Embody your body and reap the rewards
The shadow is a Jungian term for all our behaviours and emotions that lie hiding in our unconscious. It may reveal itself to us through dreams and also our reaction to others and situations. For example you may have noticed in your life so far that people who display characteristics you have and don't particularly like about yourself really irritate you. If you are deeply unconscious of this your irritation towards them might them become really powerful and they become the owner of all of your unconscious and un-owned (for want of a better word) crap. This is called 'projection' you are 'projecting' your unconscious, and unlikeable self/wants/needs/behaviours onto another who have the hooks for them, if they didn't they couldn't be candidates for your projections. So far the shadow sounds like it could be a 'bad' thing, and it can certainly be destructive in so far as huge group projections of shadows have resulted in genocides and holocausts, it could well be argued. For if we are all so aware of the shortcomings of others and not of our own we are living in a 1 dimensional plain, and fragmented psyches result in hurting others and ourselves.
A fragmented psyche has its roots in 'splitting'; aspects of the self are split off and sometimes projected onto others rather than integrating the whole self, the whole psyche as both 'good' and 'bad'- or rather just 'is.' If we collectively are unable to look into ourselves and consciously lay bare all that is within us, our aggression, our neurosis, our vainety, vulnerability, anger, hurt and shame we will project this onto other individuals or most dangerously, onto entire groups. All the things the Bible taught us not to be still lie within and are part of the human experience and so in an attempt to repress this we only make it stronger, for as the Grandfather of psychoanalysis himself noted, 'What is repressed, returns.' And it does so with force.
However if we experience or develop a 'crush' on someone else, a deep affection for and admiration of certain individuals and groups we are again, projecting an unconscious element of ourselves onto them and the beauty of this is that we need only begin to unravel our dreams and peer inwards at our thoughts and feelings to see that all the things we admire in others also lie within ourselves. Individuation is Jung's word to describe arriving at being you without living with a fragmented psyche believing that all the bad lives outside of you and all the good within, or visa versa- but to be a whole integrated self, imagine if we were all guided in our striving to do this, what a wonderful world it would be.
So as Brene Brown suggests in her brilliant book 'Rising Strong' get curious about yourself, your thoughts and feelings, where you feel ambivelent or full of rage and where is this coming from? And then maybe we would find positive ways to channel it through martial arts, exercise and body work and therapy? Surely a far healthier approach than blame and resentment?
Transformational journalist, Neil Strauss, is known, among many other works. for his book The Game in which he attempted to dwell into the world of "Pick Up" artistry. Here is an except from his book The Truth in which he very candidly argues for the benefit of dramatherapy for healing trauma. (Source http://www.neilstrauss.com/neil/healing-trauma/)
A Framework For Transformation
Over the course of writing The Truth, I came to develop a very specific take on healing trauma, specifically developmental trauma, as I slowly but surely reduced my own.
As an overall framework for psychological healing, think of the childhood pain and shame we store—and the dysfunctional behaviors and thoughts created by them—as cancerous tumors attached to the heart by a short elastic cord.
And when we go through intensive therapeutic processes, such as the chair work I experienced in the book, we’re able for just a moment to pull that ugly tumor out of our chest and get a glimpse of who we really are without it, to see the difference between our authentic self and the reactive self who makes a mess of our life.
However, when the process ends, the elastic snaps back and the trauma fastens once again to our heart, until after a few hours or days or weeks back in daily reality, we can no longer tell the difference between our truth and our wounds.
But if we stretch the elastic enough times, eventually it will wear out. And when we release it, the load it’s carrying will no longer snap back into us, but instead hang outside limply, a passenger in our life but no longer in the cockpit.
Specific Steps To Deep Change
With this framework in mind, the first step is to find a therapeutic process that’s powerful enough to stretch the elastic. Typically, this means setting time aside for a two-to-five day experiential intensive. This will allow you to dive deep into your past and bring up feelings in a way that a one-hour therapy-room session typically can’t.
I find talk therapy, in particular, less effective for deep healing and change, especially since so many of the wounds we carry are emotional, often created before we were capable of talking or having intellectual thoughts.
For some people, a single workshop may be enough to experience a life-changing shift. For others, going to several over the course of a few years may be necessary. And a few people may require more extensive in-patient therapy.
