Saturday, August 18, 2012

Animated suspension

When I was traveling extensively for business I had a technique that let me deal with the hours of tedium associated with air travel. By intentionally not thinking about the trip, the airport hassles, the hours trapped in a metal tube 6 miles above the earth, by effectively putting my mind in neutral I was able to withstand the long transit times to Europe, Australia, or the Far East (30 hours plus in some cases) with relative ease and calm. So while I was physically moving through space and time, mentally I was in a sort of Zen state, living in the moment and not thinking about the past, or the future. Sure I would read, watch movies, nap, and chat with the attendants but those diversions were superficial at best and the details rarely recalled once I arrived at my destination.

I referred to those times as being in a kind of animated suspension where the body is functioning but the mind has slowed, time seemed to lose it’s importance, and the question of how much longer until we get there rarely surfaced.

Aside from long-haul air travel and visiting the in-laws I never saw a need for this skill until my recent unfortunate incident involving a storm, fallen trees, a ladder, a chainsaw, and the medical community. With 7 broken ribs to heal my world suddenly got a lot smaller – no golf, no riding, no working in the yard or in the shop.  Even simple things like sitting down at a computer or standing up could cause pain the like of which I had never experienced. So I was essentially in a place where time had to pass but I had no outlets or activities to help it do so – not unlike an extended 19-hour flight to Hong Kong seated in steerage. And that I knew how to deal with.

As I near 4 weeks of recovery I am on final approach to my destination (to continue the flying metaphor). I am pretty much fully mobile and relatively(!) pain free and the doctors are telling me that I should now be able to start doing the things I like to do, in moderation of course. And that’s all good news, but still I marvel at the power of the human mind that it can so easily focus on the moment and compress hours and/or days of pain and unpleasantness into nothing but vague recollections of a period of discomfort. It truly is an amazing thing.

1 comment:

Motorcycle Philosophy said...

The air travel skill you refer to is called, "disassociating". Everyone can do it to a lesser or greater degree. I went through a lot of trauma as a kid due to physical and emotional abuse from my mother, along with what I perceived as abandonment by my father. When my mom used to beat me, my brain shut off all physical feeling, and I laid there like a chunk of meat until it was over. It allowed me to minimize the pain to just the mental anguish of shame. She had to beat me harder, and lock me in the closet, just to feel satisfied that I was sorry. Guys and gals who enjoy the receiving end of BDSM go through a lot of disassociation, often the result of childhood trauma, and find the pain quite therapeutic.