Friday, February 25, 2011

Relapsing: a continuing education experience

A life threatening experience just is: and then simplicity ends. It may involve one person or many. If many, some will/some won’t, go on to experience of what is clinical defined as the post traumatic stress – whatever should then be the best descriptive word. Some are “driven to drink,” some staying in emotional denial for on and on (as I did), some acting out in rage (can be toward others, can be towards one’s self). Lots of differences, lots of similarities.

It’s a good question why I, as a mental health professional, missed my own PTS characteristics. I certainly had had lots of training experiences involving highly regarded mental health professionals. Partially, it is that the larger amount of what we know today reflects the “knowledge explosion.” PTSD was alluded to by the Greek poet Homer in Achilles’ response to the death of his closest friend, but if a person wants to keep a doctorate current he have to keep repeating the same amount of studying! The other reason is that these things have been so commonplace in my – our – lifetime. Face to face confrontation with a rattlesnake? Big deal. Think death camps. Think...I should be giving my readership illustrations!

Given who I am, naturally I wanted to understand. In theoretical terms, what jumped to mind was an oft told story by my mother. She almost died on the delivery table; it was the coldest night in the history of our little town. In that emergency in that middle of the night, everyone frantically gathered around my mother. My grandmother found me lying naked and turning blue in a nearby room.
A Freudian era psychiatrist wrote up a whole theory around birth traumas. From this perspective, it follows that given a life threatening crisis, such as encountering that rattlesnake, I would “freeze” in response. Turning the pages on childhood memories, I can come up with supportive notions.

Exploring that encounter with the snake, however, is not one sided. When I froze and waiting the snake out, it saved my life. I “played it cool,” and lived. I would be astonished if other survivors of life threatening events could not bring a balance to the negative aspects of their PTSD event with some positive aspects. True?

Today, I can look back on all this. I can see how I was shaped by a causal event, how it molded me in certain directions, misshaped my responses at times. What I also recognize is it has also sharpened up my awareness of the need to grow. It has given me a determination to confront my weakness and to grow intellectually, emotionally, spiritually. What more could a person want?

Well, yes; there is. When the Apostle Paul came up with the realization that God was working for our good in all things, I now have an even better reason to being open to that, too.

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