Entropy = The gradual loss of energy or life force leading to destruction or transformation.
I recently came across the term Entropy – in particular in the context of numbness or lack of action or feeling. Usually associated with science and the loss of energy that causes something hot to become cold, I am referring to entropy as loss of energy, i.e. numbness or boredom.
While researching this word I was challenged to think about how entropy impacts our lives. How if we stay stagnant eventually the energy will deplete and destruction, chaos or disorder will occur (sometimes experienced as illumination or transformation).
As I sit here writing I am thinking of the housework I have yet to do – a great example of entropy creating disorder! 😊 However, I digress – what I would like to explore is entropy in the context of numbness – from here on referred to as the realm of the walking dead.
A few years ago, I was standing on a train platform in the Adelaide suburbs with about 30 or so other people waiting to travel into the city to work. There was nothing but silence. You could have heard a pin drop. It was a pivotal moment for me, yet for those on the platform it was just another day as one of the walking dead. I had promised myself that when I moved to Adelaide and started working the 9-5 city work life that I would not become what I had affectionately come to call ‘a robot’. I had promised myself I would stay alive. In that moment I realised I had failed or was well on my way to failing in that particular promise. Within a month I had returned to my life in the country where life was once more on offer.
You may wonder why I would make such a promise to myself, and why I reacted so quickly to address the issue – and in that lies some history. Some time before I had woken from a slumber in my life where I realised that I had spent many years of my life numb. This realisation evolved over time, however even in the midst of it I could look back at certain chapters with very little memory of events, as though I was living in a dream that had quickly faded away. I realised that in order to supress the emotions and reactions I was having at that time I instead chose to become numb. I shut down my emotions, sucked it up, and lived the life I thought I was supposed to be living. I had completely disconnected from my true feelings and awareness of who I was, or what I wanted, or what was in alignment with my true purpose and life. I had entered the realm of the walking dead.
I should be clear – I wasn’t alone. As there were many people on that train platform that day – so too were there many people around me who were walking as the living dead. Shutting down emotions, questions, authenticity, and reactivity and replacing them with good girl/boy vibes of doing what’s right, doing what’s expected of me, doing what I was trained to believe was how you were supposed to live your life – never questioning if that even worked for me personally. Dissociating from the deep painful emotions screaming at me to get out – to become alive once more.
In counselling there is this concept called Polyvagal theory – and what is known as the polyvagal ladder. Many of its concepts will seem familiar to you. In polyvagal theory we have nervous system responses such as Ventral Vagal, Sympathetic and Dorsal Vagal Activation. In layman’s terms they are feeling safe and connected, fight or flight, or freeze. In Polyvagal theory we can think of it as a ladder in that we can’t go from the top to the bottom without going through the middle. So, if we are at the bottom of the ladder in freeze and want to return to the top of the ladder (safe and connected), we must go through fight or flight. When I am talking about the entropy, numbness, or realm of the walking dead we could liken this to being in the ‘freeze’ state.
The thing about the freeze state is often we find ourselves there because we have been in fight or flight (stress) for so long that we can no longer contain that energy and so we shut down and go into freeze. aka Entropy – the depletion of energy causing disorder. In its severest form, with trauma survivors, this can look like not being able to speak or communicate.
When we are in the realm of the living dead there is only one way out – and that is up – up through the fight or flight phase of the ladder. We must become mobilized. We must allow the fire of our passion, anger, fear or pain to burn away the apathy and despair and to reclaim life.
In terms of our life and living as the walking dead sometimes what this looks like is a tower moment that rips us out of our life and forces us to wake up and shake up our world. Ideally, we bring ourselves out of our apathy before we get to that point. Some would describe this process as awakening from a dark night of the soul.
So here I was, honouring this promise of not returning to the realm of the walking dead by returning to regional SA and reclaiming my life. The thing about entropy however is that it is a loss of energy. As soon as we get too comfortable, to apathetic, and relaxed or secure or stale the energy depletes, and we can find ourselves teetering on the edge once again. Or alternatively if we are in long term stressful situations, we can tip into the realm of the walking dead as a means of coping with our current painful or stressful circumstances.
I want to be clear that it’s not a bad thing to be in numbness – it is often essential to our survival, and a great place for reflection, insights, and clarity. However, at some point we must launch forth once again into living – or face disorder and chaos. Sometimes to return to the living we must create disorder and chaos – as essentially entropy is about creating balance. In other words, we must find ways to become mobilised and bring energy back into our lives. This is where creativity comes in.
Creativity is life force energy. It is our ‘chi’. Some could even describe it as sexual energy. It is passion, it is joy, it is freedom, it is expression, it is messy, and destructive and creative, and it is full of mistakes, and mishaps and imperfections. There is no order, or structure, or control, or planning, or logic. It is like throwing paint at a canvas – it won’t be perfect, it will be chaos, but it will be beautiful. It is creation at its essence. Forging a new path, breaking those socially driven rules of conforming, or people pleasing, or living the life others choose for us. It is taking life by the horns and wrestling that wild bull to his knees and getting a little cut up and bruised in the process. It is living. And Living is messy.
Some years ago, when I was studying grief therapy I came across this realisation about grief and loss. My father had recently been diagnosed with terminal cancer and I was processing my grief around this. I realised that love and life are messy, and grief is an expression of love. If we are grieving something it means it has (or had) value for us. That there was hope and joy and love to grieve. This is the blessing of life. To grieve we must be alive. To feel the messiness of humanity we must experience it. To be messy, to have emotions, to express emotions, love, joy, anger, hate and grief is to be human. It is not something to be fearful of – it is the lion roaring in the night stating its place in the jungle as the leader, the predator, the lover, the parent, the lonely beast. It is life.
As my father draws closer to the end of his journey, I find myself fighting the entropy, the apathy, and the realm of the living dead once again. Because let’s face it – feeling isn’t always fun. By its very nature of chaos, messiness and humanity it is painful, full of fears and regrets and insecurities. It is the cycle of life, and to travel a cycle we must be moving. We must be feeling. We must be free of the realm of the walking dead and roaring our pain into the jungle for all to know that we are alive, we are brave, and we are honouring the love and life we have shared and been given.
Do not go gently into the realm of the walking dead, rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Do not go gentle into that good night, Old age should burn and rave at close of day; Rage, rage against the dying of the light. Though wise men at their end know dark is right, Because their words had forked no lightning they Do not go gentle into that good night. Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay, Rage, rage against the dying of the light. Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight, And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way, Do not go gentle into that good night. Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay, Rage, rage against the dying of the light. And you, my father, there on the sad height, Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray. Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light.