Less trap-like

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.

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10 thoughts on “Less trap-like

  1. ridicuryder September 20, 2015 / 4:31 pm

    Ash,

    These impulses to do things that defy common sense are good if you can be selective about them. If you start with paying far less attention to time for example…you are already importing the past into your daily life. You have at least one person you recognize as somewhat interchangeable with a past important love. I see your emergence from the “trap” as progressing nicely.

    You’ve been banging around inside the trap for decades 🙂 I’m not thinking of you living in the past (although obviously some of that is going to happen)…more like you bringing the better parts of the past forward to your present environment, not just with C, but I suspect a lot of your tribe shines through you already.

    That is a powerful package of love to bring out into the world…I’m very interested to see what swirls when you let that energy flow.

    Love,
    Mark

    • Ashana M September 21, 2015 / 4:57 am

      By “defy common sense” I mean will have negative consequences later.

      No one is interchangeable. I am not sure what you mean by that.

  2. ridicuryder September 22, 2015 / 9:30 am

    Common sense…is common…not exquisite. There are generally negative consequences to defying common sense, but it is also in our nature to zag when common sense says to zig. When I find myself zagging a lot I know I’ll have hell to pay on some of it, but there is also an opportunity to have a “Mark” experience…not really common to anyone else.

    You may find it disturbing, but the Ashana experience seems to feature living in the past and a present (unusual in your new full-sensory state) that makes for an interesting inverted reality. The upside down cake is iced by C who I said was “somewhat” interchangeable with your dismembered sister (not literal sister, but I’ve come to think of the girls as mostly your sisters). So in effect you have the opportunity to hold your past life in the present with a certain energy that I think is pretty cool. It also seems a decent way to evolve / transform some of the past into a better accented and decently loving future…which may result in you becoming freed of the past. Except I hope you carry the love of your sisters forward with you in familiar ways.

    I like it when you challenge my thoughts and comments. Relating to your situation, having perception and catching the center of where you are at is tricky, but these exchanges make me more appreciative of your struggles…even though I supplant how I might deal with things. I get a lot out of you, I hope some of my thought exercises have a take-away for you at times also.

    • Ashana M September 22, 2015 / 2:10 pm

      I think when you say “common sense,” you mean conventional wisdom. I may not have chosen the most precise term. I just meant doing stuff that will most certainly make me unhappy later. Satisfying a momentary impulse is not worth future unhappiness. And I think that isn’t really all that common. People do stupid shit now that’s not even that much fun rather than stuff that will really make them happy later because you know later is later.

      C is most certainly her own person and not like anyone else.

      The thing is no one is free from the past. If you were free from the past, you wouldn’t be able to put on your own clothes. It’s just that people with more average pasts aren’t aware of it. You look at a tree and you know it’s a tree because you learned that at some point in the past. It’s seamless and effortless, and totally convenient. However, people like me with huge amounts of unprocessed life experiences spend our days thinking wtf is that? I kind of remember trees. I think my uncle told me about trees and it really hurt. Oh, shit, yeah, it hurt a lot. I think I’ll stop thinking about trees. And you never get to the point of knowing what trees are. You just you keep seeing them and feeling upset. I live with an awareness of the past that other people don’t have. They are as much inside the past as I am (or out of it, depending on your point of view–half-ful, half-empty). But they don’t have to know. I do. People who talk about being freed of the past would like their pasts to recede back into a state of unawareness. That’s what they really mean. And it’s not going to happen for me. I have to deal with the past being too emotionally powerful to be unaware of it.

  3. ridicuryder September 22, 2015 / 6:07 pm

    I think most people satisfy momentary impulses and let future happiness slide less FREQUENTLY…but conventional wisdom / TED talks (with guys like Dan Ariely) tell us that this is pretty common or uniform across populations. So some people are doing stupid shit more frequently and suffering more. I think your abusers fall into the later category except they go for it with such gusto that they completely dissociate from any immediate consequences of what they are doing (including your consequences). For them a tree is a giant broccoli or stout asparagus and they distribute their twisted reality without realizing that nobody is into the vegtable medley. They are likely sick of it / with it themselves, but it is all they know or have been shown.

