Era Moulaki (E.M.) On the occasion of the publication of your latest book entitled ‘’COMPANIONSHIP and SEPARATION‘’ (from Armos publications), I would like to ask you: How did you decide to write about these two emotional “concepts”? In addition, how has the fact that you are a psychotherapist affected your writing?
Tryfon Zachariades (T.Z.) My personal experiential journey led me to choose these two dominant emotional thrills of life. My experience as a therapist helped me to “organize” opinions and conclusions concerning the human psyche when it is called upon to handle experiences related to companionship and separation.
The interesting concept of this book is perhaps that it deals with the three basic roles that we perform throughout the course of our lives. Namely, how we deal with companionship and separation as children, as lovers and as parents. Our aim should be to try to connect with emotional maturity, so as to be able to develop a “healthy” companionship with the people we chose, and at the same time to have the emotional strength to be separated from them when we have to. However, as it is well known, we usually don’t act within these optimal standards in mind. We often allow dark and hostile emotions to affect negatively our behaviors in our daily life.
E.M. Two sentences from your book: “People get connected in order to separate” and “Companionship aims to fulfill the feeling of loneliness whereas separation certifies loneliness”. Don’t you think they are provocative statements? Can’t family and friends cover this emptiness?
T.Z. The first sentence is neither philosophical nor psychological. It contains the truth of human mortality. From the time we are born, we carry inside us both life and death. Therefore, separation is an unnegotiable truth. Symbolically the same stands for human relationships. Eros, sexual love, has a beginning and an end. Friendships justifiably require mutual effort, not only at an emotional level. Some cases that seem “ideal”, because they are very rare, confirm the frustration the majority of people experience. The people we love are the ones who have the most chances to betray us. This is not because others are always mean, but as we grow up we often develop the false certainty that others owe us more than what they give us. It is an endless game of immaturity, that each one of us strengthens with his/her claims.
As for the parents and the possible fulfillment of our loneliness through their love, I would say that this happens when we are very young. If in our adult life this parental love is sufficient by itself, then we lack the emotional aptitude to love other people (develop companionship at a satisfactory level), apart from our parents, and are unable to feel a relative completeness in our relationships. Therefore, during our emotional upbringing by our parents a harmful trait in our relationship with them was developed.
E.M. “The need to exist in the daily life of others with the hope that we won’t ever have to be separated from them” is a natural need or does it develop because of lack of emotional maturity?
T.Z. What you state as a “natural need”, is different in our childhood than in our adult life. It has to do with the request of the child for an ”all-powerful, ever present, immortal mother” who serves every need and the idea that separation is against the baby’s interests, as her everlasting existence satisfies the need for survival. Later in life when one comes to deal with the feeling of something coming to an end or the feeling of death, realizing the existence of mortality, one starts playing “games of utopia” with his feelings. He promises to his companion that his love will last forever and that he will never betray the other person, hoping that these feelings will be reciprocated. In other words, trying to convince himself for the “continuous existence” of the relationship, thus attributing a ”never-ending” quality to it.
In my opinion, the majority of people do not choose to think with this naiveté. But I know that in times that we need to feel happiness in the moment it’s not so terrible to act naively.
E.M. The “self-care” that you mention in some parts of the book, does it mean that we don’t need others?
T.Z. No, it has nothing to do with the feeling or the idea of considering ourselves as “omnipotent”. Practically and emotionally we need others. It is in human nature to have the need to feel loved from the “significant” other person. In childhood years if others won’t feed me and take care of me I will die. In adult life, if others don’t take care of me, I will have to take care of myself. Otherwise, I will wander as an overgrown incapable baby around a “dried-up breast” demanding love and care from people unable or unwilling to offer them. Being aware of the self-care we ought to provide to our own selves is the antidote to the “endless trauma”. Self-care is the core of maturity and it can be exhibited in different ways. One aspect is that we need to be psychologically prepared by our parents for separating from them. Another aspect is that we, as parents, need to make it easier for our children to separate from us. This is an honest approach towards life and its continuity!
E.M. The last chapter of your book is entitle “Aftermath of Love”. Would you like to explain the connection of companionship and separation with love?
T.Z. I will answer this question with a citation from page 161 of the book, “[…] the two basic instincts, love and death, relate equally with love. When you are in love, you are the loved person or you aspire to be loved by the other person, whereas in death the interruption of the physical existence thwarts abruptly the other person’s love towards you or your expectation to feel loved by the other person in the future”.
The quality of this human interaction is related with how someone was loved as a child or, to put it more precisely, it is related with what has been left over from the relationship with the first “significant others”, i.e. the parents. Depending on what has been “left over”, there are many times in which we call love what is actually a familiar routine, fear of loneliness, stress of adhering to the societal “musts”, insecurity, or any form of dependency.
This is why a companionship may be based on false needs, whereas a separation may be based on an unconscious fear of closeness, companionship and the obligations that stem from it.