1. I thought the phenomena you describe here -- in which one avoids thinking about something negative from the past and so cannot get used to it -- already had a name, "repression".
2. I've sometimes heard trauma described as projecting past negative patterns onto the current situation, even when it's not what's happening now. It seems like that phenomena happens, and the phenomena you describe here, repression, also happens, and they're both often categorized under "trauma". Is the word trauma useful as an umbrella term?
3. I've often wondered what processing is. It sounds like what you call processing can also be called "getting used to it" or "getting over it". But those terms make it sound automatic and it's unhelpful as advice. A friend of mine pointed out that the word "processing" was probably invented for a large bucket of specific helpful pieces of advice to "get used to/over it" actively, so that it would be more helpful. Does that make sense from your perspective?
4. I haven't read The Body Keeps The Score yet. Do you recommend it? And is its treatment of the concept compatible with the one you present here?
I read this, because if there's anyone going through major trauma at this point, it would be me. I've always been a firm believer that the mind is its own place, and "of itself can make a Hell of Heaven and a Heaven of Hell." I read that in Milton when I was in high school. Obviously, I've never forgotten it, but I never imagined that I'd be putting it into play during the course of my own life. I was reading all the examples of trauma you were giving, and for the most part thought some of them were pretty lame. Okay, I'm old. Being bullied and beaten as a child is not traumatic in my eyes. That was just growing up shit. Everybody had to deal with that. Being raped as a child by a father, or a step-father, or a brother...that's trauma. But...and this is a big but, I grew up in what my wife calls a Tom Sawyer kind of life. I never had issues, while she did. In fact, I went through my entire life never having suffered through any sort of trauma...until the beginning of this year. On January 10th, my best friend was walking through the log yard at work (I work in a sawmill up here in BC, just outside of Vancouver), when he slipped on a sheet of ice and slid under the wheels of the machine I was driving, and died after I drove over him. I didn't even know I'd done it. So, when I saw this post, I read it eagerly--although I did have to hold myself back before attempting to reply to it. I have a few triggers that bring me to tears, but for the most part, I'm able to compartmentalize things. As I said, the anniversary of his death is fast approaching. I will have to deal with things as they come. I've had a year off, counselling, and everything else you could think of, but still, I'll have to deal with it as it comes, won't I?
Duuuude. Beautiful, precise, clear. So many gems in there - i.e. "your mind was built for survival, not comfort." Thank you!
Amazing essay. Minor note: I reread this sentence several times and wondered if it was a comment from an editor:
(There are a lot of cultures where collective mourning, open crying, and regular confession is part of the cultural machinery—yours isn’t one, which is interesting.)
Lovely piece, thank you.
Finding myself drawn to the idea of superficially good/neutral splits. And would love exposure to more -something- on that front (canonical anecdotes?).
It seems, quite likely actually, that I'd miss alienations from good moments - especially after that initial identification with self loathing. Self loathing/shame is very loud in memory, and so got the initial attention. Now it's much quieter but there's still a rather insecure attachment to joy. Also maybe this is just time, but how little it seems I knew the people I grew up! On the classic holiday FB browse of old classmates, and even looking at childhood pics, I see strangers that look like people in my memory. -truncate thought-
That's all very head talk, it's been a head talk week. Definitely hungry for more stories in that direction.
Great piece. I like the balanced way you discussed trauma/splitting, without it being underplayed or having its fixedness overplayed.
It’s so true. I like the splitting metaphor. Thank you!
Super resonant, thanks for laying that out so clearly
Beautiful framing. Thanks, Sasha.