Whatever the case may be, just going to intensives or workshops is not enough. It’s important to maintain any shifts, revelations, or improvements after the first healing experience with the following four things:
*Consistent Support: Decades of dysfunctional behavior can’t be eliminated in a weekend. To keep your head right, it’s important to retain a regular regimen of individual or, even better, group therapy with others who share similar wounds. Even if it’s just a monthly or bi-monthly hour-long phone call.
*Self care: If you take care of your mind, body, and soul through healthy eating, exercise, positive self-talk, appropriate boundaries, sleeping well, and a practice such as yoga or meditation, you will be less vulnerable to your past dysfunctional behaviors and beliefs. A lack of self care typically leads to a lack of self regulation.
*Tools: Through therapy, reading, and research, you can gather tactics and techniques for retaining your new healthy, functional behavior and thoughts. Sometimes, when under too much pressure, stress, or poor self-care, you may begin to backslide into old habits of dysfunctional behavior. And it’s important to use a tool here—for example, using non-violent communication, focusing on slow diaphragm breathing, or having an inner dialogue to soothe your agitated inner child—to keep from going over the psychological cliff.
*Patience: When cleaning a room, it gets more messy before it gets orderly. The same is true of cleaning your mind. Often, as you begin the healing process, you will begin feeling the pain or shame that your dysfunctional behavior was protecting you from. But if you can tolerate those raw feelings and process them in a healthy way this time, then you will no longer need the dysfunctional behavior. It won’t have a purpose because there’s no longer any toxic shame or pain to avoid. At other times, a behavior or belief that you thought you defeated may rear its head again. Don’t get frustrated. Think of self-improvement as climbing a mountain. Sometimes you’ll feel like you’re in the same place you started, but the truth is that you’ve climbed higher and you’re just looking at the same view.
Firstly this is a lovely fantasy- that each of us has our own private spot in our homes, in a country where living spaces are increasingly shrinking. However I am talking more about the masculine and feminine energies of our homes, when many new builds are created and built by men, is it still the woman's job to make the house a home? Often women are now outside of the home for as long as men are, so where is the womb of the home, to recharge and feel warm and safe? Feminism encouraged us to leave the home, and although I call myself proudly a feminist, like any ideology the practice of this concept has its pitfalls.
But perhaps what early feminists they were saying, or fighting against is the one brand of feminism we are constantly being "sold", that we can have and do it all. We can't, and many of us don't want the added pressure of doing it all. Most people who have studied feminism might tackle this intellectually about what feminism actually is, what branch suggests this x, y and z...most of these I concur with, I consider myself to be a feminist but the brand most of us are living with is the "you can do it all, and still don't let them see you sweat, its not lady like." And this feels like pressure.
The recent anti-feminist groups by women have been creating sneers, and I suppose this indicates that the reality for many women is that they feel that they are being told to be like men, and deny their femaleness. Most of us don't want to be like men, but we would like to be treated respectfully. We would to be paid equally for doing the same job as men (a travesty that this is still not happening, even in public services like the NHS, women are on average being paid 15% less than men doing the SAME job.), however many women, especially after having children, also do not want to be plucked away from them to go and work in an environment which sometimes doesn't value them, particularly if they are not even getting equal pay!! Although undoubtedly for some, this may be better than staying at home and having to face friends and society which doesn't value the stay at home-work they do? Economically it may feel unviable for birth mothers to stay at home and care for their young, and this in turn may chip away at their partners 'provider' image.
We often hear the phrase 'broken home' and take this to mean divorced parents, and yet homes without hearths, lacking a solid womb-like centre are also broken. Where the quest for equality has spot its light upon equal pay for the same job, and rightly so; but what has been left in the shadows is all the other stuff. Who now takes responsibility for cooking or preparing a loving nourishing evening meal for the family, who now keeps the home ordered and clean, warm and loving? Very often these tasks either fall onto the shoulders of the woman, in the heterosexual relationship and she can feel guilty and failing for not achieving it all. Women have eagerly picked up the baton to go out to work and use their skills in the work place, whereas men have not seemed so keen to take on their share of household chores; I am speaking generally of course- and a little from my own experience. I often hear the words "Tell me what you want me to do" without the realisation that this kind of delegation is a managerial job in and of itself.
