Inner Light

Recently Paul from Mind Parts, posted about an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation called The Inner Light.  When I tracked down the episode, I was stunned.  This episode of a science fiction television series resonated with me; more so, than any of the shows about DID.

Shows depicting DID generally include varying degrees of sensationalism about how a dissociative lives and the etiology.  They often concentrate on a slice of the dissociatives life, rather than the totality.  One of the key things that I’ve found to be missing in many of these media portrayals, is hope.  Hope that dissociatives can heal and navigate this world successfully.  Even if there is a hopeful message, it is often a brief note at the end, rather than an overall theme.

When I’m curled up in a ball, hurting from self-injury or memories, I need hope.

So, how does this episode offer hope?  First, there’s the basis of the storyline… Morgan Gendel (writer), named the episode after a song written by George Harrison, which was in turn, based on the 47th chapter of Tao Te Ching:

Without going outside his door, one understands (all that takes place) under the sky; without looking out from his window, one sees the Tao of Heaven. The farther that one goes out (from himself), the less he knows. Therefore the sages got their knowledge without traveling; gave their (right) names to things without seeing them; and accomplished their ends without any purpose of doing so.

I understand this as meaning that we have the resources within ourselves to heal.  Yes, we may need outside assistance along the way, but this is as a guide and anchor, rather than them doing the difficult work for us.

I admit to struggling with this concept greatly.  At times, it encourages despondency… if I have all of the resources, why haven’t I “healed” already?  I’m motivated to change, and have been told that I’m doing the work from people I trust, so why am I still struggling?  Then, I remember that having the resources, doesn’t necessarily mean that I know how to utilise them.  This is where guidance from people such as therapists come in, they help us find ways to access and use our internal resources in positive ways.

Within Inner Light, hope is represented through a tree planted within the community courtyard during Picard’s time on Kataan.  Despite the water shortage, each community member voluntarily gives up some of their water to ensure that the tree survives.  The tree is described as a symbol of survival and an affirmation of life, because “hope is a powerful weapon against anything” (Batai).  As time goes by on Kataan, the tree flourishes, despite the drought around them.  To some within the system, this was a powerful message… for others, it’s an affirmation of their work.

The idea behind the community tree, taps into the idea of working together for a common goal.  I’m going through some difficult memories at the moment, which is causing a great deal of confusion and divisiveness amongst the system.  Pulling together and working towards a common goal is what I’m aiming for, no matter how out of reach it feels at the moment.

One scene in particular was quite emotional for me… near the end of Picard’s time on Kataan, a time capsule is launched by the people on Kataan.  At the launching, there is a gathering of the different people who have interacted with Picard during his time as Kamin… people who have supposedly long since passed on.  It is then revealed that the time capsule being launched is carrying the hopes, dreams and memories of this long lost civilisation.

Batai – “We hoped our … [time capsule] … would encounter someone in the future – someone who could be a teacher, someone who could tell the others about us.”
Eline – “Now we live in you. Tell them of us…”

I’m not quite sure how to describe it, but this is how they see my role as host of the system.  To tell others of what happened, not to recount their experiences as such, but to validate their existence and feelings.  This isn’t easy, as we navigate through layers of denial, flashbacks and old coping mechanisms.  But then, I have the knowledge that I survived those experiences, and I had the resources to cope in a creative way… that means I have the strength and ability to heal as well.


As a note: I’ve looked at a few things within the episode that resonated strongly for me; but there are others that are relevant for my experiences with DID and trauma… issues around memories, several realities co-existing and an empathy for children who won’t get to experience a rich, full life.  As with anything, this episode may resonate with you, or it may not.  The main thing it offered me, was hope.  I need some of that right now.

Now playing: R.E.M. – Stand
via FoxyTunes

9 thoughts on “Inner Light

  1. Just wanted to say that the episode of ST:TNG you wrote about is my favorite, and my kid’s favorite as well. It always makes me cry, and I had a deeper understanding about why I cry after my DID diagnosis when I saw it again on tv. It also makes me feel lost, alone, and that I’ll never be understood, especially when Picard is playing the flute at the very end.

    Your post resonated with me and it felt like, if just for a moment, I could put my hand in a pool and touch your ripples and you could touch mine. Weird analogy, but that’s how I felt. I also have the Tao Te Ching on my MP3 player and listen to it over and over again.

    I just wanted to tell you that before I get in the shower and have to fake my way through the day. Thank you very much.


    • Hi Lisa,

      I know what you mean. Sometimes there’s a connection made and you feel less alone. That’s what this episode did for me, especially as I know that it affected others in a similar way.

      Often, when I watch DID shows, I go in with a sense of dread and defensiveness; but with this, there weren’t those hang-ups. It’s sense of hope was the big thing for me, but there were other subtexts which could be seen too.

      The flute playing at the end was beautiful and moving. To us, it felt like a tribute to the the system.

      I hope faking your way through the day involves lots of rest and pampering of yourself.

