Freedom to Think

The Invisible Man

I remember as a kid watching The Invisible man and thinking how cool it would be to be able to make myself invisible whenever I wanted. In my teenage years this was I guess amplified by both Bilbo and Frodo Baggins, and even Sue Storm of The Fantastic Four (The Invisible Girl).


What I did not know then was that most often what was being portrayed was nothing more than one of the Lizard actions available to us all when we feel threatened. Those really cool moments when Bilbo disappeared and sneaked past Smeagol (Gollum), or when Frodo hid from The Dark Lord’s all seeing eye, in a very real (whilst fictional) sense the writer was always alluding to one of the actions our Lizard may well resort to when it seems that the alternative is death…….


Now my guess is that sounds somewhat dramatic in the cold light of day; the trouble is I am learning that our lizards, whilst cold blooded and conscience free (and I ask you to remember that a lizard’s sole function is to protect each of us from threat, identified in a nanosecond, and responded to in another nanosecond) operates with marvellous efficiency in a climate of maximum tension.


My friend and teacher Al suggests that threat is akin to the Tyrannosaurus Rex in Jurassic Park. When you can’t hear it or see it, tis nothing more than an occasional anxiety that may pay a visit to your rational mind, evoking a little fear perhaps, but sometimes possibly excitement and even curiosity.


When you start to hear it in the distance your lizard will begin to get twitchy, you may have some opportunity (with practice and training) to rationalize that it is a long way away and so you have plenty of time to escape.


But the Lizard’s playground (ain’t no play involved with that sucker) is when old Rex is suddenly right on your tail, steam snorting from giant nostrils, war cry ladling and tearing the atmosphere, legs pounding as it storms straight for you.


Now old cold blood, this is where he gets to wake up, and you know what, he’s been lying at the bottom of a pond, looking up through algae covered water with myopic eyes (that’s a metaphor for seeing the world through your eyes, your opinions, your experiences, and your judgments I guess) but now he needs to act real quick, and he ain’t got no time for subtlety or prisoner taking.


I am thinking that if he wants to save you, cos save you is the only gig he was hired for, then he will go with tried and tested. So what has worked before? What is the shortest route to safety from this moment, how can your lizard stop this damned noise, this sudden and dire threat, how can your lizard provide you with a….not die solution??


Oh and get back to dozing at the bottom of his own personal lake.


Invisibility it would appear is a version of one of the four tools given to the lizard to deal with all threat. FIGHT, FLIGHT, FREEZE, SUBMIT. Number three, freeze, might be easily languaged as ‘turn invisible’. I can remember enough movies where the Park Ranger says laconically ‘just stand perfectly still and the (fill in the blanks) won’t be able to see you (or more pertinently get you).


And so where do we learn when and how to use each of those tools?


Where is the playground where your lizard sharpens this skill set?


And why can’t you just ‘choose’ a different option?


Great questions, all of which I asked Al in well probably about a hundred different forms as I cited event after event where my rational mind sought to justify/analyse my actions, or those of the people I care about, when oftentimes the reaction seemed like a nuclear meltdown in comparison to the actual event.


I think the answer to all three questions is actually quite perfect, moderately straight forward, and makes as much sense, at least to my addled but still curious mind, as anything I have heard in many a long year.


Where? Well childhood of course…..


Daddy comes home angry, mommy stiffens as he raises his voice and bangs down his keys and wallet after a bad day at the office, and a cruddy drive home, she leans over looks at you imploring and says, ssssh daddy’s had a hard day.


Well I guess some kids go and sit quietly at the top of the stairs, some go and hide in the garden, some just stand still right where they are, and others might ignore the advice and go diving straight in, or just start bawling where they stand.


But using this analogy they (or their young and as yet relatively inexperienced lizards) will I think all be trying to respond to this situation by deciding firstly whether it is some early form of threat, and if so how dire (remember as a kid death is often the only visible alternative when you rely so completely on your care givers).


Upon making that analysis (in about a second cos it is not worth giving you a lizard then hampering him with a half hour time lag when his job is to save your life) your lizard responds with what best protects you from his armoury.


After all mommy has issued an edict, and both she and daddy who between 0 and 8 are effectively your god have gone through some form of change.


What happens if they explode, change and never change back, just decide to leave…. Well when you’re a kid it is quite black and white, you will die!! And heh that does not even reckon on your infant lizard’s oh so colourful imagination….


Think back to your own childhood; night terrors, bad dreams, illness, scared of the dark, scared of being left. Your lizard could get you screaming, running away, hiding under the covers, indeed even fighting your care givers at nothing more than figments of your imagination….


This I guess is your training ground, and mine, and everyone you will ever meet!! You learn to respond, you practice in the garden of childhood (for most kids hopefully with wooden swords) and you find what damned well works.


The other neat thing about our lizard it seems, is that whilst our brain is designed to recover from trauma, in part by age dating events so we can move on, sometimes by even consciously forgetting details or whole events, or changing the landscape in which you recollect; your lizard never forgets. Old cold blood remembers it all. A complete memory package of event and response; what works and what does not.


I think tis not a creature of finesse so I can offer some conviction that a lizard will not care whether it responds to a bee sting sized event with the U.S. second fleet, simply and only does it work? Does it make this go away? Am I now safe???


This I guess is what happens to us all when we appear to react to seemingly small actions with enormous responses.


So anyway, back to The Invisible Man, I reckon that turning invisible is likely a form of freezing, fear has triggered the Lizard (and in the end I believe to the lizard there is only one primal fear, all paths lead to the fear of death….)


I recently debated a number of incidents in my life where I had thought that I was ‘being made invisible’, ignored, rejected, distanced. I was taken back and invited to explore my younger years and see if I could find a congruence of feelings that matched those I was feeling more recently.


I did……


(I don’t guess there is too much need to go into detail)


As a child I dealt with two types of invisibility.


Believing that my care givers were making me invisible by leaving me, ignoring me, degrading my validity…….. killing me....... I now recognise this imagery looking back through the fetid turmoil of a child’s mind.


Whilst on the other hand there was my lizard's choosing invisibility, using that tool as a shortest route to escape when it seemed (seems) critical to stand perfectly still, or pull the covers over my head, and hope the boogie man won’t get me.


Anyway so there you go a look at my own Bilbo world, and a bit of good news or two to finish with.


Number one…. I now know (though I may from time to time forget) that nobody can ever make me invisible, all I need to do is open my eyes and look at myself and there I am, invisibilty is only a choice that I can make for myself


Number two….. Even if I nuke my nearest and dearest  in response to what may seem to many a mild threat (if one at all),even if I stand perfectly still, or run away screaming at the most minor of events, I am not crazy. Well certainly no more than you or anyone else, seems we all do it…..each in our own special way. Remember when threat comes over the horizon your lizard is the boss, you ain't gonna wrestle him from doin what he has learned is best.


Number three…… Number two has just as much validity when another, any other, but of course mostly your loved ones, appears to dive off the top board crazy like a fox responses to trigger often unseen, disappearing into the safety of their own chosen darkness, forgive them;


They too are in the clutches of their lizard, and he is only doing what he was trained for.


I recommend listen at the door, become VERY patient, and see if you can add to their sense of safety.  


Tis I think the only thing that counts


David Jackman

5th July 2014...

Journeys of Jackman ..The wanderings, musings, learning and thoughts from one man who woke up


Photography-The-Invisible-Man-2 BILBO