To Have or To Harm: Joseph Blackstone

The following is respectfully quoted from “To Have or To Harm” by Linden Gross:

Joseph Blackstone, a fifty-three-year-old lab technician, describes himself as a hereditary obsessive-compulsive and his thirty-year marriage as a business partnership rather than a relationship. For two years he had an affair with a waitress from the local country club. Then she broke off their relationship. “I went insane over it. Literally and irrationally insane over a period of five or six years, ” he recalled. “I felt this need to drive by her home in the daytime and sit outside her house for hours at night. I’m not sure why, even now. I phoned her incessantly. I sent letters saying, ‘You did me wrong. Why? Why?’ For those years, I couldn’t eat or sleep. My life was a black hole.

Work had always been sacred to Joseph. He’d always held two or three jobs at once. The stalking of his former lover put an end to that practice. He didn’t have time for both. Gaining power over his ex-lover took precedence. In the meantime, his work, his relationship with his wife and family, and his physical health suffered.

His obsession ultimately ended him in a sanatorium, where he underwent extensive therapy. The cloud he’d been operating under began to lift. “I thought I wanted her back. In retrospect, I guess I couldn’t let go. In the process, I ruined two lives,” he said. “I saw her as my emotional fulfillment. I’d invested all my eggs in that little basket. When she left, my basket was empty. I felt a void within myself.”

Some mental health authorities hypothesize that the need to possess someone who is unavailable stems from childhood feelings of rejection and abandonment. The idealized or fantasy relationship is subconsciously perceived as a way to rewrite history, to fill all of life’s deficits. “There is that magical quality that feeds the fantasy of the stalker and makes him feel that this person can fulfill his emotional needs…and make him feel lovable,” says Orange County psychiatrist Bruce Danto. Denial of the opportunity to make up for the damage suffered during the early years can lead to feelings of desperation and panic as well as a sense that the imagined connection must be preserved at all cost.