      Thank you for your reply, I was really nervous about this post. You’ve helped ease my fears a little 🙂

      Take care,

  2. I am a HUGE fan of Star Trek:TNG and I never thought of that episode that way before! When I first watched it years ago, I found the ending so sad that I’ve had a hard time watching it ever since. The whole realites things and Picard losing everything that he had come to love and being left with the flute…? Ouch. But, you gave it a different spin, something I never would have thought of. 🙂 I wasn’t DID diagnosed back then, only bipolar (ahh the good ole days) and I would avoid any episodes of TNG that triggered bipolar feelings like “Frame of Mind” and “Eye of the Beholder”, heck I still can’t watch those. But, Picard’s ressikan flute has always been special to me. Your post reminded me of the episode “Lessons” when he starts a relationship with a fellow officer who plays the piano and he’s able to play the flute with someone for the very first time. He tells her the story of how he got the flute and tells her how much it means to him to finally be able to share his music with someone. Then they play the Ressikan song together. So sweet! Now you make me want to go back and watch Inner Light again! Thank you for posting that. I can’t believe you were nervous about this post, it was beautiful and I’m glad it gave you hope. *Bug Hug*

    • Hi tai,

      Thanks for your comments 🙂 I was nervous because things that I’ve found healing in the past have been hugely triggering for others. So it was a risk to put up here something personally healing again, and open that up for criticism by others.

      The co-existing realities was the bit that got me… It often feels like there are several realities going on in my head, and it’s hard to know what one is real. That’s why Picard being left with the flute was so important, as it showed that all of the realities can exist – and can influence each other. So my “perfect childhood” reality, can co-exist with my “hellish childhood” reality. They don’t have to be mutually exclusive. It’s possible that the truth was somewhere in-between.

      I think I avoided Star Trek as a child, as Captain Kirk looks quite a bit like my father. I might see if I can get some of the ST: TNG episodes though and see if I can watch others 🙂

      You were dissociative back then too… you just didn’t have the words to describe it. But yes, I get what you mean 🙂

      Take care,

  3. dear castor, what a wonderful post! your writing here resonates with me on a number of levels. and it inspires me by pulling together a number of thoughts that have been brewing in my mind and life lately.

    thoughts about inner strength, turning inwards, learning to trust what’s going on inside, and how to bring that outwards, expression, trust, hope, and even star trek too~

    i might be making no sense. hopefully i will write a post of my own about what i’ve been thinking. but meanwhile i want to thank you for writing about this.

    i think you know i’m not dissociative, but that never seems to interfere with my ability to relate to the things you say. i’m glad for you that you found something which depicts or resonates with your inner reality so much. i know how powerful and comforting that can be. for me it helps me to feel less alone in the universe. more validated. and can even increase my confidence and feel very healing.

    as for why we often aren’t happier or more well-adjusted, when supposedly we have all we need inside, i believe that is in part because we were often taught as children (especially if there was abuse), not to trust ourselves and our instincts. we may have become disconnected from our core or higher self (or selves), from our emotions, etc. so part of healing, i think, is about learning to reconnect to ourselves, and in that way repair that damage that was done. so that we can be in touch with our ability to self-heal and ground ourselves internally.

    that’s my current theory anyway, and what i’ve been working on in my own self and life.

    wishing you well today and always, castor 🙂

    • Thanks Katie 🙂

      I was incredibly nervous about this one, because it meant so much to some parts. But we put it up here and haven’t heard anything negative about it.

      I’d love to hear your thoughts on the themes raised in the episode. They’re universal to people, not just survivors. I think that’s part of the reason why this episode is listed as one of the best of ST: TNG and received awards. It’s about humanity.

      Yes, I know you don’t have a dissociative disorder – although it’s easily argued that everyone dissociates to some degree. I identify with your writing because you express yourself so well, and we have similar experiences with alcohol in the family while growing up.

      I agree about being taught not to trust our instincts. When there are secrets in the family, it does something to you. Things that appear simple, are suddenly complex, and you find yourself protecting those who should be protecting you. It’s a great way to get totally confused.

      The reconnection you talk about, is the reason why I found the ending scenes in the episode so moving. It was as if, for the first time, there was a sense that the ones in the system could be heard. There was a system wide connection to an idea.

      Thank you for dropping by…
      Sending positive thoughts and hugs your way,

      • dear castor~ thank you for your response. i wrote a post yesterday trying to talk about some of what i’ve been thinking lately. but it’s not related to that star trek episode, as i haven’t seen that. for me, it is more about what you’ve written here. about hope and having the resources internally to heal. how star trek fit in for me coincidentally is that lately i’ve felt a powerful need to start watching shows and films that are more life-affirming and hopeful. more relevant to things i’m thinking about and dealing with. i’ve been trying to reconnect to myself and my emotions and instincts more strongly, and that is what they are telling me i need. and one of the ideas i had was to start watching TNG. so we’ve started from the beginning. the ideals and non-aggressiveness in the show i find incredibly healing and optimistic.

        so it’s not exactly what you were writing about regarding DID, but what you wrote did relate on another level for me.

        i’m so sorry to hear you are struggling through difficult memories at the moment. i hope that is going ok for you and the system.

        i’ll be thinking of you and sending healing thoughts and safe warm hugs, if wanted~~~

        • Hi katie,

          I know what you mean about the need to watch life affirming shows. Current media is obsessed with selling drama and negativity, while our society seems to be lapping it up. This is one of the big problems I have regarding how most mental health issues are portrayed within the media – they tend to be sensationalistic and highlight the negative, rather than showing hope. Hope doesn’t sell advertising dollars, apparently.

          I’ll drop by and see what you’ve written over the weekend…

          Take care,

          • hi castor, i feel the same way. there’s a lot of darkness in what you can find that’s supposed to be “entertaining” and i find this the most disturbing, the more in touch i am with my own emotions.

            hope things are going well with you. sending warm wishes your way 🙂

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