Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Relapsing (cont. from the previous blog)

In the regression from the huge snake in the tv commercial to the originating trauma as a boy and the rattlesnake, it did not feel helpless. Somewhat the opposite. I had worked through that first experience of flashbacks and could draw on that.

The first thing that helped was that I knew what was happening. I knew about flashbacks and I read, heard, and even counseled about the post traumatic stress disorder. It still was an uneven fight between reason and overwhelming feelings, but it started making the fight more even.

The second part of that first working through had been drawing on my theology. This was not rationalization, but did provide a structure upon which I could begin to build even a larger context. A powerful conviction in that theology was that God had created all things, and that his creation was good. It gave me an unexpected grasp on reality: the snake was as afraid of me as I was of him, that I had invaded territory and he was trying desperately to warn me off. There was a curious effect to believing that God’s creatures were good: the snake was not evil; if both of us were God’s creatures, then it jumped into my mind that he was “brother snake.” Really: it happened. It started a process in which the snake’s head became smaller and smaller. Finally it was – curiously – a tiny snakehead in the upper, outer part of my left eye. Strange, but we know that flashbacks are a biological happenstance, and this just happened. It went on to fade: until that tv commercial. I now had, however, the realization that I was transferring power artificially and unrealistically to a present experience from another source, similar, but also unlike.

In this regression, reality again emerged. The snake was a probably a boa, certainly from the shape of the head, nonpoisonous. The final part of the process was a laugh: I started thinking I certainly hoped they paid the poor female model enough for having that whole thing photographed! Can you imagine how many retakes it took?

So, that’s how it all worked for me. Basically, I drew on my psychological religious understandings. As I was sharing this in a free-wheeling discussion group at church, one of my sharpest – and cynical – thinking friends let out with, “But what if it was a crocodile?” I confess I do not know: I can only share what happened.

In such matters, my wife is fond of quoting Frederick the Great: “Whatever doesn’t kill a man (my wife always says, ‘person,’ instead of ‘man’) makes him stronger.” Well, I guess so, but I prefer to stick with Paul. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

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