Clementine Morrigan on Polyamory and Mental Health

Clementine Morrigan, a self-described “queer femme sober-addict witch, writer and artist,” has written a blog post on dealing with jealousy in a polyamorous situation from the perspective of someone experiencing life with complex PTSD — a post I think should be common reading for anyone writing about polyamory.

Clementine Morrigan

Clementine Morrigan

I say this because, as Morrigan points out in the piece — called, Can Crazy People Be Poly? On Polyamory and Madness — that mainstream poly writers do not address this matrix:

I long for resources and discussion on polyamory that include mental health issues. I want to talk about how polyamory intersects with trauma and madness. I want to talk about c-ptsd panic attacks and jealousy, hyper-vigilance and fear of abandonment, depression and your partner’s other partners. I would like to imagine a polyamory that makes space for this, partners and metamours who make space for this, community that makes space for this. I want to imagine a polyamory that honours interdependence instead of the neoliberal idea that everyone is only responsible for themselves and their own feelings. I want to dismantle the idea that asking for what we need is shameful.

Morrigan did not enter into her current relationship — which began as poly, with mutual desire and agreement — without experience in non-monogamy. The difference this time was that an abusive relationship in the interim had left c-PTSD in its wake. Most of the writing on polyamory stresses sitting with one’s jealousy and insecurity along the way to practicing compersion.

But does that work if you’re prone to panic attacks? As in, what if — even though the other philosophies central to polyamory fit you like a glove — all the standard guidance to deal with and take ‘responsibility’ for your jealousy simply make your mental health worse in very real, clinical ways?

You can read Morrigan’s full piece here; I’d love to read your comments below.

— Amanda P.

4 thoughts on “Clementine Morrigan on Polyamory and Mental Health

  1. Eric Francis

    The issue of jealousy is handled poorly by the poly movement, as far as I can tell. I have rarely seen it handled well. In my years as a poly presenter (1996 through 2008, working with Loving More, Deb Anapol and other orgs), it was one of my two chosen topics — jealousy and compersion as one topic area; the other being masturbation, another thing that’s not really talked about or understood.

    Every other topic was covered — the kids, how to organize your time, legal issues; the discussions were not addressing these core issues surrounding relationship to self.

    I read in this somewhere in this discussion thread [on the originating website] that most successfully poly people don’t experience jealousy. I cannot say that is true. In fact it seems to be perfectly false. Yet there is such a thing as compersion: as respect for freedom, which involves some profound inner letting-go. There are healthy ways to handle jealousy, taking it as a teacher rather than as something that we’re victimized by. The issue is profoundly spiritual, by which I mean existential. It’s no more a casual subject than death. Most people who claim not to be jealous are lying. Not all but most.

    Those who have prior issues with panic, abandonment, fragmentation and so on, are probably not suited for polyamory the way it’s practiced today. They are more likely to need a situation that offers stability as its primary purpose. Even with people who are reasonably solid with themselves, their worst fears can emerge, especially if their poly situation is not grounded in solid values and authentic respect.

    We are, as far as I can see, in the phase of Trendy Poly. The discussions have lost the insight into human nature that were developing much earlier in the development of this movement. Polyamory seems to have gone in the direction of increased labeling (hello I am a heteroflexible cis-male) and hierarchical organization (hello this is my primary’s secondary).

    I have little evidence that people see just how cold this is, how unwelcoming and how violative of basic human nature and our need for caring.

    People who have mental illness, however that is defined, need people around them who are empathetic and understanding, no matter where those people are to be found.

    1. Amy Elliott

      the idea of Trendy Poly is worrying. It’s like the hipster version of relationships. Labelling and hierarchy would seem to be the first resources of human beings when they don’t want to confront the complexity of themselves.

      Is there anything ever that isn’t ruined by becoming fashionable?

      1. Fishstar5

        I think when people enter relationship there are a lot of surprising things we learn about ourselves. I have learned recently after embarking on a sexual relationship with a partner in an arranged marriage, after many years of being single that I am a very emotional person who has also been effected by past relationship trauma. This has brought out feelings of insecurity and jealousy which I didn’t really expect to come out
        This also has to do with changing relationship dynamics and we both wanting different things. Now that I realise this I can simply move on rather than let my insecurities continue in a relationship that has run its course
        However everyone has the right to be with partners who know issues will come up and be willing to offer communication and support. Perhaps we would all do well to ask a few what if questions before going down the next emotional relationship Road. I am about to dip my toe into the world of online dating where I expect people will have a variety of relationship at various stages until they decide who to commit to or not. This will be my next emotional test and will I be strong enough in myself to be able to handle it all it is sad so many of us get hurt to the point our mental health is affected. May we all find loving, understanding and communicative partners no matter what relationship world we are living in.

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