Entangled Lives: Part 1, Observing The Chaos


You’re in the rapids now. You experience a vortex, a tunneling sensation, heart aching, breath racing. A formless flow rushes around and through your field of perception. Sounds are at times deafening and then muffled, distant. The sheer intensity lifts your eyelids and stings your eyes. Fighting for breath and barely hanging on, you feel yourself speeding through spaces too rough or too slippery to hold you.
Being overwhelmed…psychologically, emotionally, is like this. We’re at the center of a powerful turbulence and we feel lost, paralyzed. It is the essence of being stuck…feeling stuck in such a strong undertow that the sense of powerlessness is palpable and all-encompassing. We feel an onrushing chaos and we want to flee…but we cannot.

And so we succumb, as we have so often in the past. We allow ourselves to go limp, to become numb…in this way we have learned not to feel what is happening that is out of our control. Or else, we become hardened…unnaturally rigid. When we’re threatened…when we feel unsafe…we close ourselves off to what is happening. We create an intentional tunnel and we enclose ourselves within it. Desperately, we try to hide.

Numbed, unfeeling, somnambulant now…we have done this so often it has become an unconscious response to the panic that ensues whenever we sense the chaos, loss of control, the threats to our sense of safety…we go into a trance…anything to stop the painful sensations…

Of course, we can’t stop anything. The sense of being out of control…the dysfunctional energy we apply to our states of confusion only serves to increase the anxiety and panic.


At some point, though…it can happen, We find ourselves – just for an instant – in a position to observe what is occurring to us. We find a foothold, a ledge upon which to stand. It is as if the very act of observing creates a space of calm in the midst of the whirlpool of emotions and we feel somewhat removed…outside of the experience of intensity…at least enough to catch a breath. In that moment of observing ourselves, we find the panic disappears for brief instants. It is as if we can not experience it and observe it at the same time.

And that existential fact is what saves us…the simple act of observation can rescue us from being totally engulfed by our own emotions. If we can see ourselves, even for a moment, we can save ourselves. One is saved from chaos in only one way- by understanding it. The most significant thing about chaos is that it is not chaotic.

Seeing the state we’re in is something that happens from the river bank, not in the rapids. It’s not that there are two of us, it’s just that we seem able to be…almost…in two places at once. We can be in the middle of an experience…and yet, we can observe that we are having the experience. And the act of observation actually does serve to transport us to a kind of external vantage point – a new view, a fresh perspective on our situation. Through the simple act of seeing, observing, from moment to moment, we become unstuck…
Image: “Entangled,” by Tullio DeSantis, digital image, 2010.


Filed under ARTology Now

3 responses to “Entangled Lives: Part 1, Observing The Chaos

  1. Gabriella Wertheim

    This article was one of many post that I found very inspiring because it is pretty much what is happening to me right now. Ive been entangled in chaos and absolute confusion in my life at this point that I cant even handle it that I turn off a switch so I don’t feel anything anymore. I was to the point of so stress and so frustrated that I couldn’t even bare the thought of what was stressing me out anymore. I still get stressed out, right now I am stressed out. But, reading this made me realize maybe I need to take a step back to see whats going. However, when I do that I know I cant get out of my situation. I dug myself a whole and sadly cant come out of this stressful and chaotic state of mind. To tell you the truth when I do my art work I am calm and at peace. Its my safe heaven. I just hope that it continues to be my safe heaven of expressing myself and letting all the stress be released out of me. Maybe there is a way out of it, but it wouldn’t be worth it. It would probably cause me more stress.

  2. You’ve described not just your own but everyone’s existential dilemmas well here, Gabriella. We’re fortunate to have creative outlets for our energies. Art has the ability to heal our eyes, minds, and hearts.

  3. Clinton Faust

    This image has a very strong message, which I believe everyone can relate too. Our lives our made up of countless experiences that makeup the framework of the people we become. Our relationships embrace chaos to explore opportunities and to mature in nature.

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