Thursday, April 21, 2011

What's the Need That Keeps the Flashbacks Going in a Person's Life?

At first that may seem like nonsense. The compulsive interjection of a life threatening memory seems anything but a “need.” It has been, in literal fact, imprinted on the brain.

Another angle into this issue is to look at a similarity of the post traumatic to the obsessive compulsive disorder. Both have what will become an obsession getting triggered in a shadowy level of the brain. Both start a pathway leading into consciousness associated with the person’s forehead. The sensation/thought then begins its circular descent back into the depths from which it came. During this downward pathway there is a “gate” that normally closes. In this process, if the person wants to continue thinking about the whatever, the gate will stay open and the thought continues to make its round. If the person does not want to continue to think (or remember) the gate closes, the circular process halts. In an obsession, the gate is stuck open and round and round the memory goes, when it will stop nobody knows. And is it hateful.

Now one of the drug manufacturers will be glad to supply a little something to oil the stuck hinges on that gate. Likewise, a psychotherapist, as a practitioner of exposure and response blocking, will gladly work the gate back and forth until it loosens up.

For the sake of discussion, however, let us imagine a need of some sort. There are as many possibilities as there are individuals but let’s chose one: guilt. There are a lot of situations in which a person emerges with the need to beat himself or herself up. Usually a good heavy covering of denial, suppression, or rationalization will handle it: but lots of folks have this heavy handed honesty thing - it’s not that I can’t forget it, there is some additional factor, so that I won’t. Sometimes persons won’t accept responsibility for an act, but sometimes the person just won’t give up on beating themselves bloody and beyond. Being self punitive is as much a characteristic of the post traumatic condition as alienation and rage. A horrendous story in the newspapers is so often just like an ad placed there for the shifting of unforgiving feelings permently from one person to several next ones…

If we are going to move beyond obsessing the grounding for this is to be broadband honest. We have to begin with an adequate look in the mirror – and can’t be  a fun house one, and a lot of them are, given the conditions under which the person was reared. We have to be more than self referring in our honesty, or it is apt to play into that circular process from which we are trying to escape. We need to get outside ourselves for a broader perspective, even as we know we can’t: enter “soul.”

The need is to be “honest to God” about ourselves. The step beyond is to start the search for that God who is both in us and beyond us. That’s why I have linked – for myself and out of my own struggles – with the Apostle Paul.

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