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Vignettes at the Edge of Meaning
by Bren Linto Morrigan
Vignettes at the Edge of Meaning
11.5 months out
By Bren Linto Morrigan
I’ve been talking to one of my dear friends, who is almost out and who also woke up - because those are not the same things - and there are so many times we have to equally remind each other - “No, that’s not what that means.” And, “That doesn’t actually mean that, we’ve just been taught that it does.”
Falling into the vortex of his meaning happens all the time, still. I am walking around my house, and, boom, I find myself in this dark, vacuous vacuum pulling me down by my brain.
It feels similar to when Trazodone or Ativan or a nice CBD edible is really taking hold.
(In case you don’t recall and are inclined to judge me, which is certainly your right - I no longer sleep with the body I was born with.)
It feels so… good, in a way. So right, in a sense. It clicks right into place, like when you’ve been working on a 5000 piece puzzle and you get that last piece, the smooth blurred colors of some girl’s pocket, right… into… there. DONE. FINI.
It is a fluency, a satisfaction, almost, a knowledge base, that dark, vacuous vacuum - it is a place and a language and a people and a culture and a finished puzzle and, I suppose, a sense that I finally got something right, for once. What something means. What everything means. I finally know how to understand …well, everything.
Let me give you an example.
The word is: Re-enactment.
Re-enactment was a very big word in Stein’s universe. It was not just a word, it was a world one stepped into constantly. It was an experience that happened really all the time. It was deemed to be so, by Stein, by every group member and eventually - and often quickly - by the newbies who found themselves at a loss to use any other word to describe what was going on.
What is a re-enactment?
A re-enactment on the one hand could be a person having a reaction or a response in THIS moment that is really “just” a redoing of a reaction or a response from a previous time in their lives.
In Stein’s universe, 99% of the time, the “previous time in their lives” was also traumatic. So the silent word in front of re-enactment is trauma. So the whole term is really “trauma re-enactment.” But you learn quickly you don’t have to say all that. You just… know.
So, here you have on the one hand a person having a reaction or response in THIS moment, right - that is really “just” a replay inside that person of a reaction or response from a previous time. A traumatic time. A very bad time. That happened in the past.
The reaction or response in this moment could be quite honestly any type of response or reaction you can possibly imagine. There is literally no limit to what a re-enactment can look like. It could be the person crying. It could be the person having no emotional response. It could be a person having difficulty connecting to group members. It could a person being eager and earnest to connect to group members. It could be a person not wanting to hug Stein at the end of group. It could be a person who follows along with everyone hugging Stein at the end of group. It could be a person standing up for themself in group without seeking advice from others. It could be a person who seeks the advice of others in the group before making big decisions.
I could go on and on.
Let me go on just a little bit more.
It could be a trauma re-enactment that you want to leave group. It could be a trauma re-enactment that you are scared to leave group. It could be a trauma re-enactment that you choose to work for a non-profit organization. It could be a trauma re-enactment that you don’t particularly wish to be extremely wealthy. It could be a trauma re-enactment that you don’t want to cut off all contact with your parents. It could be a trauma re-enactment that you are resistant to cruel things that people in group say to you and that you cannot experience it as loving. It could be a trauma re-enactment that you are defensive and resentful and confused when Stein invites you into multiple professional relationships with him when you are his patient. It could be a trauma re-enactment that you become sweaty and terrified when another group member expresses that he actively wants to kill you - and this is not a joke - and Stein does nothing to insure your physical safety and tells you you are having trouble receiving the love.
I could go on and on.
I became a Master at sussing out my trauma re-enactments. Fluent. Native tongue-like. Living in the culture like I was born for this. I held the 5000th puzzle piece in my hand every goddamn time and smacked it into place triumphantly or crying or humbly or gratefully or writing another 4th Step, my penance for daring to point my finger anywhere but at myself.
After 11.5 years under Stein’s tutelage, in the dark hole he illuminated with his world building gas lights, where anything he or anyone else does is fair game and any reaction I have could be the fault of my past or my parents - the meaning of everything, truly, could be re-enactment.
The other possibility for your behavior is “Recovery.” Which he also defined, determined the limits and boundaries of, and which, dear reader, will perhaps be my next vignette. But not this one.
With every reaction you had under analysis as a possible re-enactment - it is quite possible that no person or event was ultimately truly present, here and now. Not me. Not you. Not my partner. Not my parents. Not my friends. No one.
Not only was Stein in between me and most people in my life, but also, looking back, I can see that very little was felt to be really occurring in my life RIGHT NOW. Everything we said and did was potentially just an artifact of our past, our trauma - and everyone is traumatized in his view. Everyone is only one acquaintance removed from the relentless family disease of addiction and is awaiting the salvation of the Prophet 12-Step.
And here, then, really is the meaning making he was teaching us to be fluent in, comfortable with, pulled down by, in case I am not being clear, which to be honest I still find, even on a good day, hard to be. If everything is or could be a trauma re-enactment - perhaps nothing is really happening to me now.
Perhaps nothing is happening to me or being done to me. I am just reacting to it based on the first 18 years of my life. And yeah maybe my mother’s death when I was 26.
But nothing is really happening to me NOW.
Stein’s not abusing me. Or my fellow groupies. I couldn’t even possibly conceive of that, because my reactions from the first day I started group, were defined as re-enactments. That is what my reactions meant.
Group members aren’t being encouraged to abuse each other and be either anti-social and narcissistic or completely broken, bludgeoned shells of who they used to be. Who I used to be. The vibrant girl with the smooth-colored pockets, 3-dimensional, unsolved.
These are not things that are happening to me or to my fellow group members. No. Our “negative” reactions to Stein and each other are “just” a trauma re-enactment.
The regressed, infantile, dependent, disempowered or anti-social behavior he encouraged in us in the group? He called it catharsis and healing and growth and intimacy and Recovery or… you guessed it – a trauma re-enactment.
And he defined what was what. And that is what things meant. And from one day to the next, good luck knowing which was which.
And so, I reminded my friend the other day that something she is experiencing RIGHT NOW yes may remind her of something she experienced growing up. That makes sense.
But also. That bad thing? That is also happening RIGHT NOW. And her reaction to that thing RIGHT NOW is legitimate. It’s real. It is above the vacuous vacuum dark hole of distorted meaning, collapsing our perception in on itself so that we cannot say no, not this, not now, not you, no, I don’t want this, I don’t like this, I don’t like you, this is wrong. RIGHT NOW.
Copyright 2022 Bren Linto Morrigan