Our bodies fall apart and regenerate but the regenerative aspect slows and fails as we age. How we care for ourselves and each other makes a difference but there are so many things beyond our control. Falling apart is related ultimately to biological death. The body falling apart impacts the mind. The sense of self is powerfully altered by changes in the body as we age. We have an amazing faith in our continuity of experience despite sudden impacts that can traumatize.
It is possibe to look at the phenomena of falling apart in larger “systems” than the individual and his or her relationship to the environment. We can look, for instance, at couples. It may be that the couple is the basic unit of life. According to Winnicott, there is no such thing as an infant without a mother. Research shows that as couples age they have more longevity and wellness than single people living in isolation. Couples come together and become psychobiological systems of reproduction as well as units of cooperative or abortive nurturing and growth for each other and their offspring. The couple can fall apart for any number of reasons. Parenting is perhaps one of the most intense stresses a couple can face, as well as one of the most rewarding life experiences. Couples make families and families thrive, separate and create new generations with more less sustained connection to the past. Families, of course, suffer too, and like individuals, families have their own styles of suffering.
The analytic couple is a special kind of relationship. In this rare form of intimacy conversation itself is a form of potential liberation. Things that might make you or someone else fall apart if spoken are found to be speakable. One of the worst feelings of all is the feeling that you cannot speak to the ones you love most. That you will fall apart if you tell the truth, or that your best attempt at telling the truth will injure the other. And then there are those times when language itself seems to fail. No words seem to come, or the words are still born, or mutilated upon arrival. The terror of losing language or of finding language can be part of the experience of falling apart, or may even generate the feeling of falling apart. The enlargement of the capacity for tolerating, speaking, experiencing, and being reflective alone and together is a great opportunity in the analytic couple which gradually makes it way, wending, if you will, into the networks of many different lives and times.
Maybe it is the problem of suffering and survival that sponsors extended networks of affiliation. Groups and organizations grow and fall apart as do communities over time. Cities can decay from the inside out over decades and be born again with new influxes of immigrants. Nations rise and fall over even longer time periods, and today the world, faced with global climate change and the constant pressures of expanding population, resource depletion, and species extinction, may be seen as one vast complex system both falling apart and simultaneously continuing to sustain its life and grow toward an uncertain climax.