Sunday, November 7, 2010

suppression-or this never happened

I was watching more Mad Men yesterday, given that I have so much spare time lately (don't ask me how, I just feel like I have enough energy to take on the world and some leftover to watch Mad Men).  In this episode, Don Draper is trying to help Peggy forget that she had a baby out of wedlock (a baby that she could not keep) by telling her to forget, to do whatever needs to be done in order to move on.  He tells her something like "You will be shocked by how much THIS NEVER HAPPENED."  He is, of course, speaking from his own experience, given that he left a whole lifetime behind, including a brother that loved him, and adopted someone else's identity.  A lot of things in Don Draper's life "had never happened".

Suppression of memories is an adaptive skill, of course.  It allowed me to move on with my life after having Adrian.  It allows me to move on every day.  If it were not for suppression of the intense feelings of pain and guilt and loss, I would wake up every morning wailing like a crazy woman. Instead, I wake up smiling to my husband's lovely face, and am able to enjoy his warm embrace.  I am able to live a full life.  It is true that there are days in which I don't think a lot about Adrian.  I do think about him every day, but sometimes just for a few seconds, on the conscious level.  It is true that I could pretend, at this point, that it never happened, that I never had him.  It is true that I have been urged by people, at least one of which is a spiritual advisor, to forget and to move on, to not bring the past along with me on my journey.

Dear people, and dear spiritual advisors, I know that you give advice based on love and on your own life experience, which undeniably has to be different from mine, but let me tell you what I have found out in my own journey:  suppression is good up to a point.  One has to relive the memory, one has to integrate it, as soon as possible, into the daily current life, in order for one's mind not to go crazy.  A mind that is asked to suppress, and suppress, and suppress, will eventually crack.  Suppression has its role initially, right after the trauma has happened, in order to allow one to move on and survive.  However, months afterwards, or whenever the mind feels safe, it starts to relive the memory, it starts trying to integrate into everyday life, so as to avoid being asked to cover it up all the time.  The mind knows what it is doing most of the time, and if allowed to function as it wants, it will bring up the memory in dreams, or in feelings, almost daily.  And that is ok, it is healthy.  At this point in my life, trying to pretend that it didn't happen would be unhealthy.

Perhaps Don Draper's words would have brought me comfort in the days following Adrian's loss, but now, after so many months, when my mind feels safe to process and revisit the memory, I can tell anyone who is still urging me to "forget and move on":  YOU WILL BE SHOCKED BY HOW MUCH THIS DID HAPPEN!

1 comment:

  1. That line stuck in my mind too. I've used it since and still do unfortunately. However, memories, thought don't stay suppressed, they do come back because we need them. I think we need to resolve them, learn from them, and integrate them into our lives. I sometimes panic when things from the past come up, thinking that I will never get past the pain. But that's when I have to remember that wounds do heal and become scars that became features and add character.