I am not really in the mood to write just now, but I haven’t written anything since Wednesday, and I have a sense of it being “time.”
I am thinking today about something that does not actually interest me that much. It’s important, but laying it all out for you does not really catch my fancy.
I am thinking today about my brain working better and about this making me hopeful for the future. When you are traumatized, I have realized, your feelings in the present recall other feelings, and it’s very intense. Intense emotions create intense cravings to act. It makes for impulsivity. It’s not about your thoughts. The impulsivity can happen even if you shut down thought altogether, which I am quite good at. Your thoughts are merely internal communication about your feelings and desires. You can stop articulating anything, and you go on wishing for the same things and feeling the same things. The upside of thought suppression is that you get less freaked out by knowing what you think and feel. You save yourself a layer of “I’m feeling THAT?”
But the impulses you have in the present based on traumatic experiences don’t always accord with good, common sense. I mean, they are so loudly shaped by one set of data that it does not take into account other sets of data. You’re not really driving on all four cylinders. Instinctively, I think some of us know this. Or we do have some sense of what other sources of information suggest, and we can tell it’s not such a great idea to follow the particular trauma-inspired impulse, and then we try to shut down the feeling and the impulse along with it. Then you get cold logic. Which also leaves out important pieces of information. Cold logic makes you just as stupid about making life-choices as hot emotions.
Through this process, I have realized there is almost always some relevant and important connection between the trigger in the past and the memory it is triggering. I used to think I could say, “Oh, I just feel this way because it reminds me of the past, but it is not like the past.” Actually, it is like the past. It is like the past in some ways and not like it in other ways, and I need the full picture and all the data—past, present, and imagined future—to make decisions about it. But processing all of that makes the feelings too intense and I want to do things that defy common sense.
So there is often something that feels very trap-like about the feelings from the past that get triggered. For example, these days, I am really, really struggling with homesickness. I can’t even tell you if I am a little bit homesick for the familiarity of the United States, because it’s all so convoluted and tangled and emotionally intense I don’t know what’s what. But I have been processing the past so that the volume on the whole thing can be turned down. As I have done this, it feels less trap-like. It feels less like I will have to do things that have a variety of downsides just to keep myself from being overwhelmed by sadness and grief. I feel freed up to make choices based on a broader range of needs and desires, instead of the one “OMFG-this-hurts” desire at the expense of all other desires. I think this is what people mean when they talk about being freed of the past. The thing is I don’t feel freed from the past. My past is more folded into my daily life than it ever has been before. My past is not in the past. It is in the present. It’s just it doesn’t feel trap-like. It’s merely there. Enriching sometimes, sometimes neutral, sometimes a horror I just have to get through.
But it’s an interesting place to be in, and it makes me feel more optimistic about the future.