Is it any wonder, that Hestia (or Vesta) female Goddess of the hearth was honoured everyday?The image of a woman at home preparing meals and cleaning is often one pitied in our society, not honoured. And yet on my maternity leave I have been feeling more and more a domestic pull, to have a beautiful kitchen and hearth to work at, to nourish my family and myself; to bring this centre of the home back and to be honoured for this, not pitied. Much of this is about how we view the energy of Hestia, because we judge and value so much by masculine ideals of what women should be, but forgot what women really are. We are life givers, nurturers and creators; and all this must begin at home. For each of us is dependent upon our own personal mother, and the collective mother Earth for life.
Hestia looks inwards creating care-taking, she keeps the hearth warm, beaming light back to us after a hard day outside the home. Home is where we come to re-charge, plug ourselves in, so that we might face the world outside once more with energy and excitement. Hestia is always a feminine energy, and one that all men have access to in their psyches as well, for it is the seedling part of us that needs gestation, time, and quiet insulated tranquility.
I heard the fiction writer Ursula Le Guin talking about being a writer and a mother. She and her academic husband had worked out together that 1 person couldn't do 2 jobs, but 2 people could do 3. She looked after the children during the day, and wrote in the evening, whilst he worked during the day and cleaned the house in the evening. What a wonderfully equal system by two very practical people.
Last weekend I went to an introduction to shamansim for women called Shamanka. Its aimed at women because in the past female healers have often been overlooked....or burned. And it is about our reconnection to the earth through our bodies.
However I went to this introduction with a slightly pompous feeling, which I was aware of and yet could not shake. I had my MA in Drama and movement therapy metaphorically dangling round my neck like a town mayors fur cloak and was feeling far more that this was a chance for me to pick up a few tips on how to possibly incorporate 4000 years of wisdom into my work than anything else. Certainly this wouldn't be part of my personal process because that had all been sorted with me, I was here as an academic. Well of course by the Sunday it was me who was in floods of tears, an outpouring of emotion as the 88 year old woman shared a story about someone she had guided to healing. I resonated so much with this story that I couldn't stop myself from sobbing, no longer the academic but now the client, or more simply a regular wounded human.
I had been entering the space carrying with me the idea that I may be the teacher now, not realising that we are throughout our lives, always both the teacher and the student. I am always going to be in a personal process somewhere on my path and I will always be able to guide others whilst allowing myself to be guided. If I do not I could end up as a stuffy, pompous know-it-all clucking about loudly knowing nothing, and if always the student will never feel powerful enough to share what I have learned.
Being humble is different to being meek. I realised on this weekend that often Zen buddhists talk in very contradictory terms which, as we try to understand them, slip away. However I began to understand just how powerless humans are individually, and at the same time we are remarkably powerful. We have the power of choice, when we are conscious of it and we can choose where we direct our attention to. We can choose to spend our money on healing ourselves, making our selves happier and sharing this happiness. We can choose to recycle, or grow our own food or live somehwere which enables us to do this. We can choose to care for our planet. Although it may be harder for some than others ultimately we can choose to change the course of our lives, we can aim to be kind compassionate people. At the same time we cannot control the weather, we do not know when we will die, we cannot force someone to love us and we don't yet really KNOW if there are aliens 'out there' although its looking more and more likely that David Bowies question, "Is there life on Mars" may well be answered in the coming decades. We have very little control over any of these things. When our beautiful constructed buildings come crashing down in the face of an Earth quake we are struck by the tragedy of this, and of our smallness. We become humbled in the face of nature. When faced with wisdom over 4000 years old I became humbled.
Eliana who runs shamanka has trained with the indigenous healers of the Inca, she has so much compassion, knowledge and innocence about her that I felt complete trust whilst snivelling away as she listened and guided me through a healing of my own. At 88 she is still doing yoga every morning, she laughs and shares her cave of knowledge and yet is still open to learning. She is the kind of person who inspires one to listen more, learn more and share more.
