Acceptance is the key that unlocks Faith.
Note: This blog series investigates twelve attributes I see as conducive to recovery from PTSD (and other past stress) which has become part of our ethos or basic belief system. April aspires to Faith.
Recovery is a grieving process, for we have lost something of ourselves in the traumas of our experiences. We have left something of our youthful exuberance, even innocence, and joy for living. The person we were no longer exists. The world we knew before our trauma no longer exists, and that is the hard truth of it.
The wife I lost because of that truth told me she always thought I had lost my soul in Vietnam. There is an irritating grain of truth in that observation.
It was not my soul that was lost in combat. It was Faith. I no longer had the faith that the world works the way I had thought, the way I had believed it should.
The subconscious response to that faith-shattering conclusion is to fix it. Change it. Change the world.
So, we go through some stages of grief. We continue to negotiate the past in the sub consciousness of our nightmares, in our feelings, in the part of our minds (yes, brains, too) that process information irrationally.
This time it will turn out different. This time they won’t die. This time I will see it coming. This time, this time, this time….
I am a problem solver. It is what I do. Drives my wife crazy. Whenever she tells me about something she finds unacceptable, I fix it—or, I try. No, that is not a consequence of combat trauma, but it is an exaggerated development of a pre-trauma tendency. I had studied science because it is a problem solving enterprise.
I cannot fix Vietnam. I cannot save the two million Cambodians lost in the “Killing Fields.” And, I cannot regain my zeal for Cytogenetics that I had in 1968. Not ever.
But, I can accept it.
Yes, I know that feels, somehow, as abandoning those who were lost. Yes, I know that sounds like surrender. I know. I know.
When I feel myself sinking into despair deep in the chasm between the grief stages of anger and acceptance, when I forget acceptance is on the other side of that rift of depression, I find myself wandering to the arms of Nature. There I find acceptance, and Faith begins to grow, again.
During my first Vision Quest on our land in northern Wisconsin, it rained. It rained all night (8 inches), washing out roads, flooding my stream valley, sinking boats. It was wonderful.
“For after all, the best thing one can do when it is raining is let it rain.” (Henry Wadsworth Longfellow)
Some of my thinking will never change. That is real as rain. My thinker is broken. Now, what?
The moment I accept the reality of my condition, it ceases to be an active addiction. I can learn ways of compensating. I can learn new ways of thinking. I can remember that Faith is free, over there on the other side of depression, holding hands with Acceptance.
From Vision Quests I have learned that I can gain acceptance in four days.
Of course, I can lose it in four seconds. My answer is to make life one Great Vision Quest.
Recovery is a quest for Vision. It is a process of seeing the tracks of our pre-trauma selves, deep down inside, in places we have thought dead.