Last week I watched the excellent new documentary from PBS/Frontline: The Wounded Platoon. It explores the staggering increase of post-traumatic-stress-disorder (PTSD) cases among the soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. The interviews with soldiers, psychiatrists, lawyers and high ranking military officers gives us several different looks at the problem, attempted solutions, side effects of those attempts and some policy implications.
All this brought back to mind all my 52 previous explorations of emotional baggage here. As I made more connections between the different facets of the problem, I became overwhelmed by the complexity. It seemed that any workbook I could create would over-simplify the issues to the point of being useless. I became discouraged that I had only provided expanded awareness of the complexity, rather than access to transformational changes.
As I most recently explored the uses and implications of actor-network theory here, I've acquired some new capabilities for handling complexity. Actor-network theory allows situations to be extremely complex without explaining them. It attends to the complexity without forcing it into conceptual categories or confining models. It shows us a way to be in the complexity that transforms the complexity and gets transformed by it. This has given me a way to rethink my approach to emotional baggage.
"Emotional baggage" gives the illusion of substance to essence. It misplaces concreteness and causes unnecessary problems. It indulges in the Cartesian error of objectivity and modernism. It "makes a thing" out of no-thing, complex processes and interdependent functionalities. It spawns lots to describe and analyze but not much to do. There's an underlying process of internalizing convincing experiences. This process works in our favor when we're safe, succeeding and realizing desired results. It produces lingering symptoms when we're in danger, failing or doing more harm than good. This process gives us lots to do and much less to analyze.
I've also been pondering the implications of communicating with spatial metaphors. This is something that the Prezi presentation software makes very accessible. I've had several hunches that emotional baggage will be transformed by speaking of "going there", "getting through this", "getting turned around", "coming from a better place" and many other ways of speaking spatially. Spatial metaphors naturally convey connections between and assemblages of interests. They experience processes as moving around and exploring directions rather than as labels of things.
All this suggests that I will soon revisit what I've previously called "emotional baggage" with this new outlook.