Sally, a good little girl, is playing in the indoor sandbox. She is 5 years old and very, very mad at her mother. Her mother is standing right over there, rummaging around in that closet.
Suddenly Sally gets this great idea and before she thinks about it much, she jumps out of the sandbox, runs over to the closet, and shuts the door on her mother. Oops, there is no doorknob on the inside of the closet and her mother can’t get out. Sally is both awed and frightened by her own power. She hadn’t known she could produce so much change, and she is terrified as she rejoices in the awareness of her mother’s discomfort. So there she stands in front of the now rather noisy closet, locked in a double bind that she did not mean to create. If she leaves her mother in the closet, no one will take care of her and Sally will die. If she lets her mother out of the closet, her mother will kill her and Sally will die.
Sally solves the dilemma by deadening a part of herself. As she lets her mother out of the closet in the house, a part of Sally enters a closet in her mind. Depositing the unwanted elements of herself, she closes the door on all awareness of her ability to be assertive and angry, or to experience the temporary delight of revenge.
Back in the sandbox, she accesses a more passive persona which enables her to be frightened, tentative, and powerless in her relationships. As she grows up, her parents are proud that she is such a very good girl. And later on, as an adult, she chooses a profession in which she gets to spend her time worrying about other people’s pain and discomfort, often at her own expense.