There’s a study referenced in The Hacking of the American Mind where some people in an fMRI were shown a picture of someone who broke their heart and some people were burned on the arm.
And yep, the brain looks very similar in both cases.
It’s why I’ve deleted and blocked so many people on social media over the years, glancing at my phone shouldn’t be scrolling through a mine field.
I had a mini heart attack just from hearing someone’s name come up unexpectedly a while ago, years after I thought the pain had dissipated.
(It’s a grimace-inducing sentence but) I have to acknowledge that I’m extremely sensitive. It used to be great: Sensitivity is creativity, sensitivity is insight, sensitivity is honesty.
But now I’ve just been in mourning for a bunch of broken friendships and dead dreams for years and it’s awful.
The only time I feel good about it is when I’m floating. Every time I feel myself being bitter my next thought is when is my next float?
Being in an isolation tank stops all the stories we’re telling ourselves about our lives and it’s great, it’s like the character and the author get to have a conversation knowing that it won’t be included in the story itself. Or maybe it’s a lawyer and a judge having an aside to discuss the trial.
While it’s made me more resilient, more sympathetic, and insightful, it hasn’t revealed any strategies. That’s what the 3000 words of the To Forget Or Not To Forget post was about and I didn’t find anything pragmatic in that either.
Mourning is about moving on in steps you’re comfortable with, and it can’t be brutal when other people are comfortably and quickly taking huge steps while you’re clinging to or ignoring a facebook photo for a year.
There’s an archetypal story I’ll call False Paradise. In the Batman episode Perchance to Dream Bruce wakes up in a world where his parents aren’t dead, he’s marrying Selina Kyle, and Batman exists but it’s not him. It’s paradise, it’s everything he wants, he doesn’t think it’s real at first, or ever, but he wants to. Except letters in books and newspapers are always jumbled, some doors lead to rooms in other buildings, like in a dream.
It’s these bitter little reminders that cause him to jump off a clock tower which makes him wake up in the real world and defeat the Mad Hatter.
Stories have climaxes that lead to happy endings, even ambiguously happy endings. Life doesn’t have endings in the narrative sense, it just stops. And moves. And lays dormant. And moves. And even death is a much longer, slower, messier thing than we imagine it to be because we think in stories not reality.
There’s no case in life where you just have to be brave enough to do one immediate thing and get to a satisfactory point to roll the credits. Everyone’s paradise is a little bit false, even people who got their plan A and aren’t over here trying to hobble together a plan B without touching any of the ashes.
Life is a series of Instead Ofs and Afters. The healed injuries that somehow still ache from the weather.
I saw my future as totally dichotomous, either the best case or the worst case was going to happen. Now I’ve avoided both.
And I’m quite happy. I often have a Present and no longer feel the crushing omnipresent weight of the Future. I guess the cost is now having a Past, and intermittent reminders that the real world is over there, visible sometimes, and I fucked up, I surrendered the whole field, I ran away and have to keep running, paradise is false and the real world is cruel, there’s no one to defeat for control.