We are visual before we are verbal. In an emergency, when the fight or flight response hits, we don’t hear or speak well, but we see extremely well. Except for just one tiny thing. We see very clearly what we expect to see, what we want to see.
Only after we are brought back to the present by touch or smell does our brain shift back to using the forebrain so we can think again.
That photograph? It’s not a lantern. It’s the shadow of a lantern on two sliding screens. The gap between the screens forms the pole of the lantern and an umbrella on the patio beyond the window adds what looks like a light bulb or candle. The fern shadows look like shadows.
Once our brain decides what it sees, it’s difficult to un-see it. We then believe it, and shortly after that, we “know” what we saw. Even if we are wrong. Seeing may be believing, but it is not always real.
—Quinn McDonald is in California, working in a poetry therapy colloquium. She is learning that the brain interprets in amazing, but often wrong, ways. The body doesn’t know the difference between the memory of trauma and the experience of trauma, so trauma repeats itself.