December 9, 2013 by Angel Pricer
“Oh, he’s schizophrenic,” my husband says in response to our first glimpse into what’s going on with Charlie, the main character in the movie The Perks of Being a Wallflower. I’m struck by the lightning quick speed with which he draws this conclusion and breathe through the urge to defend this fictional character’s right to experience life on his own terms.
Maybe it’s that I identify with the extreme sensitivity with which he faces the 1,385 day countdown of his high school career. Perhaps it’s because I am intimately familiar with what it’s like to move through life feeling everybody else’s pain, wanting to make it better and realizing the impossibility of such a goal because, like his English teacher says, “we accept the love we think we deserve.”
I was also surprised at my husband’s quick leap to label Charlie because we share a similar view about the use of diagnoses; feeling they are more a convenient set of agreed upon terms that describe some similar characteristics that we sometimes see in some people rather than a fixed determination of who a person is. Not to mention he’s an acutely sensitive individual in his own right. So, what’s the deal with the difference in our perceptions?
In the movie, quiet, unassuming Charlie seems to navigate his freshman year largely unnoticed by the majority of the popular kids; poster children for the collective consciousness way of life. Things happened to him, and I don’t want to spoil it for those of you who are about to add the movie to your Netflix queue, but eventually the pressure becomes too great to bear and we see that even the silent sensitive ones have their breaking point.
Most people don’t like to breakdown. The dissociation of losing complete control over a tenuously slipping grasp of reality is pretty heavy stuff; which is why most people don’t ever want it to happen. When it does, the tendency is toward distraction and when that doesn’t work, the effort goes into making it stop or getting it fixed as soon as possible. I tried that lots of times. It doesn’t work.
Paradoxically, our fear of that momentary lapse of reason is what keeps us from realizing who we really are, and that slip is one of the most pivotal moments a human being can surrender into.
“…It is this meaning, emerged from her own suffering, that allows a woman to descent, each time anew, into her own depths, to be present to the truth and wisdom lying there. For only by her willing descent can she uncover, again and again, the meaning of her life. ~ Judith Durek, Circle of Stones: Woman’s Journey to Herself
That’s the deal in our difference of perceptions. I’ve descended into nothingness more than once; rising each time with a deeper understanding of Who I Am, as opposed to what one might diagnose me to be. Yet he fights to keep the ship steady, with a stiff upper lip to cover the emotions that men are taught not to feel, let alone express.
There’s a time and place to experience both; yet both must be experienced. Will the human species continue to cast labels over each other? Or, can we collectively take the plunge and emerge to truly love one another?
Image courtesy of digitalart at FreeDigitalPhotos.net