The Slow Regard of Silent Things and Bringing Anxiety to Vibrant Life

slow-regard-coverAs I read through Patrick Rothfuss’ The Slow Regard of Silent Things, I found myself thinking about many of the patients that I have worked with over the years in my role as a psychologist. Some of those individuals I have seen in an office setting, and others I have met in their homes. The patients have ranged in ages, shapes, and sizes – and they all presented with unique mental health concerns. I remembered many of them while reading through the thoughts, behaviors, and emotions of Auri – a character that brilliantly illustrates and humanizes the qualities and struggles of those coping with anxieties, compulsions, and symptoms along the autism spectrum.

I also thought of my personal mental health challenges while reading.

If I taught a class in psychology, then I would have students read and process the material. As it stands, I encourage everyone to read the book – even if you haven’t read The Name of the Wind or The Wise Man’s Fear. Those books provide some context for Auri’s story, but they are not required reading to benefit from the content in The Slow Regard of Silent Things that struck me on such a personal level.

Mental health, and by extension mental illness, is unfortunately stigmatized. Going to a therapist is viewed by too many as a sign of weakness. I discovered at age 16 that I wanted to be a counselor, and I was fortunate enough to start down that path early in college and never really look back. I have also been in therapy as a patient at times in my life and consistently during the past two years, primarily getting assistance with symptoms of anxiety.

Anxiety about life. Anxiety about death.

My Broken Pieces

The word time in the proper context can bring me to tears – either out of joy or sorrow, or a mixture of both. Because of health issues I was born with, I have too keen of a sense of my own mortality. It is easy to get lost in that awareness. For example, I organized a 10(ish)-year reunion with roommates and friends from graduate school this past weekend. We spent several days together laughing, reminiscing, and talking about our future plans. It was wonderful. Near the end of the weekend, I was giving a toast and thanking them all for attending the reunion and for sharing their lives with me during extremely formative years in my mid-20s.

I had more to say, though I stopped myself.

I wanted to add so much and take advantage of that unique moment, “I don’t know if we’ll ever be together in the same place again. Not to get all morbid, but I know my health doesn’t guarantee anything. I want you all to know how special you are to me. If I don’t get the chance to say it in the future, thank you for being in my life. Thank you for caring for me and supporting me. And keep living for yourself, each other, and me if I do happen to go sooner rather than later. Let’s keep writing our stories. To our history together and our futures!”

I could have said that and so much more, but I didn’t want to go full-on Ron Burgundy, “We are laughing! And we are very good friends. Good buddies sharing a special moment! Laughing and enjoying our friendship. And someday we’ll look back on this with much fondness!”

I could do this sort of thing every time I’m at a meaningful gathering of friends or family. I could do it at holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas. I could do it before my wife or I leave town without the other. I could write a preemptive article to readers of my site so they know I value their time and support since I could die one day and never have the opportunity to write a proper goodbye and thank you.

Where should I draw the line?

My mother recently shared with me that she assumed each Christmas for the first eight years or so of my life was going to be my last. After I persisted past that point, she grew out of that mindset and stopped thinking each holiday was going to be my final one. I was so thankful for her honesty! It is amazing to have adult conversations with my mother about such things. Meanwhile, as a child, my reality was all I knew. I didn’t know how not to think about and process my own mortality at such a young age. It was normal for me then, and it is normal for me now as a 40 year-old man about to welcome a son into the world.

These normal worries and fears that I experience might seem abnormal to others. So while emphasizing that my expiration could come on abruptly is both potentially accurate and realistic, it’s likely not incredibly healthy to place that much of a burden on other people during social encounters and treat myself like a ticking time bomb that could go off at any moment. For the record, I’ve had doctors refer to me as “a ticking time bomb” before; not good times!

There is the anxiety that I am willing to share with people, and the anxiety that I hold inside. I’m becoming more comfortable letting down that curtain and learning ways to effectively share with friends and family how those worries and fears affect my life. Therapy is a wonderful tool, and I realize it’s a luxury. I think it can be useful for anyone, and I’m glad I have a therapist that challenges me to do things differently.

Auri’s Broken Pieces

auri

Auri

The thing I value most about The Slow Regard of Silent Things is how Auri is humanized. She lives and breathes, and she is never labeled. Auri has obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors. She seems to display symptoms along the autism spectrum including repeating behaviors, focusing on specific objects, and difficulty with social interactions. Her mood fluctuates quickly and she seems to prefer avoiding most social contact. While these thoughts, behaviors, and emotions are described, they are not stigmatized.

Nothing in the story indicates that these thoughts, behaviors, and emotions are wrong, problematic or abnormal. They are Auri’s reality and we get to spend some time with her and her reality throughout the short story. There is no judgement. I never got the sense that Mr. Rothfuss was attempting to preach about mental health issues other than to speak in a clear voice of acceptance.

