As always, Kimberly’s harvest of articles and thoughts that sparked their research for them as well as her feedback on them is priceless! I’d like to give her my express thanks for going about this important work in this candid, courageous, intelligent and far-sighted way!
If I may, I’d like to toss my 2 cents in on her linked blog post and referenced sources : First off, I wholeheartedly agree with Dr. Grogan in that resilience is not a given, but made – or not. In reading and processing the articles she keeps finding and in particular this one, I seem to find more and more evidence in my history of coping that I may not have developed resilience at all, but seem to get it confused with rather unhealthy ways of coping, which go from compartmentalizing events and their emotional outcomes to the extreme on this spectrum that is commonly coined as “dissociating” – because I had no other option for survival at the time of traumatization, as Miller points out so well. (I keep coming back to her a lot, do I? I know. Probably, because I find her insights to be deep and quite simply true, speaking and extrapolating from my own experiences). In my own attempts of reversing the latter, i.e. compartmentalizing, dissociating etc. and in hoping to come home to the nearest possible authentic version of me – emotionally speaking -, I often find myself overwhelmed with fear and going straight into a panic attack, simply from realizing that I lack the nurturing foundation in certain regards and with certain experiences. Having said this, I think Dr. Grogan puts this experience in a nutshell when expressing her concern that “It’s terrifying to think that we might not optimize their brain development, and that we might impair their capacity for emotional intimacy, social harmony, and even genuine happiness.”
I don’t mean to shoot down Kimberly’s hypothesis or her journey as an informed patient. As for myself and from experience, I luckily found that I’m indeed not all incapable of intimacy. In retrospect, I’m not all sure any more, though, whether I really enjoyed that intimacy or wether I just settled for it from an understanding that non-affected persons see varying degrees of intimacy as the foundation of any healthy relationship. I really don’t know… Social harmony… has remained to be an effort I need to make in order not to stand out in inappropriate ways. Happiness? Well, strictly speaking I have no concept of that. I can only guess, whether or not a few select moments that had me experience a greater amount of joy or even exhiliration would pass for that happiness everyone else refers to.
You see… after the past years of affording myself nothing but introspection, research, partial regression and – again, partial – reprocessing or rather: attempts thereof, I’ve currently arrived at a standstill or a junction, where I am not all sure any more, whether or not this concept of emotional regression, regrowth and reprocessin actually works. I’ve heard a former, trusted – one of the better ones – therapist speak of regrowth and renurturing as well. I’ve heard other patients coming back from inpatient care speak of experiences of emotional rebirth. I have watched a documentary of such an experience, starring a wilderness/survival expert who lived with indigenous peoples for a while and was exposed to a ritual involving strong natural hallucinogenes that had him altered for good, as he later reported. Buddhist monks were proven to even express physical reshaping of their brains after years of excessive meditation. In other words: Yes, major alterations of our emotional being are possible and are taking place. What I’ve become slightly less sure of is as to what extent all these alterations always fall back – or not? – on previous experiences made. In yet different words: What I’d like to see and experience is something like “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”: Find the “malignant” experience and remove it, then go from there. But that seems to be a rather naive/silly wish, no?
(Please say “no” – just “kidding”).
B.t.w.: This post is also in the context of pondering as to what extent I expect anything new to come from a potential inpatient stay – relatively short term, though, whether I can overcome the fear of such a measure or whether I might be better off to try and accept the fact that my experiences constitute a persisting emotional challenge that I get to work around in certain areas, but am unlikely to overcome. It’s simply a question of energy management and how much more fear and pain I’m able to withstand. Sounds dramatic – and feels so for the most of the time, too. Relief is temporary and seems to lose its effectiveness. And maybe, just maybe – thinking about these things doesn’t get me any further any more. It’s all very confusing.