    Of course C is her own person, but she has triggered you in certain ways a while back that made parts of you obsess for her safety. So, it seems parts of you, feeling (finally) somewhat (somewhat) safer themselves have migrated their concerns out to others, This coincided with you recalling the love you had with your sisters…beyond Nata. These parts of you are showing you love…they are letting you finally see what trees aren’t.

    I’m not suggesting you will ever reach some finish line where you’ll be freed from the past. I think striving towards that finish line is always going to make it “around then next corner” and then the next and oh but that next corner looks promising. When you stop running that oval and just walk for awhile, you’ll stop straining to look ahead, you’ll notice your surroundings more (you’ve been more outwardly engaging on blog than I’ve ever seen these past few months). On this walk you are being brought love FROM THE PAST along with truckloads of horrible shit. I’m estimating the love will hold you much much better than the vegetable freak show, but it will take time.

    You may always see trees in a warped way…but one morning you will find yourself beside a bush and a bird will be there singing and the sun will be warming you and you’ll smile with the realization that you are no longer on the track. It won’t be losing awareness of the track, it will simply be traveling in different circles. Certainly you will keep revisiting the track, but not as a slave to its endless treadmill…you’ll be there to do a few of your laps as a kind of a maintenance. Perhaps you’ll toil all afternoon shoveling shit, we all have to shovel shit, but you’ll be a fucking olympic athlete about it on some days.

    • Ashana M September 22, 2015 / 6:25 pm

      I’m really trying to get across the idea that freedom from the past is actually unhealthy and abnormal. It’s this really damaging lie we have told ourselves as a society.

      The stuff with C was “Oh, that’s a tree. These are all the things I remember about trees.” Except the tree was a) a sense of family and b) responsibility. What I’m getting at it is what I have in my head is raw data. I come across a new situation and all the raw data needs to be crunched. It hasn’t been analyzed before. Then the present needs to be crunched too.

      My dad and Yuri were not impulsive. They were careful planners. They were supremely good at considering the rewards in the future over momentary impulses. It’s hard to conceive of this. Most people who have a lot of life problems are the opposite. Yuri and my dad just had very different rewards in mind.

    • Ashana M September 22, 2015 / 6:40 pm

      My dad and Yuri were careful planners. They were not impulsive and did not sacrifice the future for momentary impulses. They got what they wanted out of life.

      What I’m trying to get at is that what’s in my head is a lot of raw data. It hasn’t been analyzed before. No conclusions have been drawn. I go into a new situation that seems related to it, and I have to crunch all of it and also look at the data from the new situation. Everyone uses data collected from the past to make sense of the present and make decision, but usually it’s at least semi-processed. That’s why it’s seamless and easy. When people say they feel “freed” from the past, that’s really what has happened. The data got processed, and they are drawing on it in a totally unconscious way in the present pretty much every second. They are not free of it. It just became invisible to them again.

      I have love from the past. I also have an immense amount of knowledge about grief and how it works, how psychopaths think, how we process emotions, how we connect to others (or don’t), how we regulate emotions (or don’t), what dead bodies feel like and smell like, what dying feels like from the perspective of someone else, I know how pedophiles think and operate. I know a huge amount of stuff. Some of this may come in handy later. Some of it, I may never need to use again. But it’s like if you grew up on a farm. You end up learning a lot about farming, whether the topic interests you or not. I know a lot about death and criminals and dysregulated emotions and mental illness.

    • Ashana M September 22, 2015 / 6:44 pm

      I keep trying to reply to you. Then I look at a different window as I consider what I said. And it disappears. I will try again later when I am less annoyed about it.

      • ridicuryder September 22, 2015 / 6:55 pm

        WordPress seems a little clunky this morning. 🙂

        I like seeing both your responses drafted slightly differently. I’m going to take awhile to get back to you here. I should say that I meant many of your johns as abusers. I can see Yuri and your dad as something else. I hope that it is WordPress annoying you at the moment more than me, but I know some of it is me 🙂

      • Ashana M September 22, 2015 / 7:03 pm

        Oh, it came? Awesome. I was about to throw the laptop.

        Somehow the johns are never the main feature in my head.

        Today is a holiday and I’m having a really nice day, although I don’t feel well at all. It’s a petty passing annoyance and you are both forgiven because basically things are good.

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