I don’t know what “it” is, but I get something. I get the process of what I am doing now, and the process of what has to be done.
It started when I woke up yet again wanting to cry and not wanting to get out of bed or generally get on with life because Natalya is not here and the whole bed/sleep thing seems to really trigger this feeling and it’s awful. And it happens every single freaking day. Today, worse than usual.
I think I’m less dissociated. Yippee.
So the question arises, why every day? Yes, I get that emotions are information. The information is that she is dead and I am not happy about it. The information is that I spent my childhood moving in and out of an intense longing to be reunited with her and bedtime and waking-up time reminds me of that most strongly. It reminds me I don’t live with her, that while her little room in that single occupancy hotel was home to me, it wasn’t the place I got to return to. It felt like home, but no one else thought it was. I always had to leave.
Message received and understood. ACK
Why do I have to keep getting the message? At this intensity? Every day?
That isn’t just a complaint. I want to know.
I think I do know.
Our brains think in different ways. Certain kinds of information are processed along one track and other kinds of information are processed along another track. One of them is conscious and effortful—that’s the bit I wrote up above. The other kind of thinking is fast, effortless, and usually outside our conscious awareness. It’s not outside our awareness because we don’t want to know about it. It’s outside our awareness because if we were aware of everything being processed in our heads the din would be enormous. And it’s not necessary. I don’t need to look at the bed and think, “That’s a bed.” My brain just needs to, non-consciously, locate the procedure for making it up and then instruct my body in what to do. As it does.
It’s started to seem to me that, in conditions of traumatic dissociation, these two ways of thinking are often separated. I imagine this happens so that we can think still, so that some kind of cognitive ability is retained even when instinct would mandate we shut down cognition and just act. I don’t know this, but it’s my hypothesis. The reason doesn’t matter that much though.
The kinds of information that are being processed automatically are more extensive than I realized. It includes procedural memory, and our emotions are often procedural—like making up a bed in the morning. A certain thing happens that has happened in a similar way before and your brain locates the usual emotional response and instructs your body in creating that corresponding emotional experience: those physical sensations, that respiratory response, that hormonal release. It’s efficient. You don’t have to think through how to react every time someone gives you a present. You’ve had one before. Your brain knows what to do.
That’s one piece.
I think now our social selves are also formed through non-conscious processes. We are aware of them. We know about them in a conscious, slow-track way, but our slow-track isn’t creating our social selves. It’s the fast track. I have parts because the process of understanding who I am as one person relating to other people was cranking along even though nothing made any sense. And so the fast track said, Okay, they don’t make sense together: my internal experience is totally disjointed and the way others perceive me is also totally disjointed, but we can make this work if we just divide it up a little.
The fast-track does other things, but that’s enough for now. It does procedural memory and it does how we see ourselves.
The fast-track also processes information differently than the slow-track. It requires a different kind of evidence. You can tell your slow-track something once and it might not remember, but if it does, that’s enough. The city where I live is called Y-Town Okay, done. I can now refer to it as Y-Town. One telling is enough.
The fast-track understands probability and so it needs multiple exposures before something is true. Something happens once, the fast-track says, Okay, this is something that can happen, but it looks like a fluke to me. It happens again, and it says, Okay, maybe we need to pay more attention. It happens a hundred times, and it says, This is how things are.
I get, at a conscious level, that the experience of separation from Natalya is a part of the trauma of my childhood. Being separated from the only reliable, nurturing figure in my life was a part of the ethos of my growing up. I get that that was my experience.
But my fast-track isn’t there yet. It needs a few hundred more exposures to that information before it can shuffle my self-identity around and say, Oh, yes, that’s me. That’s how I feel and felt. It’s still wondering if it’s a fluke.
Message received but not understood. NACK.
I have to keep doing this until my fast-track does that for me. I cannot cogitate myself into a single identity. I have to give my fast-track exposures so that it can formulate it for me.
Meanwhile, I need to be able to cope with the feelings. I need to make the whole process suck a little less for myself so that I don’t just go on dissociating my emotions because they are too big and too intense and too dreadful. I need to be nice.