As much as I like to see myself as an intelligent, wise, and common-sense-filled individual, there sometimes occurs a moment that reminds me that I am, in fact, NOT the brightest crayon in the box. One night, after having arrived home from work, I decided that I wanted a few cups of a lovely Chinese green tea I have squirreled away in my cupboard. I quickly realized that my electric kettle was out of commission and any pots that I might have heated water in were in the sink dirty. Remembering that I had a nice pyrex measuring cup, I swiftly determined that tea needed to be made faster than dishes could be done so I set about heating water in the measuring cup on a stove burner.
Up until this point, nothing seemed off; I had come up with, what I thought was, a perfectly sound idea. After all, I had plenty of experience demonstrating that pyrex holds up very well under heat changes. After a few minutes, my water was just right, and I pulled the measuring cup off of the burner and set it on the stove surface. I then walked out of the kitchen and was no more than a few feet into my bedroom when I heard a tremendous shatter. Turning around, to my utter astonishment and incredulity, I could see that my measuring cup had shattered into more pieces than I could count and there was steaming water all over the stove and much of my kitchen. I only then realized that it was cold in my apartment, the heat hadn’t kicked in yet, and I set a VERY hot piece of glass down onto a VERY cold metal surface. TA-DA! I’m out a measuring cup.
Defeated, embarrassed, and sore over the loss of my beautiful pyrex cup, I proceeded to clean up the mess. After, I finally washed my pots and was able to heat water for my tea sans exploding glass. As my tea was brewing, I couldn’t get the incident out of my head not because of my idiocy (though on that eve it was indeed remarkable) but, instead, for another reason: the shattering glass made me think of trauma. We have all been through some form of trauma; some of us have experienced it far worse than others. Like glass shatters, trauma, be it physical, emotional, or psychological, shatters the human mind and soul. If you have ever been in a relationship with someone who has survived trauma, you know how difficult it can be; sometimes, it may seem downright impossible. The challenges in such relationships often arise from the long-standing behavioral patters, self-defense mechanisms, and habits that arose as coping mechanisms in those who have suffered abuse. Getting the message across that “the danger is over, you are safe now” is no easy task.
Dismay aside, the loss of my measuring cup served a greater purpose. A simple refresher in thermodynamics and basic physics shed some light on a situation I had been struggling with for some time. As I was turning these thoughts over in my head, I remembered something someone very dear to me once said: “You’d be surprised what you can get used to”. Suddenly, it occurred to me that the bottom line was: the glass shattered because it went through a shock i.e. rapid temperature change. I can’t imagine that the human mind is much different; trauma is a shock to the system and, when intense and prolonged, the mind becomes damaged. Now, suppose that, after years of consist abuse in one form or another, the trauma has passed and suddenly the survivor is placed in an intensely positive and loving environment. Why should the reaction be any less violent and destructive? When you “get used to” abuse as a part of daily living, it becomes the norm and I would imagine it affects you less and less on a functionally conscious level. Attempting to place myself in the shoes of a trauma survivor, if my environment suddenly changes to the opposite of abusive it seems to me that I might finally see just how bad things truly were and even though the danger has passed that all too swift realization might be trauma in and of itself.
The take home lesson is that rapidly changing anything one from extreme to the other is ill advised and can cause destruction that is completely independent of our projections of “good vs. bad” or “desirable vs. undesirable”. Had I left my measuring cup on the burner to cool a while before changing its environment, something tells me it would still be in one piece. I am glad it is not though. It turns out, I needed to have an idiotic moment in order to gain insight into something I had myself been struggling with. In closing, I am once again reminded to be kind, patient, compassionate, forgiving…and that its time to give in and buy a damned kettle.