Process and Pathology – Rory Miller

Fevers can come from a lot of different things.  I was taught that sometimes it is simply the way your body kills viruses, or at least keeps them from reproducing.  The fever is part of the process of healing.  The virus is the problem, not the fever.  The fever is not just a symptom, it is also part of the healing process.  When we lower the fever, we ease the visible signs of the sickness, but we also may be prolonging the illness.  Protecting the virus.

Stress after a big event is normal.  For most people, a huge violent event completely restructures their reality map.  It can show you that everything you believe and value is context-dependent.  Or I can be harsh and more honest and say that you will come to know that almost all of your cherished beliefs about what people are were simply lies.  Pretty lies and pleasant lies and things that most of the population works very hard to make true… but lies none the less.

But because most people are good people and work hard to make some of the harsh truths less true. Might does, in fact, make right– unless strong, good people stand up and through action and force of will make it untrue.  Violence works, and has for millennia and across all species– until we came up with the will and the vision that we can make it not work. And that requires a capacity for violence as well. The only defense against evil violent men are good men with more skill at violence.

That’s a digression. The point is that there will be a period of adjustment after a violent event.  Some will always be damaged.  Most of those I know are the ones trying to return to ‘normal’.  The normal that a deep part of them now knows never really existed.  They feel that the only thing that can make them right is to go back to a state that they now know was always false.  Just like someone crushed with responsibilities wishing to be a child again.

Some will find a new normal, and that normal will largely depend on how much of what they were exposed to.  With a single aberrant event, they can rewrite a reality map pretty much like the old one.  Pretend the event was an abnormality.  With lots of exposure in different areas, the violence becomes the new normal and, at least for me, you feel a little awe over the power of will and human vision and technology that has made the natural so rare.  Peace occurs in nature about as often as suspension bridges.

A lot of the adjustment and ‘healing’ is a recalibration process.  One of the symptoms of PTSD is hypervigilance.  You know what?  There’s some shit you don’t survive without a hefty dose of hypervigilance.  It’s not just a super-power, it’s a necessary survival trait.  Does that make it pathological?  Are the people treating this symptom aware that they, the counselors and doctors, might have died in that environment without that ‘symptom’?  Are they trying to help people be better, or help them return to normal?  In extreme environments, ‘normal’ is rarely better.

But it can get uncomfortable, and can be dangerous.  Just like going from dim light to bright light or vise versa, there will be, must be, an adjustment time.  That’s normal.

And waking up from a nightmare.  That’s part of the healing process.  Dreams are one way you work through things.  And part of the recalibration process is to snap awake in a cold sweat…and have someone you love hold you and say, “It’s okay.  It’s okay.  It’s just a dream.  You’re home now.”

Don’t confuse the healing process with the pathology. And it is a process.  And it is growth, not repair. You will be different afterwards.  Stronger, if you manage the process well.

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