The Four Questions
Copyright © 2009 by Richard A. Grossman, Ph.D. · All Rights reserved · E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
In fact, the four questions exist for good reason. Because survival requires parental interest and care, all very young children "ask" their parents these questions.
But, of course, children don't ask directly. Instead, they use the ancient language of subtext. What is subtext? It is omnipresent between-the-lines communication, the hidden messages of all human interaction. But what a strange, wondrous, and slippery language subtext is! Subtext is wordless, yet it is the language of dreams and great literature. It is the language mastered by infants and then slowly replaced by logic and reason. It is a language where the same words can mean a thousand different things depending on context. It is a language that eludes social scientists because it is so difficult to measure. And, ironically, it is the only language I know where a likely outcome of comprehension is loneliness and alienation-because so few people understand it.
Why, for some people, do the four questions emerge after trauma or loss? Because in the subtext of the parent-child relationship, these questions were never adequately answered. Or if they were answered, the message was: you don’t exist for me, you have always been a burden, or you exist for limited reasons having to do with my own psychological needs. Lacking satisfactory answers, the person can spend their whole life erecting props-ways they can validate their very existence. They do this through relationships, career success, self-aggrandizement, obsessive or controlling behavior, drug or alcohol use, or other ways (I will talk about all of these in later articles). Loss or trauma causes the props to fall, and instead of tumbling to a sturdy stone foundation (“I had a bad time or bad luck, but I’m basically O.K.”), people slide into a vortex of terror, shame, and worthlessness.
Voicelessness and Emotional Survival
The Four Questions