I’ve always been curious about the impact of our perceptions on the reality we seem to contend with. This became even more prominent in a recent discussion regarding the way in which we perceive or interpret various experiences and how it subsequently affects us. One thing I realised is that I don’t recall ever looking at any of the many colourful experiences in my life and feeling distinctly overwhelmed or traumatised by it. The thought of it being traumatic never entered my mind.
Sure, there would be times when I would describe the experiences of others as traumatic events in their lives, but I think there is a very important difference between how we describe something for effect, versus how we experience or internalise it. This rings true to my views about labels and how that also drives conditioned responses within us. Without intending to rob others of the gravity of their life experiences, I would suggest that the moment our internal conversations suggest to us that we’re experiencing a traumatic event rather than just a challenging event, it reinforces the sensations associated with feeling attacked, as opposed to raising our awareness of our response options instead.
It reminds me of moments when the responses of others towards an event in my life seemed to have heightened my awareness to the impact of it compared to how I felt a moment before they said anything. This has happened to me often regarding death or near death experiences. I would cope with the reality quite well, but would be jolted into a deeper sense of loss or betrayal when I see the emotion in the faces of others that are witnessing the events unfold.
It’s like the contagion of a yawn. We tend to feel a need for rest after watching someone else going through a really hearty yawn, even though there was absolutely nothing wrong with our energy levels before that. I think this is the same response we have towards people that express raw emotion around us. We’re drawn to it like a moth to the flame. Sometimes it grounds us in compassion, but often it sucks us into the victim state that makes it that much more difficult to emerge. More destructive than this is when we find a sense of comfort in the sympathy from others that dwarfs any level of comfort we experienced in the normal course of our lives. That’s when the weak and neglected among us play to the sympathies of others and remain bogged down in a phase of their lives that ultimately defines their existence, not because the event itself is too traumatic to let go of, but the attention and significance it afforded them is too rare for them to want to give up. Rare in the context of their lives.
It’s that dramatic emotional response that leaves a lasting impression. It makes a mediocre life noteworthy, and when that fleeing moment threatens to pass, a cycle is spawned where we seek opportunities to create triggers for yet more sympathy because as long as others sympathise, the true frailty of our lives would escape us as long as we enjoy the sympathetic embrace of others. That embrace tells us that it’s ok to be broken. It tells us that simply surviving is a triumph in itself, and that any lack of conviction or courage to move beyond that point is completely understandable.
That’s when we fail ourselves, and we fail others. When we gauge the intensity of the struggle of our lives relative to the weaknesses of others. It’s for this reason that we need to look towards those that rose above it rather than those that coped. Unfortunately, our celebration of mediocrity makes it increasingly difficult to tell the difference. Couple that with our innate fear of exposing ourselves to the same opportunity that earned us betrayal and you have a perfect recipe for a victim’s regret that is despised on the inside and dressed as strength on the outside. If only we put as much energy into moving on, life would be so much more endearing.