When I was 18 years old, for a variety of reasons, I was “advised” by the New Haven, Connecticut county criminal justice system that it would be wise for me to consider making my permanent home in a different state. Taking that advice to heart, I put the squeeze on all my friends and came up with barely enough money to join my best friend’s brother and his girlfriend on a cross-country trip to Los Angeles.
After a morning filled with tearful, emotional, left-brain short-circuiting “Goodbyes” the three of us set out toward I-95. Before we got to the Interstate though, brother and girlfriend stopped at a convenience store to pick up road comforts, while I went looking for a mailbox to deposit grateful thank-you notes to all the people who’d lent me money for the journey. Without realizing it however, the money they’d lent me was stuck in an envelope buried among those I deposited in the mailbox. To my horror, I finally realized what I’d done somewhere between Punxsutawney, PA and Pittsburg.
Needless to say, this did not joyously delight brother and girlfriend. They were thinly capitalized themselves, needing to use most of their money for college tuition and start-up housing. Unable to come up with any other reasonable option besides guilt and shame, they agreed to lend me the money for the trip. They also repeatedly impressed upon me how I would be fully expected to pay them back soon after we arrived in L.A. and I got a job. Which I did. I also paid back everyone else as well.
Fast-forward slowly, 48 years later.
Slouching Towards Re-enactment
It’s time to make the first payment on the new mortgage. For no particular (conscious) reason, my crazy-paranoid left brain is not really trusting my local lender’s electronic payment operations these days, so I decide I will mail the first payment to our Michigan mortgage-holding bank a week in advance the old fashioned way – in an envelope with a stamp.
The Sunday I decide to mail that first payment, I also decide to make a local bank deposit to make sure there are triple the funds in the account needed to cover it. When I get to the ATM however, I discover it’s “down for routine maintenance.” Without thinking (consciously) too much about it, I take a deposit envelope and stick the two checks inside and seal it. Then I walk both envelopes up the street to the mailbox sitting outside our local post office.
I’m guessing you can see what’s coming.
Sure enough – without thinking about it (consciously), I drop the bank deposit envelope into the mailbox and hold onto the mortgage payment. Astonishingly, I don’t discover the mistake until I sit down to breakfast with my wife at the restaurant next to the post office.
So, here it is nearly a half decade later and that soft trauma from so long ago, replete with guilt and shame, is showing up for healing, looking for me to take some kind of creative, “triumphant action.” And I do. I write a note to Linda, Val and Jo, the ladies at the post office, and explain what happened. I slip it under the locked door. Then, on Monday morning, first thing, puppy Bodhi (the postal ladies’ favorite) and I are waiting in the parking lot for them to show up. I explain in my own words what happened, including the trauma healing part, and they are more than gracious and happy to help me out. They fish my deposit envelope out of the box, hand it over, and lo these many years later I am finally able to smile with great relief. I do a little jig together with Bodhi down Second Avenue.
Psychic Phase-Change Happens
Pierre Janet, a French psychiatrist, preceded Freud in coming to identify “the compulsion to repeat the trauma.” He thought it was the brain’s attempt to master overwhelming experiences. My experience is that it’s an ongoing process by brain and body directing “healing always trying to happen.” This particular soft trauma took me and my adaptive unconscious only a half century to unconsciously orchestrate, re-enact and bring to fruitful healing completion. Other harder traumas over the years, apparently took precedence in my psychic backlog.
But if we look at many of the slips and unconscious actions that take place in our lives on a regular basis, particularly those involving the “afflictive” emotions – things like jealousy, anger, hatred, fear, guilt, shame and regret – I think a strong case can be made for healing always trying to happen. These things keep showing up only because our neuro-somatic constitution hasn’t become sufficiently robust enough to simply become immune to their emotional highjacking hijinx. But it can become sufficiently robust. And we know this from many first-hand reporters throughout human history. They typically end up becoming revered as reformed sinners and saints. But before they made the one great healing neural connection that created the psychic (or cardiological?) phase-change in consciousness, weren’t they were just plain folk like you and me?
Business Note: If you live in, or have friends in the Seattle area, it would be great to hang out with you all at this daylong event a friend and I are offering on January 12th: Body, Brain and Spirit.