“As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool repeats his folly.” ~Proverbs 26: 11

I have recently become fascinated with the story of Shutter Island.  If you’ve never seen the movie or read the book, I would advise you to stop reading here because I’m about to give away the entire plot (unless you don’t care, in which case…read on).  I apologize as well if you’re a compulsive reader like me and can’t stop even when someone advises you to.  🙂

U.S. Marshal Edward “Teddy” Daniels has been sent to Shutter Island to investigate a disappearance at a mental institution for the criminally insane.  The woman who disappeared (Rachel Solando) had been in the institution because she murdered her three children.  As Teddy investigates, it is revealed that Teddy asked for the case because the man who murdered his wife (Dolores Chanal) is in the institution.  Ultimately, Teddy wants to kill this man, one Andrew Laeddis.  But as Teddy investigates, he uncovers what seems to be a series of lies pertaining to dangerous experiments the doctors are performing upon the mentally insane.  The closer he comes to uncovering the truth, the more Teddy realizes that he himself is in harm’s way, as he is led to believe that he is a target of the doctors who refuse to let him leave.  When Teddy tries to escape, he learns the truth, discovering that he is Andrew Laeddis (Edward Daniels is a perfect anagram for Andrew Laeddis).  He had a complete break with reality after he murdered his wife, Dolores.  He did this because Dolores drowned their three children (Dolores Chanal is a perfect anagram for Rachel Solando).  The entire plot on the island was concocted by his psychiatrists, because if they couldn’t get Andrew (Teddy) to accept reality, he would have to undergo a lobotomy, as he was the most dangerous patient on the island.  Andrew accepts the truth of the matter, but the next day he reverts back to his old delusions.  The ending is ambiguous, as the reader/watcher is left wondering whether or not he was faking it in order to force the lobotomy.  I suppose, sometimes, not having the capacity to think about your pain is more bearable than the pain itself (at least, that is what the movie/book would suggest).

It is a sad story, truly, but brilliantly crafted.  One begins to wonder at the end:  What if he wasn’t faking it?  What if he returned to his past experience, though imaginary, simply to avoid the pain of the present reality?  I think part of a fool’s folly could be living in the past to escape the present.  Take it far enough, and the future becomes parallel to the past, with no growth or true enjoyment.

The story is told of a woman who was abused for years, and then abandoned, by her father.  In her mind, the only way she can function is if she minimizes the pain.  She says everything’s okay, all is forgiven, but she is paralyzed by fear without knowing it.  She must imagine that the reason he is gone is because he is dead, the reason for the abuse being that he was abused himself.  It’s a dissociation from reality, and she is trapped in the past while thinking she has moved forward.

Another example would be related to a prior post of mine in regards to getting away from it all.  There’s nothing wrong with it, but if we take it to the extreme of complete autonomy, it becomes sin (and idolatry of self, ultimately).  Most people I know who want to be alone all the time and hunt for control are typically running from something.  But in running from our troubles, we stay in the past and return to our folly.

Now, these are just two examples.  There are many ways for a fool to return to folly, and these are as varied and idiosyncratic as the number of people on the planet. It seems like the only way to prevent regression is to deal with the past.  If it’s pain or sin, it must be confronted.  You must drink to the dregs the cup of repentance, and/or allow yourself to feel pain.  Don’t bury it, because it will fester, whether you think it will or not.

I have tried in the past to bury pain, and to no avail, because it always resurfaces…sometimes years later, sometimes only moments.  The point is, when it comes, stare it in the face.  Reach out, grab it, confront it, and make your peace.  Then, and only then, will you be able to move ahead and rise above.