Until we were a young adult, we could not solve the mystery of realistic paintings hanging in art museums. People would stand in front of a painting that depicted throngs of people frozen in time, and the observers would study the painting and talk about details in specific, knowing ways, as though they were watching a movie.
The paintings’ names were often foreign sounding.
How could observers discern all that from a painting? What were we missing?
It was baffling, dispiriting.
Then we took a classics class–Greek mythology. The final exam was famous paintings, and our task was to name the Greek myth depicted.
That was it! The paintings depicted famous stories: Biblical, mythological, historical, etc.
This world opened to us. We could see a statue, painting, mural and learn the story behind it.
Now, many years later, we are struggling to find the stories behind the ways we construct the world we see. It’s the exact same process: we interpret life’s events based on our stories: our real histories; our myths; our fears, hopes, nightmares.
We cannot change the origin stories of the famous art. Can we change our stories? Or are we supposed to change how they affect our vision? Or some other action entirely? Or some combination?
We read “how to heal from trauma” books. We could read them as “how to die from trauma” books. Some inside people are doing this.
The books’ authors acknowledge that trauma victims don’t trust others. So why would we trust a stranger’s book?
We read that Isolation is as great a risk factor for early death as smoking and is double the risk of obesity. Some of us see this as a recipe for early death. This is how jaded we are.
We know some of our early stories–real–that have spoiled experience for us. These have tainted how we experience life. It is similar to having fed us an addictive drug as a kid. We meet people to whom this happened. They have been addicted since age 5-6. One of them is now two years deceased. Tried to quit.
The addiction is hard to cure when it’s that old. Cravings get deep. Our experience is similar, though the compulsions can’t be satiated. We don’t abuse drugs, alcohol, sex, food because we know they can’t fill the void. They will create more suffering. We have me’s that don’t want to compound suffering.
Still, we Punish ourself. Suffer. Pine. Remember. Seethe.
Then we try to get present and fail. The gift of mindfulness has less power in this brain than memory, delusion, suffering. It’s a new story for us.
We have the most success being present by being in nature. With someone else. Someone specific, actually. Someone who is not available. We have not been rejected. It’s a healthy, natural distance. So we are told.
When we go alone, sometimes we are as lost in delusion as ever. We are worried that going alone–and failing to be present–will ruin nature’s power to heal us.
Fear has a story, we would expect. Which origin story for fear? Abuse. Rape. Blood and surgery. Fire. Hate. Violence. All?
To change the lens, to paint new paintings, can we know we are more resourced sometimes because we are older? We can walk away from danger, drive away. Flight. We can fight. As we did as a youth. We can use non-violent communication sometimes. We can use therapy skills sometimes.
And sometimes, often, we can’t.
Perfectionism is one of our oldest, most powerful stories. If you are perfect, you avoid detection. Until you act out. Then it’s your choice.
Control is a story. Be in charge. Of pain. Abuse. Suffering.
There is no expression without an origin. Every painting, writing, sculpture has an origin: a story or experience or emotion or sensation.
Our expressions in the now date back years, decades, maybe centuries or millennia. We are all carrying these stories.
We want to put them down. Let their power wane. We know they won’t go away, as the burnt letter persists as ashes and in memory. And if we could be less tied to them, less attached, then we could notice their arising, name them, have empathy for us without getting lost or overwhelmed, and wave goodbye as they pass (as all temporary experiences are wont to do).
Please, please let us put them down. We try so hard. We study, go to therapy 4-5 days per week, journal, meditate, dance, Shake, draw.
What will free us?
Patience. A newer story. You have felt joy, bliss, calm, neutral, and pain and suffering. Nothing is permanent.
Look for stories. See if you can name them. Feel them. Hug them gently. And wave goodbye for now. Just try.