With few exceptions and the more years we live, most of us will have a story in which we are the ‘tragic figure’ or person who has experienced some painful, unexpected/catastrophic, unwanted or traumatic event. I can think of at least five events in my own life (not including breakups and divorce). Wait… make that six events. Add my current situation in which I have water leaking into the living space of my newly built townhome as we approach the rainy season in FL.
Such events are typically very difficult to manage and in many ways really test our abilities to cope.
But even worse than that are the conclusions we draw from such events that become the ‘tragic figure’ story we tell ourselves (and before Oprah, hid from everyone else). The real tragedy in such events is that we become our story which often shifts from something that happened to us to something that defines us. This is especially true during the first two decades of brain development in which we are a work in progress without a solid sense of self to begin with. Plus, these events can shape the brain in response to the trauma.
And, to add insult to injury there is even a diagnosis to define your tragedized self (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders); and psychotropic medication to make you… numb usually. A common sequence of events: Tragedy (trauma). Reaction. Diagnosis. Medication. Which begs the question: If hundreds of thousands of people react the same way wouldn’t that indicate a normal reaction (vs mental disorder)? Adding that DSM diagnostic label to the mix tends to confirm that we are indeed our story.
People literally get stuck in their story consciously or unconsciously playing out the part into which they have been cast by circumstances, social and cultural beliefs, and (too often) those labels and pills that supposedly help you become normal. One goal of several forms of talk therapy is to help a person rewrite their story and become more of an objective observer of the events that shaped their lives. Lifting the burden of being your story to being a person who survived a tragic or traumatic event is very liberating.
Many years ago, a friend of mine, affecting a British accent, jokingly referred to me as a tragic ‘figger’ bringing some humor to that unwittingly self-imposed perspective. Fortunately, for other tragic ‘figgers’ there is much more known today about what prevents you from becoming your story, or helps you rewrite it.