How long does it take to learn Object permanence?

object permanenceThere’s this fact of life that’s common knowledge. If something exists, even if you can’t see it, it’s still there. Did you know that? Chances are you did, because we’re all supposed to learn this when we’re toddlers. Object permanence it’s called.

It’s the game parents play with their kids. See your favorite stuffed animal? If I put it behind my back you’ll think it’s gone. Then I’ll pull it out and you’ll know it’s back. It’s gone. It’s back. It’s gone. It’s back. Eventually kids get that the object still exists, even if it’s not in front of them. Just like they learn that you can still see them, even if their eyes are shut and they can’t see you.

Well, maybe you all learned this when you were toddlers, like you were supposed to, but, if I were being honest, I’d have to admit that it’s something I’m still working on. Oh, I know that my favorite stuffed animal still exists when it’s hiding in a box in my closet. (For the record, it’s a stuffed dog named Fred that my college roommate gave me after our senior year, as she left for Europe and I stayed behind at home. “To take care of you,” she said.)

I know Fred is there, where I left him. I know physical objects are permanent. It’s people – specifically people I love – and feelings that I have a hard time with. There’s a part of me that wants to constantly be told that I’ve done a good job, or I’m good, or I’m loved. There’s a part of me that starts to believe it when someone says it to me, but then when they get understandably occupied with their own lives, and are no longer fawning over my life, the belief evaporates. It’s like they never said it, never felt it, never told me. Well, I know they told me, I just want to be told again, so that I really know it.

Object permanence. I’m not the only one with this faulty circuit. A client told me how she forgot how great she was at her job and how appreciated her work was when everyone got involved in another project. Object permanence I suggested to her. She wrote it down.

I’m really working on it. I’m reminding myself of it. I’m getting better at it. When I start to think the love, support, and connection isn’t there, when it’s not pulsing in the moment, “Object permanence” I say in my mind. It is still there. It still exists. It just may not be prominent in this very instant. It may be hiding behind someone’s back – or their more pressing, urgent matters they call their own life. But it’s there. Objects are permanent. So is Love

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