Permanence

As I write this, the headlines of the news in recent weeks have talked about climate change, the evolving and adapting virus, the rise and fall of the stock market, and so many other changes occurring every day.  Social media is an overwhelming cascade of change highlighting new jobs, births, engagements, marriages, divorces, new homes, deaths, and everything in between.  Despite the constant swirl of the world around us, we often think of our own situations, particularly our mental health or state of being as permanent.  

The definition of permanence is “the state or quality of lasting or remaining unchanged indefinitely”. Even though we intuitively accept that every day is a new day and SOMETHING has changed, we often struggle to accept that the change of the day, the hour, the week, the minute, or even the year can bring something new for us.  Yes, things are changing for other people, yes, their worlds are evolving and often getting better but that doesn’t apply to us.

In this frozen state of perpetuity, people in crisis adopt the language that comes with permanence…a language of absolutes and finality. 

“NOTHING will EVER change.”

“It’s ALWAYS been this way.”

“It DOESN’T matter.  It WON’T EVER help.”

“That has NEVER worked.”  

“I’m going to feel like this FOREVER.”

The absolute statements and the thought patterns that accompany them leave no room for movement, progress, or hope. This state of darkness often becomes a vicious circle of self-fulfilling prophecies.  The lack of belief in a solution, often causes that solution to fail, and that failure only reinforces the thoughts that NOTHING WILL EVER HELP ME!

The work of the volunteers at IMAlive is to try and help people in crisis find that small crack where some light can come in and disrupt the darkness.  If even a small bit of light can pass through it helps to lift the illusion of permanence and starts to reopen the realm of possibility.  

Put another way, the goal of an interaction with a person in crisis is to agree on MAYBE.  

MAYBE writing in a journal didn’t help yesterday, but it might today.

MAYBE talking to my mom will help this time.

MAYBE if I take a walk I will feel a little bit better.

MAYBE the coping techniques I used to use would be helpful here.

Personally, I have experienced the state and language of permanence as both the person in crisis and as the guide or companion on the journey back to MAYBE.  Sometimes when darkness closed in on me and my own mental health struggles threatened to overwhelm me, I used a coping technique that pictured my heartbeat as a flash of light.  (If you’ve ever seen the movie ET, it’s like when ETs heart lights up, only a bit smaller to begin.). I try to picture the light growing stronger and moving through my body a little bit more with each heartbeat. If my thoughts intruded or moved back towards a state of NEVER, the heartbeat might reset to just a little blip in the dark, but as long as it was there MAYBE was a possibility, change was a possibility, and it could help battle the darkness with me.  

The technique that someone chooses isn’t important, what is important is moving from the frozen state of permanence and darkness into a place where some change, any change, is possible. Realizing that the change of the clock, the change of the seasons, the changes in the world can signify change for us as well.  

I’m not sure that this post will ever help anyone or that anything will change…but I like to believe that MAYBE it will and sometimes MAYBE is good enough.

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