Beyond “bonding” or “attachment” is the emotional relationship we might call “fusion,” when the boundaries between two people are entirely erased. Or at least that’s the goal. When one googles for information, most of the writing is about romantic couples and describes men trying to make women an extension of themselves, almost trying to be pregnant with their wives (wife as fetus) so as to own their energy, intelligence and emotion. But it can also be a phenomenon in parent/child relationships, esp. if the husband/wife dimension doesn’t really work. Women might dominate sons or daughters, refusing to let them leave infancy, and men, less often, might do the same.
The result is that the adult, esp. if it’s the father, can go so far in trying to control his son that he resorts to force and even kills the child. Or makes him a sex object, esp. if the understanding of sex is based on penetrating oneness with the partner. What can evolve is the merging of opposition with intimacy, so that after that nothing less than a battle feels like real contact. It becomes impossible to break off after fusion is complete, so the person often learns to break off all intimacy that begins to approach fusion.
All this is rich novel material, esp in sci-fi stories where simple empathy (feeling what others feel) becomes true mind-melding which no human can achieve so far.
Human identity is a dynamic process rather than a box or object. Much of the dynamic is simply repetition of what has happened before, which might not be psychotic but maybe a strategy of foreplay, flirting with the idea of perfection — which is an end like death, frozen — an intimacy with the near-intensity of approaching the end without completion.
The trouble with intimacy that ends in fusion is that of the two people involved, one is erased. In terms of parenting, which in nature requires that the child break free and become separate, fusion perverts the whole idea of creating a new generation. It is a refusal to give birth, to break the umbilical cord. But a healthy child will fight to be free, maybe with rage or maybe by looking for another dominator who is more powerful and can fight to detach the child.
A child who has been completely or partially successful at separating from an overwhelming parent will be torn between their own drive to be free and an intolerable anxiety about being free. Sometimes they will cope by finding another smaller and weaker child than themselves and in turn forcing fusion on them. Or maybe this fragile child WANTS domination to relieve their own anxiety, which might be related to raw and justified fear in a world full of treachery and violence.
This abstract pattern of craved but terrifying fusion overlaps quite a bit with narcissism theory. The idea of narcissism is that the individual pays no attention to anything but his or her self, pulling others into his or her orbit only to exploit them and demand surrender of their independent identity. “Narcissistic supply” is the constant need for praise and reassurance. Narcissists are considered villains, people-eaters.
But this ignores the narcissist who is only trying to save himself or herself from destruction by others. Their boundary, meant to be protective, has become an inpenetrable castle wall and without that narcissistic supply, they will die of starvation. They might test it both by attacking and by departing, only to return. Police and social workers see this all the time.
Fusion “defines a relationship of distrust between two individuals where at least one of the individuals lacks confidence in the other's intentions. Defines a fused relationship between two individuals. Individuals become dependent on one another, and also become inseparable, with little room for their own identities.” [This was on Google but I couldn’t figure out the attribution.]
My grandfather Pinkerton was of a generation and from a family that demanded that there be a primary son who would carry on the intentions of the father, a feudal idea in this case brought from Ireland through the American South (Virginia). He had no sons so he made his oldest daughter into his proxy, but he was an intermittent father because he was a building contractor and had to go to the location of the project.
This weakened his bond with my mother and on some level made her very angry about the sequence of abandonments. She tried to bridge them by doing what her father ought to have done, acting towards her mother and sibs as a protective son might. And she married a man sure to offend and resist her father — not fight him, just offer escape. But he, too, was an intermittent husband because of his work and again she had to bridge the gap. She was an angry, secretive woman who did what she had to but never really felt safe and loved. She tried to make me into what she felt she had not been: admired, attractive, socially upscale. Instead I became what she was: angry and secretive with very strong boundaries. (Of course, you might not see that right away.)
A perfect prescription for a writer. But that was only the beginning. My early attempt at a fused relationship with a man twice my age meant that my “gestation” was completed only with some pain and violence, because an aging but successful narcissist with a narcissistic mother of his own can’t be expected to extend much understanding.
What about a fused relationship with another writer, completely non-physical? What about a fused relationship with a therapist? Is that the source of therapies that never end? Can fusing with someone be a professional relationship based on money? How much intimacy must be accompanied by secrecy? The idea of the writer as one who is intimate but revealing, leading to money, is strong in our culture. To deny it is to prevent publication, even when that was a viable business model.
Is interpretation, as in biography or therapy, an assault on identity? Often society at large develops its own “identity” role for a public individual and will fight any departure from their own version. So much of this is illustrated over the years in the relationships of the royal family of England where genetics don’t always mesh with obligations. At least Charles finally found a fused relationship, as did his great-uncle. Diana’s relationship with her sons was ended by fate. And Elizabeth II's strong boundaries are enforced by a nation. William seems to have found his proper identity. So far it appears Harry is the free spirit, not without the help of therapy.