Out of the Closet | My Struggle with Object Permanence


Object Permanence:  it’s a topic that I never imagined that I would write about…at least, not in relation to myself.

I’m still uncertain about how much I would really like to share about it.  So, please, bear with me.

First, if you are unfamiliar with the concept of object permanence, here is a definition by Kendra Cherry, psychology expert on About.com:

The term object permanence is used to describe a child’s ability to know that objects continue to exist even though they can no longer be seen or heard. If you have ever played a game of “peek-a-boo” with a very young child, then you probably understand how this works. When an object is hidden from sight, infants under a certain age often become upset that the item has vanished. This is because they are too young to understand that the object continues to exist even though it cannot be seen.

This ability to understand that objects continue to exist even after they “disappear” is something that is successfully learned by most infants.  What happens, however, if there is an interference in the development of ability?


Photo by Gabriella Di Bari, edited by D. Blake

Photo by Gabriella Di Bari, edited by D. Blake

Something’s Missing

As a therapist, empathy is an important aspect of the client-therapist relationship.  For the most part, I considered myself to be quite empathetic, except in one regard:  the experience of missing.

For a very long time (and even now), I have struggled to understand what it means to miss.  I miss neither place nor people. They are simply present or absent.  Whatever feelings I had attached to them when they were present disappear when they are absent…as though they never existed at all.

Why am I writing about this?  I’m writing about this because I imagine that I cannot be the only person who struggles with object permanence issues.

What’s the big deal? Well, in some ways, it’s not a big deal.

To be frank, in many ways it has a been a major positive in my life because it has allowed me to transition from one place to another with ease (because the other place/life simply ceases to “exist”).  Also, I am forever in this moment, not the last, which makes practicing mindfulness a breeze. 😉

On the other hand, it has meant that I struggle with maintaining connections (or even knowing that I should).  More than relationships are lost.  Memories do not yield nostalgia, and who, how or what I was before loses meaning because that version of “me” no longer exists.

For now, I’ll wrap it up here. I would like, however, to open up a dialogue about this.  Do you struggle with object permanence or with attachment? Have you ever had experience with someone you think does?

Until Next Time,


Young infants do not yet possess the ability to remember or even think about things they cannot see. And this ability actually goes beyond ‘out of sight, out of mind’ because to them, if they cannot see it, it simply does not exist.

In other words, their entire world is only what they can see at any given moment. Or to use a spiritual terminology, young infants live completely in the NOW. Past and future doesn’t exist as conscious concepts. – Positive Parenting Ally.com on Object Permanence

5 thoughts on “Out of the Closet | My Struggle with Object Permanence

  1. kalison0515 says:

    This is an interesting concept… you went deep. It is not how I go through life, but it is eye-opening. Back when people wrote letters, I have every single one that was ever written to me, whether I’m still in touch with those people or not. Now I keep every card (because no one writes letters anymore). Connections and personal history are important to me. I’ve been frustrated and put off by people to whom those things don’t matter, probably because I took something about it personally.

    • Diedre Blake says:

      Thank so much for your comment, Kalison0515. I’m really glad you got something out of the post–I wasn’t sure if anyone would be able to connect with this topic, so I’m happy that, even though you do not have this experience yourself, you can relate to it in a way.

      The one thing that I would say is that, for me, it’s not an issue of things not mattering to me. On the contrary, they matter a great deal…but only in the moment. After the moment, it’s a bit of “out of sight, out of mind”. There are many people, situations and things that I now wish that I could have “held on to” in one way or another–I just didn’t know how. Over the years, I’ve learned some strategies to manage my object permanence issues, which I will write about in another post. 🙂

  2. Bumba says:

    Some people are very hard on themselves. They’re independent, cold, detached. They make good therapists! Mea culpa. Ever read Carlos Castaneda? He talks about detachment as a positive and necessary attribute of a sorcerer.

  3. riwas22 says:

    You know it’s interesting because I have the opposite problem. I am nostalgic for everyone and everything that has ever meant anything. Due to this I make a huge effort to maintain my contact with individuals who meant something to me or who make some kind of impact in my life. On the one hand it means that I’m able to maintain a huge amount of friendships and connections because of my inability to let go. On the other hand I realize that others don’t share the same intensity or emotional attachment that I do. However, I try to remain friendly and open to maintaining friendships and leave the rest up to the other person in terms of what level of friendship they want.

    I have learned to embrace that I’m a bit more sensitive and sentimental than most. Sometimes caring too much is a burden. However, I hope that it’s what makes me different. Even if the idea of “letting go” of the past is something that I need to work on at times.

    • Diedre Blake says:

      All in all, it’s about striking a balance with your “selves”, right? The one who “naturally” responds to the world in one way, and the other who understands the need for some type of change. Still, it is that questioning of ourselves that moves us forward to becoming self-actualized (at least, this is what I believe). 🙂 Many thanks for sharing your thoughts! I really appreciate it. Best, D.

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