Friday, November 02, 2018

Without Warning

trigger warning, n.  an advance notice for any content, usually violent, that might prompt a flashback, panic attack, or episode for survivors of trauma.

I venture into The Pocket University's selected readings for November 2. Perhaps next time I will read the section in which it is categorized before jumping straight to the page and diving in. A bit of a warning is sometimes helpful, and not at all a spoiler alert. But poetry has a way of couching hard subjects in beautiful settings, so anything remotely related to PTSD is softened.

Fifteen years have gone round
Since thou arosest to tread,
In the summer-morning, the road
Of death, at a call unforeseen,
Sudden.  For fifteen years,
We who till then in thy shade
Rested as under the boughs
Of a mighty oak, have endured
Sunshine and rain as we might,
Bare, unshaded, alone,
Lacking the shelter of thee.

excerpt from Rugby Chapel (1867) by Matthew Arnold

A quick summary based on a single reading:
As I proceed through the lengthy poem, I come to understand it is about a father by a son who describes both the character of the father and himself, the ways they differ, and his admiration for the father's life of inspiration and integrity.

My response:
This poem is not about my life. The similarity? I have a father who died. I can identify with a number of descriptors in the poem, and am deeply satisfied with the metaphor and imagery. But it is not my life.

Too often, much too often, those of us who have experienced pain (can I see a show of hands for anyone who hasn't?) begin to make everything about ourselves. Pain is excessively egocentric. I know that when I'm in it and still can't find my way to suffer in silence. Others can. Yet we must work our hardest to stop looking at everything and everyone we encounter through the lens of "how does this apply to me?" or "how can this help me?" or "how will this make my pain worse?"

Some poems are not for you. Some poems are not for me. Some movies, places, parties, churches, events, facebook debates, books, or stories are best avoided and I try to do so by screening content before I'm immersed in it and have to walk out.

Unsolicited advice:
1) If you are a survivor of trauma, avoid highly intense, dark, or morbid "entertainment" and situations. Movies, dark themes for parties, emotional music (even when beautiful) drain our emotions and energies beyond our capacity to self regulate our reactions.

2) Don't absorb or assess every situation as if it's about you. Most times it's not. Everyone is doing their best in their current circumstance to share their stories, and recover from them.

3) Let's aim for wholeness. Don't associate with that which takes a piece out of you.

That's it for today. Be careful out there, my friend. Your heart and soul need your protection.

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