Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Grasping for Handholds

I’m still trying to recover from yesterday’s experience of “the bottom falling out.” These episodes don’t happen as often as they used to, but when they do they’re doozies! It’s like a firestorm in my brain, with tsunamic (is that a word? if not, it should be) feelings of oppressive darkness.

What I’ve learned about these times is that something gets triggered in me, something painful, and an entire slough of well-worn neural pathways in my brain get activated, very strongly so. Rarely can I tell that this is is what is going on; all I know is what has been triggered. It is viscerally real to me at that moment. Eventually I hope to maintain more objectivity, detachment and differentiation during these times, but haven’t been able to yet.

One of the problems in recovering is that these triggers are linked to specific assumptions that I allowed to define me at a very wounded time in the past. What else could I do? I was just a kid, trying to survive. I can’t get too angry at myself for “letting” these things take hold – esp. since they helped me survive trauma. When they get triggered they come back with the full force of the day they were established, and they define me now just as they did then. For example, the terrible feelings of being a boy of 9 trying to deal with my Dad’s abandonment becomes who I am right now at age 42. Again, my goal is to one day be able to better recognize when this is going on, objectify it so that I can separate my sense of “self” from it, with the goal of inviting God into it.

Back to these assumptions I mentioned; some might rightly call them lies. For example, one of the most ancient ones for me is that “I am worthless.” I saw this play out in the last few days, and I can still feel the effects (and appeal). To tell myself (or one of you to tell me) that “this is a lie! Don’t believe it!” is not as helpful as one might think at first. Though true, it doesn’t address the fact that there is a very strong narrative at work in which these assumptions make sense. In other words, not only do I need to challenge the assumption/lie, but also the narrative or story in which that assumption finds a home and is actually coherent. You see, I can look at my life through a certain interpretive grid and the statement “I am worthless” makes sense; it’s actually supported by evidence. What I need is not just sound bites of truth, but a better story.

What I’m realizing is that to confront these lies I don’t only need to try to cling to truth but also through the power of the Gospel and with the help of the Spirit and Christian friends confront and heal that overarching narrative in which these lies live and make sense.

So far, not much progress in doing this. But I take some encouragement from the fact that I can write a blog like this which shows some level of differentiation and objectivity going on inside.

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