I am about to move, to where I don't exactly know yet and also about to start a new job and setting up my business. I am in transition- as I was 11 months ago when about to give birth to Luna, they call the part where a woman's cervix has completely dilated and the baby begins to pass through the it and into the birthing canal transition, and it is at this point that many women begin to panic. Its that "OH MY GOD I CANNOT DO THIS" moment. Luckily I had gone to a active birthing workshop which I cannot recommend highly enough, because it helped me not only to manage this transition in birth but these words will stay with me forever, "The mind will look for a way out, but the body knows the answer. "
This was so true whilst I was in labor, I can remember the exact moment I looked out of the window, from my corner by the bed where I was kneeling, clinging to the bedclothes and growling covered in sweat and I thought "If I could just have a nap. Who can do this for me? I need someone else to do it!" And then those powerful words came to me and knew in some numinous way that this was just my brain, my mind, my ego or whatever construct and it had no place here when my body was about to give birth. I use this example because transition doesn't just happen during labor, it happens all the time and unless we go with it, sit in the unknown and trust our bodies we can become a feast for fear. When a woman becomes scared during her labor it can become more painful because the cervix and birth canal constrict, and sometimes medical intervention is required; which makes the whole process quite disempowering and even scarier. The same is true for any transition we experience. Coming out of a relationship that is no longer working, or entering a new one, the death of a loved one, moving house, changing career, moving abroad, or having a spiritual awakening! All of these things are transitional and require trust if they are to unfold in the most delightful way.
As a dramatherapist I like to think that I am aware and listen to my body all the time, but I don't. I have to remind myself on a daily basis to check up and tune in to what its telling me and this is what I mean: My mind and body are completely linked, and the unconscious part of my psyche may be driving unhelpful behaviors and thought patterns, picking up on past happenings in my life and so I start to feel in danger which then gives me a feeling of butterflies in my belly.
If I leave this feeling in my tummy, I then busy myself which stuff around the house, get frustrated with myself and blame others for my: lack of time, lack of well being, lack lack lack. And all this stems from a feeling I have without being conscious of it.
The other day I had this feeling and became aware of it when I checked in with my body. I decided to start a dialogue with it and see what came up. As it turns out it was trying to protect me from some perceived danger that I wasn't really in, you see it began to think that I was in the kind of life threatening danger that might require me to run as fast as I could, or climb a tree quickly but that danger wasn't there and I was and am perfectly safe, in that moment as I am in this moment.
Transition is a series of mostly perfectly safe moments, and these moments only begin to feel unsafe when we try to hard to control them, wanting instant answers to questions we haven't yet asked. If we can just stay with the moment and trust in ourselves, nurture our minds and bodies then transition will be as great as having a baby.....
The Delights Of Daydreaming
Is daydreaming a worthwhile use of our time?
I love a long journey. First of all I daydream about all the work I will do on the coach or train, how many chapters of my novel I'll write and how many fantastic ideas will pop into my head, which will all ultimately make the world a better place and make me rich and famous and adored by all. Then I get onto the train or coach and continue to day dream until I reach my destination. Ideas will pop into my head, which will all ultimately make the world a better place and make me rich and famous and adored by all. Then I get onto the train or coach and continue to day dream until I reach my destination. I usually then berate myself for tragically wasting time staring out of a window, or more recently staring at a wall for 45 minutes without having accomplished a single thing. Or thats what I thought until recently.
I have been reading a fascinating book by Jonha Lehrer called Imagine: How Creativity Works. In his study of the human mind he reveals how inventions such as masking tape and the post it note all came about via a seemingly unsolvable problem and day dreaming. 3M a huge inventing machine of a company have for many years (many years before Goggle began to copy them) encouraged their employees to take strolls in the grounds of their campus during the day, to re-focus the mind by having a day dream. It seems that day dreams, those daydreams we have when we feel relaxed allow alpha waves (which govern moments of insight and can actually be recorded on an EEG monitor) to flow through the brain, and we are more likely to to direct the spot light of our attention inwards, towards the flow of remote associations emanating from the right hemisphere. By stark contrast when we are focused, our attention seems to be directed outward, towards the detail that we are trying to solve. So whilst we might be trying to solve the problem by focusing on it analytically, too much focus can actually prevent us from uncovering the connections that lead to insights, and idea's that might actually solve the problem.
