For the past six years, we have been a proud guinea pig household. I purchased twin guinea pigs for my twin people as gifts when I graduated with my Master’s of Social Work. I know that appears backwards. Wasn’t I supposed to get the gifts? But I made them wait because I was too busy to take on anything else. It was a good decision. As a single mother, adding two guinea pigs to my cat and dog made it feel like I was managing a small petting zoo while raising two kids and running a business. And while I have done my best not to be the codependent mother, there have been times when the bulk of the care and feeding has fallen on me. They used to reside in my children’s bedrooms until we were so rudely educated about their sleeping habits (napping for 6 to 10 minutes at a time), so they landed in my office which now smells like hay most of the time.
But last night, my daughter’s pig won the “race to the end of life” against my son’s pig. She was the more anxious pig so maybe that makes sense. All of us anxious types have been forced to face the truth about what it does to our systems. Or it could be that 6 years is long enough to live with a name like Cupcake. I chose not to tell my daughter before school today so now I await her return to give her the bad news and bury this little creature. In the meantime, she is curled up peacefully in her little igloo she left only to eat, drink and briefly acknowledge my daughter’s existence. There’s a lot going on in my system when it comes to this situation. There is a part of me that looks at her and sees the peace that death seems to have brought her. There is a part of me that is terrified of death and everything it symbolizes and can’t believe I am sitting in a room with a dead thing at all. There is a part of me that agonizes over the logistics of this whole mess. There is a part of me that will miss her squeaks. And there is a part of me that conveniently forgets it happened (only to be reminded again when I look down).
This has reminded me of the role of perspective in how we see the world. No. This isn’t a blog about how life is short and we should live life to the fullest. You can get that anywhere. Honestly, when trauma is a part of our past, life can feel pretty damn long. But it has made me think about the way we see the world and where it comes from. If I can have multiple perspectives about a dead guinea pig in a matter of minutes, what’s really going on here? How does my reality shift like that? The answer is NOT that I’m crazy. It is that I am more aware. I see it while others might not. The reality is that reality shifts. I am not referring to that spiritual talk about how there is no one truth and reality is fluid. While I do think there is some truth to that, it gets taken too far and can be used to cast doubt on real experiences. But when we look at how we see the world from moment to moment, where is it coming from? Did we really have that much change in our external world between when we were hopeful and when we weren’t? Often, the difference is very minor. In some cases, there is no difference. So what is going on?
Well, we are seeing the world through a flashback. We are seeing our current life as if we were living in the past. We are experiencing life through the eyes of an inner part. This is mostly an emotional flashback. And for those of us who have trauma, this is likely a constant process. It might change once every six months. Or it might change every few minutes. But we are moving from flashback to flashback as we see life in a new way. Let me give you some examples using my current experience:
When I am focusing on how the world has piled one more thing in my lap today and it must be punishing me, I am living from the futility and shame of my karma kid.
When I am pretending the problem doesn’t exist and focusing on all the other things I have to get done, I am living from the dissociation of my controller.
When I am pissed at the guinea pig for dying during such a stressful time for my daughter, I am living in my mean kid who has had enough.
When I am thinking about how this must be my fault because of that one time I clipped her nail too close and made it bleed, stressing her out and eventually killing her, I am living in the self-blame and criticism of my defenders.
When I am focusing on how I now have one less thing to take care of, I am viewing this from my freedom fighters.
And when I turn my attention to how I can make it up to my daughter by buying her a litter of kittens (NOT HAPPENING), I have moved into the desperation of my love seeker. But seriously, she’s going to ask.
So when you are feeling pain about something, when it feels like one minute you are looking at life from one perspective and the next minute from another, take a step back. Ask yourself how you may be seeing life through the eyes of an inner part. How are your past experiences informing your life today? And how can you see the situation from a grounded perspective? There is a real reality. That pig is definitely dead. But how I see it is completely and utterly informed by what inner part is present and sharing emotions with me. And when I can tune into my grounded adult self, I know I can handle this, I know this pig had a great life with lots of lettuce, and I know my daughter will be okay without a litter of kittens.