Things Are Becoming More Complex

More is everywhere.

In the movie Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, Jacob asks Bretton,

“What’s your number?”

“More,” says Bretton.

When my friend Sam visited from Ethiopia, he said you could describe America using 3 words: ‘Yes,’ ‘More,’ and ‘Free.’ It’s one of the most succinct and accurate descriptions of our culture.

Traveling to Chile in high school to visit friends, I became angry at McDonalds. I ordered a large and they gave me a medium. Except they didn’t. The large size there was a medium in the United States.

This “more” permeates everything. Not only tangible objects and possessions but activities. For example, a few years back, an online dating trend involved photos of people posing with tigers. 

They were trying to show that they are unique. But so many people posted tiger pics that they created the opposite of uniqueness. It became cliche.

Contrary to the idea of having more, the idea here was to showcase that they are doing more. Look at how much I do! I DO MORE!

But, for what?

This is something I’ve been asking myself frequently. I’ve been a bit overwhelmed lately.

In the past, I’d be intensely self critical. Being overwhelmed could never be the result of taking too much onto my plate. That was for fools only. Being overwhelmed had to mean that I was mucking something up, that I was being lazy, that I just needed to pick myself up by my bootstraps and forge on.

There’s credence to that thinking, sometimes. But not all the time.

I hadn’t realized it, but there was no point where I allowed myself to admit that I was doing too much. That possibility didn’t exist in my model, which means that the model was broken and required adjusting.

But, then another old model quickly jumped in:

“What should I do?”

This is the cousin of ‘more.’ Often asking this question resulted in multitasking. It wasn’t always sinister, but it does appear silly. For example, watching YouTube videos at double the speed. Or watching lectures while in my infrared sauna. Or making sure to call people in the car.

Sure, none of these behaviors seem troublesome on the surface. It’s the combination that creates trouble.

I didn’t know how not to do them. I engaged in relentless time stuffing. Always finding something to do. There was always another thing to tweak or another process or system to optimize.

There was always more to do. Even if I stopped judging the behavior as good or bad, the impetus behind it was the same:

Fill the void!

But, a golden nugget emerged from this quest for more. I discovered something about myself. I have been experiencing Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

It started with a 3 page document called “Flashback Management” by Pete Walker. With a fantastic title like that and only three pages, I scarfed it down. As I read, and this has been the case with a number of pieces I read lately, my eyes darted around, I looked over my shoulder, and thought to myself, “Shit! They got me, how’d they know? How could a stranger say so many things about me without having a clue who I am?”

Reading Flashback Management was akin to dropping puzzle pieces on the floor and finding they had fallen into place to form the complete picture. It made too much sense.

I’d been stuffing my life with “more” to distract myself. Whatever the stuffing was didn’t matter, it just needed to fulfill it’s purpose and distract me from my never-ending worry. The internal tightness. The shoulder roll. The antsiness. The lip quivering. The eye darting. The pieces were there; I just hadn’t put them together.

And, it’s been a massive relief!

There’s light at the end of the tunnel. I’m not alone. In my old writer’s group, I edited a number of pieces for a friend with CPTSD. I didn’t identify with the symptoms at the time. But, the denial became too much, and Flashback Management was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

Now, a new path emerges. Old me wouldn’t dare share this with my readers. What does it mean? It must mean that I’m weak, a victim, “Fucked Up,” or eight million other things. But, I realized that’s not true. Just because things happened to me doesn’t make me a victim. It took me a while to understand that.

Being a victim is a chosen perspective, whether chosen consciously or not. It implies deservingness. I deserved what happened. But, I can process and heal from my pain without labeling it in that way. It doesn’t have to mean anything.

Labeling is a trauma response anyways. As kids, when we get confused by something bad happening to us, especially at the hands of our caregivers, we lose a sense of control. The simple solution is to turn inward and label ourselves as unworthy pieces of shit. That way, we become the arbiters of our reality, magnetizing all the messed up things to come right to us.

Life is simpler that way.

But not easier. Eventually, it becomes unbearable. Now I am moving through it and it’s beautiful. Pete Walker’s work has been a game changer. It’s a simple approach to a complex set of circumstances.

Just as we are wounded from a variety of angles, it makes sense that we need to heal from multiple angles as well. Pete doesn’t argue about whether Cognitive Behavioral Therapy works, or whether Somatic Experiencing is better. He admits that many techniques have efficacy, and none are a panacea.

For example, SSRIs aren’t simply good or bad. SSRIs can be great to provide temporary relief as we work to shrink our massive inner critic. But, if we get rid of them without having done this critic-shrinking work, the critic will come back as strong as ever. Quite a different approach from the psychiatrists who prescribe these meds with the undertone of “this is your life now.” Also different from the alternative practitioners who swear that all pharmaceuticals are the devil.

Pete’s approach is loving and balanced, and I’m working through it as we speak. I shared this with an acquaintance of mine, and he invited me to interview Pete for his trendy internet community.

It blew my socks off.

This is the way.

I know it now.

Never would I have schemed to pull off something like this. No way would I have thought,

“Aha, here’s the ticket! I will first get traumatized, then act based on that programming for decades. Then, I’ll begin working with some guy I met on the internet on my quest to heal. Later, I’ll find a practitioner with a method that works better for me. After that, I’ll explain to the man that I won’t be working with him because I found something better. Then, he’ll invite me to interview this practitioner in front of his community. Excellent!”

That plan sounds ridiculous and far-fetched, but it’s what actually happened.

I didn’t propose anything. “More” has no part here. This opportunity came as the result of surrender. It came as the result of “less.” As in, I literally told this guy I wouldn’t be working with him because I was doing other things, and I mentioned Pete’s work.

Then he invited me to interview Pete in his community.

That was the magic of “less” at work.

Now, I allow myself to do “less.” To stop and smell the flowers. Maybe not even smell them. Before, I often didn’t even know they were there.



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