And thus my lazy day dreams have been justified, I'm being creative, not lazy. I'm having insights, not not working. Annoyingly Lehrer goes on to throw me off my hammock in the sunshine by revealing in the next chapter that day dreaming alone is not enough, and that focus and hard work are a necessity in order to get anything done.
Containing creativity is how it can leave us and become something meaningful in the world, and not simply leave us whining that we had that idea once and somebody else stole it and ran with it. Writers often speak of their rituals and routines which help them to contain and manage the overflow of ideas that pour into them daily, its a work getting what may be coming through us out onto the pages.
There was a time when menstruating women were considered so pure they went into the Red tent together and supported one another through this period of time when their bodies were more open, sensitive and vulnerable. Once a girl began her period she would be invited into the Red Tent to be with the other women, and I imagine that this would feel like such an honour, such a coming of age moment, to feel connected to the feminine knowing that your body was now too, becoming a woman. They said that every time a woman bleeds the world changes forever; a statement so profoundly powerful it makes me simultaneously want to sit with it forever, and also shiver it off- for I am still reaquainting myself with my power as a woman.
I compare this to my own experience of beginning my periods at Military boarding school which had been all male until the year 1994, my first year there, when I was 11 and they decided that girls could come to the school as well. I was in year 8 and excused myself to go to the loo during chemistry, nothing felt out of the ordinary to me, and I even stopped at the corridor to peep at Lucy Dever being told off on the floor above by Mr Belcher. When I saw my knickers moments later I sat in shock. I knew what this was but for a few moments of worrying that I had pooed myself; and then realising completely that this was in fact my first ever menstruation I began to shake- I didn't have any sanitary wear with me and didn't really know what I would do with it anyway, and so I pulled my knickers and tights back up and went into class. Thankfully, or so I though, I had a female chemistry teacher, I approached her and whispered, "Miss I have just started my period." I looked at her for her wisdom, her knowing, some sense of initiation into the clan of women. "Ok" She mustered, "Do you want to go and sit back down."
I sloped off unsure of what to do now, my hands were still shaking, I sat with the girls at my table and told them.
"Go back and tell her that you've started them for the first time ever." One said- and I did, and the teacher let me go back to the boarding house. I just wanted to hug my mum. I felt strange and emotional and sad and happy all at the same time, this felt like it should be a celebration, or a mourning, or both. I called my mum after the cleaning lady told me that her periods had finished forever now. I could tell mum was happy and sad as well, for lots of reasons I expect but I am sure a big one was because she wasn't with me, and wouldn't be seeing me at the end of the day to hug me and I wouldn't be seeing her for weeks anyway and by that point it would have been just something I had now, periods.
I look at this new advert on the television, its a Tampax advert and it shows a young lady being massaged on a beach, mother nature is portrayed as an overly made up, screechy voiced, plastic overbearing drunk aunt at a wedding. At the end someone kicks a football at her head and the young lady retorts: "Not very popular, are you?"
I wonder how this affects our young women just starting their periods, whether it so happily feeds into the hatred, disgust and contempt so many young girls already feel for their wondeful bodies; merrily supported by media and advertising campaigns, and of course patriarchy. For when reading that every time we bleed, we women change the world forever it can make me feel so powerful and patriarchy doesn't want that. If we women united and stood together in our power, our beauty and our unshakable knowledge that our bodies, our selves and our minds must and should be honoured for we have the room inside of us to grow and birth life, no one, not even our own ego's could make us feel small and powerless again.
This is not a piece about blaming men for the system we live in which tries to make women feel shame about their bodies, it is about women reclaiming without cringing and wincing away from honouring ourselves and our bodies. In a time where huge organizations are appreciating the minds of women so much that they are asking if they could freeze their eggs, this reclaiming of our bodies needs to come from us, from women. The model of work can and is changing, our glorious life giving nurturing bodies don't need to, for they are already perfect!