I do have a suspicion that he has close contact with these types of thoughts, behaviors, and emotions. He hints at this in the Author’s Note. While reading, my thought was that Mr. Rothfuss knows someone with this type of reality. And he loves that person deeply and with astonishing certainty.

Our Broken Pieces

I’m glad my friend lent me the book. I’m glad she lent it to me a second time when I didn’t read it the first! I’m glad Mr. Rothfuss wrote this story “for all the slightly broken people out there.” I’m hopeful other people read it, consider the wide variety of mental health issues that affect all of us, and learn more about each other’s reality.

We are all “slightly broken.” Meeting with a therapist to figure out the best way to configure the pieces isn’t weakness. It’s resilience and strength.

Those pieces are “full of true answers and love and hearthlight.”

fulcrum

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About The Id DM

The Id DM is a psychologist during the weekdays. He DMs for a group of fairly loyal and responsible PCs every other Friday night. In the approximate 330 hours between sessions, he is likely anxious about how to ensure the next game he runs doesn't suck.
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8 Responses to The Slow Regard of Silent Things and Bringing Anxiety to Vibrant Life

  1. Brad says:

    Stellar conceptualization. Lovely appreciation for the human condition.

  2. Miralys says:

    Patrick Rothfuss came to a reading in my town in Germany, so of course I went. First he read a chapter of his book, then a German voice actor took over and read several chapters in German – and I was close to leaving the room. The way she read it, emphasizing on Auri’s little “ticks”, made it clear she interpreted the book completely differently than I. It was obvious she thought of Auri as autistic and portrayed her as such.
    So: while I agree that Patrick doesn’t judge, I think it depends on your mindset while reading it.
    Pat himself refuses to give a clear answer to the question whether Auri is on the spectrum or just a little different, and I really like him for that. My take on Auri would be that I think that she is really special because she actually knows the names of things and could “call” them. But she knows better than to do it on a whim. So to others she seems really odd. But I think the best thing about the book is that it is left open.

    • The Id DM says:

      That is one of the things that jumped out for me as well. Her behaviors are not labeled; they are described and it’s up to the reader to interpret them. I went to a book signing in Houston, TX for Mr. Rothfuss and he did a reading; I remember it being a long day as there was quite the line! It was right when The Wise Man’s Fear was releasing. Good times!

  3. Those that shake their foot 3675 times to get out of the shower salute you!!
    The pilgrim that took the time to boil his pea switched to baths. You only have to shake your foot 37 times to get out of the bath apparently.

    I love mundane stories. There is so much epiphany in the daily behaviorism. Point Counterpoint by Aldous Huxley was such a mundane masterpiece. Slow regard has this curious similarity, allowing the reader to exercise solution related introspective analysis, as opposed to creatively visualizing the setting of scenes, it is a different intent in reading, Slow regard of silent things, itself as a title is extremely profound. Add the absolutist “The” and it infers one standardized idea, or topic, while leaving consideration pointing to the innate regard within silent things themselves, and methodologies in regard to the “silent things”, being separate as the subject of review.

    The mundane. Questions of adaptation leave the reader guessing at the puzzle to crack, to understand the problem as a single solvable idea, rather than a comparative grey area or question mark. As a challenge to accuracy in behavioral science, allotment of the “free will concept” allows so many to self identify with happiness quotient as predominant in success rate determination. Hence treatment, rather than a control within the scientific method, treatment worms into hypothesis, as the science itself relies heavily upon disclosure, which also brings the intentness of the “listener” into question, as accuracy would permit. This book allows one to do that. To be the listener. To guess at the oddity, and connect with the humanity of the humorous yet lovable quirkiness of Auri. I see the mental health correlations, even beyond the setting of scenes, within dialog.

    Wondering at a litmus test to identify a single mental health problem, man excels at problem solving. Perhaps not as versed with the practice of infringement of space, as a reinforcement of free will notion, in the point counterpoint office setting, a greater potential to know becomes a happiness treatment. I can imagine determining success, not as depiction of daily happiness, but as the self’s ability to intend upon a remarkable purpose and to intend to succeed. What can it become? With some belief in intending to, there must come a knowing as to how. I was always drawn to fantasy novels, because the stigma was always a means to creative vision and impossible feats made happen, the achilles heel, where one self envisions a duality of existing and expendable to duty and need, becomes something important, to do something remarkable.

    The only way is to cease to be oneself. To be instead what is needed. In the “Slow Regard for Silent Things”, the mystery within adapting, and lure to discover the brain teaser of origination, is soon replaced by the charming mannerisms of a downright pleasant person in all rights. Uncompromising for certain, and highly likable. I like that people are making the correlations to the condition analysis. I appreciate this book for its simplicity, with a healthy emphasis on niceness.

    Good review.

  4. Paige says:

    You might also want to watch Joe Dispenza’s videos or his Ted talk on the brain.

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