Okay, not too hard to grasp this metaphor, I know. But it is powerful for me, anyway. I have very strong feelings of fear centered around being trapped, in someone else's power, having no way to change the situation. Not to mention the dread that comes from being forced to wait around for whatever horrible trauma the people on the outside care to bestow next.
I'm a huge fan of the science fiction stories written by Manna Francis in the 'Administration' series. (Note, this is homoerotic fiction suitable only for adults and non-puritans. You've been warned.) One of the two main characters in the series, Toreth, suffered emotional abuse and neglect from his parents. As a result of that, and of reinforcing incidents in his life, Toreth is not a very nice person. In spite of the fact that he no longer lives in the cages of his past, like his parents house and the juvenile detention center, he continues to react as if he did.
Toreth visits the zoo, and makes an observation that keeps ringing through my mind like a passage from the bible, "Cages. You can't get out, and every bastard with a key can get in."
Toreth's partner Warrick points to a panther pacing restlessly back and forth behind the bars of her cage. Except the cage is huge with a properly designed habitat, and far bigger than the space the panther is pacing. Here's some of the rest of the story, edited by me from one of the books of Francis' I picked up on Amazon.
"Why's it doing that?" Toreth asked eventually.
"Her stereotyping is very deeply ingrained. The damage was done to her during early development, and was then heavily reinforced for a number of years."
"So it's going to be like this forever?" The panther turned and Toreth turned with her, perfectly in time and barely less graceful.
"They hope not. They've had other animals arrive in a similar condition, and most of them can be coaxed out of it eventually. Helped to learn new behaviors. It's likely to take a long time, though. Months at least. Perhaps years before she's anything like normal."
"Why's it staying just there?"
"I don't know for certain. Possibly she paced at the front of the old cage, where she could see the most, and so she's doing the same here. If you look, the track is where the light from out here is strongest. I don't imagine there's much choice involved in the activity—it's a reflex, that's all. A compulsion, rather."
It seems so easy when you put it that way, but I can't wrap my mind around it when it comes to myself. Why is it that although the cage now exists only in my own mind, that I still can't get out? Why am I still trapped here? Why the constant dread and fear?
I could have chosen any number of nasty pix for a trapped creature, by the way. There is some seriously twisted stuff floating around the ether. But I picked this one because I'm trying to create new impressions from the old. This was a 6mo old tiger that was being nursed back to health. So being held for him was positive, I guess. Still, its so hard not to project myself into that cage, and feel it's me pushing against the metal and saying "I think I'd rather be out there".
Your Hostess With Neuroses