picture of man

Dear Nitty,
again I'm still pondering your fallen cactus with its exposed roots, and I guess the reason for that is that I've been mulling over my recollections of the movie "Fearless." If you have not yet had a chance to see it, then, by all means, ignore this message until you do. It's been a while since I saw the film, but it did make an impression for its depiction of the psychological aftermath of trauma. As far as I know, this need not apply to your cactus, and so the association stops here.
The protagonist, played wonderfully by Jeff Bridges, is exposed, along with a plane full of other passengers, to the terror of knowing that their flight is about to crash land. He goes into what is best described as a trance state, during which he functions as a leader tending to his troops, as it were, without fear or regard for his own preservation. It is an odd and remarkable reaction giving the impression of extraordinary self-possession and heroism. The plane crashes and most on board perish. The rest of the film deals with what happens in the life of this man and one other character played by Rosie Perez, a young mother who loses her child in the disaster.
I'm going to keep my focus on the Jeff Bridges' character in order to better drive some things home. What begins to manifest itself, eventually, is his character's inability to return to his life as it was before his "peak experience." He cannot get back into his life and it's as if he's stuck somewhere on the outside of it. He relates with distance toward his wife and son with whom, in the past, he had a warm and loving rapport. He tries, but his soul is aloof to their everyday, mundane concerns. He has been where they have not. There is nothing in the world that can bridge that gap. He has become a wanderer whose feet no longer touch the ground.
As the inward schism increases, his external relationships and structures collapse under his inability to stay with his life. Beyond reach, he moves through involvements, out of character and contrary to his own interests. His "fearless" condition brings him to escapades in which he throws himself in physical harm's way convinced, as it were, of his immortality. This ante-upped trauma has now escalated to psychosis. He purposely eats the forbidden strawberries to which he has a potentially fatal allergy. As I told you before Nitty, this one has a happy ending; the power of love and loyalty bring him back to life and to himself.
This story portrays the good and bad potential of one of our defense mechanisms. This mechanism (which allows the individual under siege to function effectively during a crisis), is called disassociation. If not retired, once it's suitably deployed in a crisis, it will continue to "float" the person through the motions, although the detached stance is no longer indicated, and, if unduly prolonged, can become pathological. Instead of gradually settling back into a full-dimensioned existence informed by feelings as well as intellect, function reigns supreme. Affect has abdicated. Feelings are frozen. They have been sealed off; compartmentalized so they let in neither terror nor truth. Survival accomplished, feelings are now the enemy.
And so it goes, Nitty. The ball of yarn which represents our life unravels in one direction. To understand it well, we need to "walk back the cat," as they say. This means a thorough and thoughtful back-tracking (or rolling back) of something in order to make sense out of the many threads that have been used to produce a particular sapient sphere. There are no formulas; every H. Sapiens is different from any other, which means each individual psyche deserves and demands that we impose constructs with but heuristic intent; and that is to illuminate briefly some dark passage after which we move on to consider the whole again.
Nitty, I just received your Cassiel poem and am happy to be able to fit it in (I hope) perfectly here in at least this one aspect: abandonment. In this poem, you have been left behind. Suppose (as I am) that Cassiel stands for the "peak experience" that we talked about. The poem describes the inability or unwillingness to come back or get back to ordinary life after a highly charged level of excitation. It's a wonderful lament and testimony to the inescapable law of gravity applicable in psychics and psyches: "What goes up--must come down." I trust you will indulge me this skewing of your poem to fit the "Fearless" theme. If I had read it at any other time, I would have most certainly flown with the creative process that I take it to represent.
Yours in sacred confusion,

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