Apparently everyone who has ever had a baby knew that it is all consuming and exhausting; and yet whilst I was pregnant I took absolutely no notice, because why would I? I already felt tired and sure I had been exhausted before (I now roll my eyes at my old self who once merrily banded that word about without a clue to what it actually meant) Yet still I planned to go back to work when she was 3 months old, just one day a week of course; I secretly imagined finishing my novel as she slept whilst I rocked her with my foot, the sound of inspiration and tapping keys weaving a wonderful dream bubble for her. Hah! My beautiful little girl turned 9 months last week and needless to say I didn't go back to work one day a week and my novel still hides in what is left of my brain.
So at 9 months I am still catching up on sleep but I feel strangely contented. I am someone who loves to sleep, I enjoy rest and the comforts in life; one of my favourite places to be is in bed- it used to be on the beach as well, but since that now mostly comes with chasing a little human around a mat whilst scraping sand out of her lovely little mouth, it ceases to be quite so relaxing. Having a baby has and is really teaching me the joy to be found outside of comfort and is proving to be an invaluable life lesson for me. Everyone who goes onto to have children begin to live outside of their comfort zones- we often talk of moving to your edges, or living outside of your comfort zone as the key to getting what you really want, becoming who you really are. I have completed a Masters, applying for this , getting onto the course and completing it were all outside of my easy zone and continue to teach me, but nothing has pushed me as much as having a baby.
I didn't have to think about having a baby, my body just got on with it- incredibly in our age of thought and "I think therefore I am"- although I would totally quibble that statement, it is nothing short of miraculous that my conscious brain didn't have to, at any point, step in and go "Right, I best take over because we're coming onto making this little things heart now, and there's ventricles and chambers, and you really wanna get that stuff right, right?" My body, and brain got on with it and made a beautiful child without me really noticing, until my belly expanded pretty hugely.
But now taking care of a baby is a different thing, instincts, intuition, organisation, physical, emotional, attachments, hormones- it all kicks off pretty quickly....and it doesn't go away; it is ever changing and relentless. Your child is always growing and becoming who they are, as you are constantly changing and reworking who you are and who you are becoming. You are creating a relationship with one another that will always be changing within the solid structure that unconditional love provides. I don't believe that a baby is a blank sheet, and I believe in nurturing your child's nature, but as a parent I have a unique responsibility in helping that tiny person become who they are happiest becoming, who they really are- and I want to help and support her on that journey.
The thing about full time jobs is that they are usually 37.5 hours per week, and of course a baby doesn't work to that schedule, we work to theirs. I am on my babies time, and I work around her and what interests me about this is that I know people who have full time jobs to pay their rent or mortgages and who continue their creative projects after hours, and that takes dedication; and I suppose is why people often refer to their creative projects and business as their babies, the attachment is that strong. I once read that Samuel Beckett described writing as a way of breathing; at the time I thought this was the kind of pretentious comment only someone that acclaimed and famous could get away with; but I am starting to understand. Self expression is an incredibly important part of being a human and being alive, living an authentic life. The dedication people give to their human babies is akin to what some give to their creative projects, waking up to write or paint all times of night- I don't have that demand tugging at me, for me it is only a human baby that will rouse me from my bed at night, to feed and keep her alive and happy. Having a baby isn't an opportunity for me to express myself through her, she is not like a creative project in that sense, but I, with all my ancestoral patterns, my genetic predisposition, my mind, my love and my energy will contribute to the shaping of her; and this I am learning requires constantly being conscious of my own behaviour, being open to learn from her and what she needs, when, how and what. And this is the most full time job I have ever and will ever have.
Mythology is metaphor, symbolism and archetypal all at once, which is why it is still relevant, alive and important because every character we know and love is clobbered together with the ashes of mythology, stories collectively written by our ancestors. One God from Greek mythology is often overlooked and or avoided because of the coldness he can bestow. However, with depression and mental health challenges rising around the globe I think Hades can help.
