not come easy. I knew it was there, for I had told it to a friend some years
ago, and it came out neat, forceful and viable. And now that I need to write
it, it has been refusing to be written – so I finally went away to give myself
alone time and writing time.
And in my
alone time, I slipped into the no-feel/no-show mode that I was very good at as
a child, my reptile brain’s freeze response when fight or flight was
impossible: Feel no emotion, show no reaction.
When I am interacting with others, I have learned to recognize the signs of
impending no-feel/no show, and I can divert the shutdown by choosing to be
aware of what is going on.
But now I am
interacting with Littlest, my most vulnerable, almost non-verbal inner
metaphor, and Littlest is scared. And when Littlest is scared, mindfulness cannot
get me out of no-feel/no show.
I can, as so often before, allow Littlest her fear, accept it and respect it,
and then show her that there is no need for no-feel/no show in the life I am
I can, as so often before, show her that the shutdown of no-feel/no show
creates more problems than it solves.
And I can allow room for the dignity of Littlest by thanking her sincerely and
respectfully for helping me survive all the years when shutdown was needed.
When shutdown was essential to survival.
Sleep helps a lot. When I go away to be by myself and write, there is often
little actual writing, much aimless wandering and many daytime naps. My mind’s
eye sees a lot of rewiring going on in these periods, and it is the results of
the rewiring that eventually get written about.
So, as often before, when I try to force myself to write, thoughts and words
scatter like tadpoles.
And this time, Littlest is actively scattering. She does not want to go where I
am heading, and being told that we are perfectly safe, on a huge ferry sailing
between Oslo and Copenhagen, with hundreds of people around us, is completely
irrelevant to her.
HERE AND NOW is not
THEN AND THERE, the past that I want to write about, is scary and dangerous, and Littlest
does not want to go there.
Going there is to die.
So Littlest and I shared three days of almost nonverbal togetherness, sleep and
aimless wandering before I could begin to scratch words in pencil on paper in a
flurry of eraser crumbs.
Keyboard time, now time, is rewriting time. The keyboard creates distance, and my
handwriting shows me where I am in myself.
I have thanked
Littlest for her shutdown, for helping to rewire my thoughts and adjust the
story, and she is with me this time, virtually sitting on my shoulder and
clinging to my hair as I wind off this preamble and begin to discover what the
story looks like with her additions. It begins like this:
THERE IS NO DARK SIDE
Let’s get this
completely straight. We are not in the Star Wars universe. There is no dark
side, ready to engulf the unwary and turn them into Darth Vader.
And – I deeply regret having to say this – there is no Force that, like duct tape, has a bright side and a
dark side and holds the universe together.
There is fear.
Fear of the dark.
And George Lucas mined heavily into this primal fear when he created the Star
I have another
story. I have no idea if it is true, it’s just a story, a story that makes it easier for me to see harm that
is done to children and the powerless, and that is good enough for me.
My story is a story where you don’t become Darth Vader when the dark engulfs
You become dead.
On this day of rewriting I have been with a grandson when his parents were away,
and he asked me to stay with him whilst he fell asleep. I was thinking of
Littlest when I lay beside him and felt his small hand on my arm, thinking of
the primal need to feel the warmth of another body, hear the breath of another
person, as one relaxed into sleep. And I was so pleased that the parents of my
grandchildren had done as we did, and let their kids sleep with them.
In Go Ahead—Sleep With Your Kids, Robert Wright
explains it like this:
trouble with letting a child who fears sleeping alone into your bed is that
“you are not really solving the problem. There must be a reason why he is
so fearful.” Yes, there must. Here’s one candidate. Maybe your child’s brain
was designed by natural selection over millions of years during which mothers
slept with their babies. Maybe back then if babies found themselves completely
alone at night it often meant something horrific had happened – the mother had
been eaten by a beast, say. Maybe the young brain is designed to respond to
this situation by screaming frantically so that any relatives within earshot
will discover the child. Maybe, in short, the reason that kids left alone sound
terrified is that kids left alone naturally get terrified. Just a theory.
nodding in recognition at this, and it makes sense to me. My story begins back
then, around the campfires of some of our early ancestors. And it begins with
the smallest and the most disposable child in the tribe.
sensibilities offended by the word “disposable”? In this time and place, a long
time ago, survival is the main priority. Not survival of the individual, nor of
the fittest. Survival of the tribe.
tribe there is no survival at all.Those who
contribute to the survival of the tribe, are useful.
not, are disposable.
keep coming all the time, and as long as enough of them grow up, the tribe will
disposable. And in the marrow of her bones, that is something she knows.
ancestors live permanently on the brink of death. Were there taboos against
killing babies to eat them? Maybe. And maybe not. I find it easy to imagine
that a baby can be an essential source of protein that gives hunters strength
to go hunting one more time.
most disposable child, lives in fear.
The tribe is
life – or at least a chance at life.
tribe, beyond the tribal campfires, in the dark, there are predators.
native Norway we have killed off most of the predators, but there is
still much dark and much wilderness. Here we know that «the forest shakes» can overwhelm the
most seasoned outdoorsperson who is alone in the wilds, even in daytime. Is
this our monkey brain telling us that «alone» is just as dangerous as “dark”?
to a warm body is good.
And growing up
Littlest is tugging
hard at my hair when I get here. Yes, growing up is essential. As in life-or
death-essential. And there are stages to that, and each of them is a step up from “disposable”.
good, and each new degree of usefulness gives
a better chance at survival.
fetch firewood and water, feed fires, take care of smaller children, help in
whatever adults are doing, and learn, learn, learn all the time in their life-saving struggle to become more useful.
There are many
useful skills. Hunting, of course, gathering, scouting, fire technology, building,
making, cooking, knowing and teaching … and it would be wonderful if I could
state that in the tribe of my story, skill and talent determine what you do,
regardless of what sex or social status you were born into.
But there is a special category of people at
the apex of this tribal pyramid. They are the ones who determine. And they are more than essential, they are …
bring food to the tribe are not indispensable if they are many. Neither are the
makers or the teachers of the edible and the poisonous. Not if there are
enough of them.
And the new-thinkers,
the inventors, the explorers, they are not indispensable.
indispensable are the ones who secure cohesion in the group, because without
cohesion, the survival of the group is threatened.
indispensable are the dispensers of bullshit, if bullshit is defined as
assertions presented as truth in order to strengthen a story. The indispensable are truth-sayers, law-making labellers, knowers of right and wrong and good and bad.
The indispensable have the right to decide who gets to stay near the campfires, who has to stay at the outskirts, and who gets out-cast into the dark.
Into the dark. Where you die.
And at this, Littlest
is not only pulling at my hair, she is jumping up and down, and I tell her: Oh, yes, we
still have them – the Labellers, the dispensers of cohesive bullshit.
In my country, which sometimes calls itself a superdemocracy, Mental Health Labellers get to decide who is normal and who is sick in the head and can legally be deprived of human rights – for their own good.
people are killed for blasphemy, which is the crime of not believing in cohesive bullshit.
beings are gang raped or imprisoned or killed for loving someone the bullshit labellers
And people get beaten up for bullshitty reasons that are important to subgroups of Labellers
and their true believers.
I fear that we, human beings in the 21st century, are still blindly
following the imperative of cohesive bullshit that was so essential to survival
around the campfires of our early ancestors.
time when the cohesion of the tribe outweighed the needs of the powerless.
time when respect for the powerless might be essential if humanity is to