with a catalog of experiences that inform our decisions.

But we can’t rely solely on words and stories when we connect with others. There is a lot more going on during a human interface. Emotions. Energy. Myriad intangible elements, good, bad, confusing and not.

If we depend on our stories to help us decide whether we will ‘cathect,’ or invest our mental/emotional energy in another person, we are only using a small portion of the information we are receiving. It may seem like the most relevant, logical information, and thus the most valuable, but it truly isn’t.

How could it be? If we were meant to connect with others primarily on a thinking level, why would we be given emotions and feelings to enrich our interactions? Are we meant to ignore all of these?

I don’t think so. I believe that we must make our decision to connect with another using all available data. That our investment cannot be made wholly on the basis of whether their story might integrate with ours.

This makes us vulnerable, of course. It opens up the possibility of pain, of future regret, because we are basing our judgments in part on intangibilities.

But so does relying on the story. Make no mistake: people often will tell us only what they think we want to hear, and we will do the same. Stories are, by their very nature, subjective versions of reality.

Either way, we could get hurt by connecting.

Of course, we could also lose out by not connecting.

To cathect or not cathect: a complicated question, indeed.

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