Do I understand my own perspective at last?
The afternoon went badly. It might have been worse, I suppose, but I was scattered. The class didn’t move forward the way I would like it to. My mind was elsewhere a part of the time, which might actually be a good thing. Dissociation is an extreme form of selective attention. It is paying attention to one set of experiences and not others; one set of sensations and not others; one set of emotions and not others, one set of thoughts and not others. It is a narrowing of your awareness so that unnecessary or unwanted stimuli do not intrude.
Selective attention is normal. We cannot possibly attend to every bit of internal and external stimulation. There is also no need to. Nine tenths of it is not important anyway. Directing our awareness towards some stimuli and away from others is necessary for us to do any thinking at all. Dissociation is this, but more so.
But things register at other levels. The stimuli that are not attended to are recorded but not processed. Not every bit of stimuli, but a lot of it, because you can’t really completely screen out awareness of everything you’d like to not notice. So the information is there. Some of it. In its raw form, as if it is happening exactly now and your brain must still do something with it. Because it does.
Which is a part of what leads to flashbacks. A memory is prompted by something that appears to be related to it. But it’s not processed. Nothing has been done to it. All the processing still remains: also, the information is not processed enough for it to be clear to your mammal brain that this experience is, in fact, quite different from the memory called up. It isn’t immediately dismissed. It stays in your head. Then the intensity of the emotions that are a part of the memory leads to dissociation again. The processing doesn’t get done and the next time you are in a tangentially related situation, the whole thing happens again. It’s a loop.
Anyway, I’m good at directing my attention. Extremely so. And my teaching style demands every bit of this ability. There is very little left over to attend to my own emotional state or the thought that nothing I am doing actually seems worth doing in the slightest.
If my mind was elsewhere, it’s because I’m not directing my attention quite as much. I am attending to other things in my head aside from what is immediately in front of me. In other words, I’m being a little bit normal.
Nothing seems really worth doing, because Natalya is dead. I’m teaching class four maths when I realize this. I am not in the pit of despair, but I start to notice the luster has gone off the day. I like teaching. However, at that moment, I don’t like it. The children aren’t being frustrating, the lesson is not going particularly badly. It’s just that she’s dead. And because of that I basically just don’t give a fuck. They are looking at me with their hopeful, upturned faces, and I just don’t really care.
The thought I have again and again lately is simply this: She was my wife. And they killed her. It feels like I have been dismembered.
I think I can’t get past it because I can’t accept it. I was 13 years old. A certain degree of cognitive dissonance enters into things. A lot of it, in fact. I can get around the dissonace if I take into account everything else that happened—the context that allowed for such a profound bond to develop between us. But that’s even harder.
I wish it weren’t. I wish I could ignore it. I wish I could say it happened, shocking or not. Just deal with it. But the shock keeps coming up. First of all, the shock that this really happens. Adult men send 7-year-old girls out on the streets to sell their bodies to men to abuse. Second of all, my father did it. He did it for most of my childhood. He had someone else do it for him, but the choice to do it remains his.
Something clicks suddenly, as I write this. Of course he did. That’s who he was. It’s the kind of person he was and is. The people around him existed—in his mind—for him to exploit. He had not sense of how to form another kind of relationship, and really no idea why he might want to. He had no idea that his exploitation of others was the cause of his sense of boredom and emptiness. He only thought people who tried to create authentic, caring relationships were stupid: they were incompetent versions of his soullessness.
Of course he trafficked me: In a society in which sex trafficking exists, in which girls and women are victimized by men, where children aren’t adequately protected, and where women remain second-class citizens, that’s the way you can exploit a little girl you have power over. So he did.