I just finished Joe Simpson’s book “Touching The Void “. I had read his story, much abridged, as told in “Deep Survival” (see below). I enjoyed that section very much, and that entire book. But that was years ago. I was unprepared for the depth of intensity and agony that Joe’s full story unveiled.
It was unexpected but appropriate for Joe to include the short epilogue on post traumatic stress syndrome. I was just journaling this morning about the effects of trauma in many of our lives. I realized in reading another blogger’s story that trauma creates disabilities in our minds that are very similar to physical disabilities of the body. Things have happened to our minds that make us unable to do certain things under certain conditions, not unlike those with other mental or physical disabilities. I wrote,
“I realize, as I look at my life and the results of circumstances and actions that have played upon my development, that there are some things in the way I interact with others that can only be described as disabilities. These are things that I cannot seem to change. I sit here in the quiet and beauty of the new morning (feeling no need to act in any such dysfunctional manners ) and wait for these styles of relating to be different today. But I have done this so many times that I know they WILL repeat themselves today.”
Joe’s description of trauma’s effects on the brain sound very similar. He writes,
“Traumatic emotions: feelings of guilt, regret, sadness and terror travel hard-wired neural pathways in a manner that mimics ingrained or archetypal fears.” – Kindle Location, 3011.
When we are dealing with the disabilities caused by these traumas, we can let go of the self inflicted frustration that often expresses itself in the form of negative self talk such as, “What is wrong with me?” Reading about Joe’s panic attacks when he was back in Peru nearly two decades later filming a documentary about the accident was helpful in realizing that Joe, a very strong individual, could not simply stop the overwhelming emotions that flooded his mind as a direct result of the trauma of 1985 when he nearly died in that valley. We are dealing with very real hard-wired neural pathways that take time and repetition to rewire and redirect.
The advantage we have over those with actual developmental brain damage or physical disabilities is that the mind, our minds, can actually be reprogrammed. This is the journey that a few of us are on. But for those who have made progress in that way, it is the only path to take.