This God of the underworld only appears in one Greek Myth, that of Persephone and Demeter- and it is a myth of descent. He rules 'the underworld' a place that mortals and even Gods cannot descend to unless they want to stay there; however Persephone his stolen wife, can. In this myth she goes from Kore to Queen, from an innocent child to a woman ruler, and back again. It is the descent that we ascend to be more than we had ever thought we were destined to become. Every mythology had an underworld and in its most negative form is called hell and fire and damnation are the order of the day. Hel was in fact the Norse queen of the underworld and Hel became Hell in the English language. The Celtic lord of death was known as Helman and the underworld became known as a place of death. What got left out was the rebirth bit, which is actually what taking a descent is all about, unfortunately to get to the rebirth one must first encounter Hades or Hel or Helman or Irkalla from the Mesopotamian mythology, our ancestors knew this and understood that alchemy the hope of turning base metal into gold, is all about death and rebirth. I cannot say that I know for sure but I imagine they might think that taking anti-depressants, although occasionally life saving aren't life giving and somewhat miss the point in that they treat the symptom and not the cause.
Depression isn't always the same as descending, but it can be an opportunity to. All too often there is a temptation to keep the tidal wave of emotion at bay. In the myth of Persephone and Demeter an out-of-the-blue trauma occurs, Hades abducts her, and so, like depression, she is stolen away to the dark depths. Yet what is not always explained is that in descending we can finally take a deep, long, solitary, silent look into ourselves, our soul, our flaws, the lies we have told to ourselves and others and in facing this finally we might discover that there is nothing to fear but fear itself. For Hades was also a keeper of treasures, and as many people who have been through hardship note in the aftermath, they are richer for the experience. Depression is a symptom of something else going on- and perhaps this is on a wider societal and cultural level, for how often do we hear that it is "self indulgent" and pretentious to go looking into yourself, how often does mainstream media poke fun at "hippies and free love", even in elections we are told that it is stupid and a waste of a vote to vote for the green party- a party who's very name shows it has at its heart that it has a heart, it professes to care for our home, and all of us. No wonder depression is on the rise. As Alan Watts so wonderfully puts it, you can't stay down here like a little mouse pretending to be poor little me who has no influence over things. And he is so right! Does it truly make it easier for us to pretend to be powerless, to wince at the idea of over going deeper, so that we might be acting from a place of consciousness and care for ourselves and others? And this is why sometimes it is necessary for Hades to abduct us, drag us kicking and screaming into his realm where we might begin to truly find ourselves, and all the riches that lie within. It was thought unlucky to speak his name and so Hades was also known as 'The rich one" and "The invisible one" giving clues to what might be found in a descent to his home. Perhaps we might all be a little richer if we practiced more self reflection, a task that becomes trickier as the demands of modern life encourage us to move faster and faster.
The difficulty with descents is that they don't just happen once, life is a series of peaks and troughs, mountains and valleys, they are almost binary opposites which must go together, like the laws of gravity what goes up must come down, and the avoidance or denial§ of one results in imbalance and will become problematic, either by some vague sense of dissatisfaction with life, or something more serious; for Hades is a God like any other, and as such he must be honoured.
For a long time I have felt on the brink, the threshold of becoming, whom, I wasn't sure- but one more course, one more year, one more cash injection and I would be there. I would have arrived.
This I have learned is my Wanderer Archetype coming into play, and the inter- part of me, and it isn't all bad. For one thing The Wanderer sees ilfe as an adventure and isn't afraid of upping sticks and moving. Check. I have done this too many times to remember. The prefix inter means to be "between, betwixt, amongst, in the midst of." In this sense we are always betwixt and between something, some search or other. But my 'inter-ness' has specifically focused upon my life path and what I am doing here; reading around the wanderer archetype- which is actually one archetype I avoided looking into, knowing somewhere that it would strike a painful chord, because I have been living out this life of betwixt and between for a while now. Unable to settle into one type of profession after my degree in English, I travelled a bit, I worked here and there in many different roles, all at the same time. In a day I would go from being an administrator to an after school club drama facilitator, then onto working at a bar in a theatre.
Being very often in my Wanderer energy I liked and would define myself in direct opposition of a conformist norm, I had lots of different jobs, usually quite arty ones and I remember my mother happily saying, "I've read this thing in the paper- you're a portfolio worker apparently. Now I have something to call you."This was all ok because I was in my early twenties, and then slowly my mid twenties, and soon I realised that the big 30 was peeping its head over a hill, which I was walking briskly towards and something had to change.
