Someone responded to my post about Suffering and quoted Nietzsche’ s maxim “What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.” I’ve always found this idea bothersome .It conjures up images of Marvel Super Heroes. Superman fighting for his life when someone finds some Kryptonite. Batman wrestling with the Joker and in a momentous struggle, emerges victorious-yet again. I’ve worked as a Mental Health nurse for 30 years and have seen many people who are suffering. Some have had depression. Some have addiction problems. Others some kind of psychotic illness. Many of my patients survive .They have a crisis which is then resolved. They carry on with their lives happily and well-albeit with a new awareness of their fragility. These are the Nietzcheans. They come out of their crisis stronger. What has not killed them has made them stronger. There are other people for whom this is not the case. They are left permanent damaged. (The more so because, as is often pointed out, psychic wounds are invisible.) They live in a twilight world not fully dead but not fully alive. (I wonder what Nietzsche would have made of these people?)
I’ve just watched the film “Into the Woods” a hybrid story comprised of several different fairy tales woven into one. So Little Red hiding Hood gets to meet Rapunzel and Prince Charming. Surprisingly it works very well. Most of the story takes place in a wood. Which is a place that is at times experienced as safe and friendly. At other times as somewhere confusing and dangerous. (It can also be both a place of sanctuary and a place of danger and risk. See tomorrow’s blog for more reflections on the film.) In this wood there is Life and Death. Who lives and who dies is unclear. (Or more specifically why one person lives and another dies is unclear. Which is where the film left me uncomfortable.Again, see tomorrow’s blog.) One of the symbolic aspects of woods is that they are secret places. We don’t know what happens in them. Some things live.Some things die. Some trees succumb to a virus whilst other are immune. It makes no sense-except in pure Darwinian terms.
So, what am I saying about Nietzsche’s comment? I think he was wrong. I think some people are left in limbo. They cannot be as they were pre-trauma. Nor can they find a new way of Being. They are in a No Man’s land. I’m not clear why this should be-although in a psychoanalytic language we talk about internal objects which can sometimes be helpful but can also be persecutory Some people go on to do Marathons in a wheelchair. Others kill themselves. This is part of the gamble of coming into therapy. Is it worth the risk? Do I have enough resources to be able to find my way out of the woods? Can I allow myself to trust my therapist to see beyond the obvious? Does my therapist have enough good things inside them to be able to sustain and nourish me whilst I find my own strength? Or will they take aview that I must be either dead or alive. I cannot be walking wounded.