Sunday, February 23, 2014


After trauma, the brain is permanently changed, injured, I n a way that is noticeably altered from past habits, and often in a way that is intrusive, unwelcome, and troubling.

Memories are not some sort of magic. There is no "cloud" for the human brain from which I download what I want to recall.

Memories are a result of physical changes in the brain...a particular arrangement of neurons, or weighted chemical pathways, but none the less physically real.

Whenever something huge and traumatic happens, my brain does its best to record it, or mask it, so that I will tend to survive the current event, and a reoccurrence, if it ever happens again. The triggers for creating such "unforgettable" tendencies are probably a complex coordination of sensory input, endocrine activity, inherited nature, and past conditioning/ learning.

The point is, the changes are a real, physical characteristic of me.

If someone has a scar on their arm, chanting lovely stories of rainbows and kittens does not make the scar go away. No amount of encouragement or love makes the scar go away. Scars can be accommodated, adapted to, acknowledged, and new functionality can be found, but some trace is always there. A new configuration of the person.

Similarly, mental scars probably cannot be "cured" with any amount of happy, positive thinking. But, with realistic acceptance they can be accommodated, adapted to, and new functionality can be found.

This is not a nihilistic point of view. People with great external scars, e.g., missing limbs, can go on to live full, productive, capable lives, but they do not get there by trying to wish away their scar, but rather acknowledging it, and pressing on with a sense of practicality. Some of the scar can be worked around, but other bits are a new baseline from which they can proceed in a new but different fullness.

I should remember this when I am embarrassed by how troubled I feel, or in dealing with other troubled people. Being "nice" and wishing good things, has its place, but first must come clear sight and acceptance.

Wishing for the situation to be different might well be a form of trauma avoidance by the observer, hurt by what the empathetic response is imposing. This observation is not to condem, but to encourage skill.

In the great cascade of cause and effect, the impact of all past causes carriers forward with lesser or greater effect on the Now, but can never be earased. This is Karma.

This is me.
This is where I am.
Now in full light of that, just sit for a while.
In full light of that, what is the next right action, right thought?
What will take the whole me forward in health, rather than just my fantasies and delusions forward in empty wishing?
What is really here, now, beyond even these words?

[apologies if my experience with trauma seems naive to people who have survived even bigger things]

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Snow Reason

We live to make a path in the snow.
To venture out into the wilderness, our guide dog barking and snuffling in the brush.
Out into the wilderness then back home.
A path made.
Footprints left.
No lasting mark, but just enough to give a hint of our existence, our presence, our matter.
In the broad world we have trekked, and then returned home, to re-collect.
Warm. With hints of snow melted into the jacket collar.
Dog sleeping by the fire, paws twitching.


Originally posted as a comment on Dosho Port's FB page. Inspired by his pictures from walking his dog in the snow....