Connection through separateness

‘I hope that my painting has the impact of giving someone, as it did me, the feeling of his own totality, of his own separateness. And at the same time of his connection to others who are also separate.’

This is a quote by the Abstract Expressionist painter Barnett Newman talking about his painting, Eve. It struck a chord with me, in fact made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up, as it summed up perfectly a thought that I had been grappling with for some time. The author of the art history book I was reading explained that Newman was describing a society free from totalitarianism:

‘where all persons are endowed of with a feeling of their own totality, and where each recognises the inevitability of separateness, yet cherishes the possibility of connection to others who are allowed also to be separate’ (Charles Harrison).

However, this explanation is actually a description of a goal we should all try to achieve as individuals. It is certainly a goal I aim to work towards.

I have realised through my psychology sessions at The Optimum Health Clinic that I have been affected for a long time by a sense that I am not good enough, that I wasn’t meant to be here. Because I feel that way am I constantly seeking validation from others, actually, from everyone. Terrified of being alone I seek connection but are hurt by other people’s need for separation and see it as rejection. This inevitably leads to irrational behaviour, which is the real cause of losing the ones I love. I am filled with doubt and do not trust myself because I do not feel whole on my own.

Separateness is inevitable, but if you help yourself to feel whole on your own you can then experience connection and allow others to remain separate without it translating into rejection.

In the same interview, the artist said ‘I think you can only feel others if you have some sense of your own being’ (Newman).

I guess this is similar to the saying ‘you can only love others once you love yourself’. I worry that my preoccupation with how others perceive me is the reason I do not feel connected to others. Since I last wrote a blog post I have suffered another heartbreak. Now that the dust has settled I can examine the remains. Although it hurts, the experience has brought me closer to understanding myself, even if I did not like what I found, and there were happy moments that I do not regret. Through him I have met new people and started a new job that makes me feel useful.

For now I think I need to continue to work on understanding my own being if I want to truly feel connected without the interruption of my inner critic. I need get to a point where I feel whole without requiring validation, where I can trust myself without needing to consult. This new version of myself is growing in strength every day, but there is still a bit of the old me clinging onto my leg, begging me to stay. That version of me was helpful for a time, but I no longer need to be a weak, scared, victim type. When I was recovering from anorexia I imagined that part of me as a separate person and that I was having a fight with her and winning. I think the victim side of me needs a gentler approach to let go, but I know I’ll get there.

If you’re interested, you can go and see Barnett Newman’s painting Eve in Tate Modern, London. Abstract Expressionist paintings are big and are meant to be viewed up close, as close as you would stand to a person you were talking to. The paintings are a personality for you to meet, their aim is to invoke a reaction in you as if you were meeting a person for the first time and getting a sense of their character, their totality and separateness.


Picture credit:

(Eve is on the right, Adam is on the left)


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