The thing is I have been institutionalised, attending a Military boarding school for 7 years, 11-18, will do that to you. But I believe we all are, in that institutions run as hierarchical organisations, a top down system, a microcosm to our capitalist society's macrocosm. In this hierarchical mode of growing up, I have; I suppose, yearned to have a title, to BE something other people understand...and respect! Yet as I bounced and flapped my way through my twenties and beyond- nothing seemed to suit me, or fit me. All the available, cardboard cut outs, copy and pasted job roles and titles didn't work with or for me. What SHOULD I do?
Fortunately I have always had an innate trust in life, and when I go with it- it does tend to work out for me. I applied once to one university and got a place at Central School of Speech and Drama to study their Sesame Drama and Movement Therapy course! Amazing! I was going to be a dramatherapist. I would have a title and EVERYTHING. I would know what I did and who I am because someone, nay, an institution was going to tell me! Yippee!
I am now a Drama and Movement Therapist (MA) I am great at studying, looking for, analysing and being curious, which is why I was curious to know why, after being so qualified, I still wasn't earning the money I had hoped, or working with those I wanted to support and help. Even though I now have a vocation, most people in the mainstream don't know what drama and movement therapy is, and to be honest I am beginning to find having a title is limiting to what I want to offer as a service to others, and so I find myself betwixt and between again and wanting to move beyond.
In fairy tales the Wanderers story usually begins in captivity, the prisoner of some witch or beast or awful creature, symbolizing the status quo (Pearson) they must flee a hemmed in life for adventure. As we grow older and assume responsibilities we are told how hard life becomes, how dull and colourless it is and older generations, especially parents are sometimes quick to state that certain things are only achievable at a certain age and so the call to adventure is not only being judged by our peers, our parents and our society, but also ourselves, perhaps what Paulo Frere would call our 'internal oppressor.' The pressure to conform is huge, but the pressure of living an inauthentic life is suffocating. If the hemmed in character in the fairy tale doesn't leave to follow their call, there is no adventure, there is not much of a story; just a greying prince or princess and a rotting turret.
And I am not alone in my inter-ness; many of my friends would describe themselves as 'kid-aults' seemingly unable or unwilling to adopt the responsibilities our parents seemed to take on, and moan about. What I am learning through becoming a parent is that responsibility can in fact contain me, and reminds me I once read that creativity, in order to become anything creative at all, needs to be bound by a strict routine or structure; it is like the pipe which allows the water to come flowing through. Without structure I am just wandering, ideas, feelings and intentions flit away into nothingness., but with containment these musings may one day become something, creation which can be seen through to birthing, nurturing and being unpegged and unleashed.
But the inter-ness remains with me, because that is what growing and growth is. We are never completed, finished and polished, but always a work in progress and bumbling, or flying or stomping through somewhere in the story of us. The Wanderer archetype can be a great source of strength, and a mercurial place where transformation occurs. It can hold some of the most creative thoughts, feelings and visions and in this space of searching we are often our most open to new ideas and new ways of being- which can only be for the best; a great gift for the evolution of humankind.
Those Who Look Outwards Dream, Those Who Look Inwards Awaken- Carl Jung
I spoke with a friend of mine who work in the NHS and who is also a mindfulness coach, she is employed to run CBT sessions for individuals, and although CBT works well for some people, like a lot in life, it doesn't work for everyone. She manages to weave in her mindfulness techniques to help those who connect with it, and it seems to really really help many who see her, however, because of her employment she must write in her notes only the CBT techniques that she used in sessions.
So what does this do to the research, the statistics and the cultural understanding? Put very simply, it makes CBT seem to be the best approach for everyone. The truth is that we are, whether we try to deny it or not, multifaceted, complex beings. We live in a society in which schools grade us from very early in our lives and often tell us that we are "good" or "bad" at something- even if over the last 50 years the language has softened, the message is the same.
We also contend with the idea that there are important subjects to study, and less important subjects to study, and in this way we are being conditioned to be industrialised at an early age. Arts are often considered to be "soft" studies, without having much of a way to earn an income, unless you are one of the few to be called "excellent" and hailed as special.
I believe that every single human being on the planet is creative, in that we are a created being, and we go on creating throughout our lives, whether we are cooking a meal, baking a cake, making and birthing a baby, having a conversation, creating a new relationship; creativity isn't just an act of painting or writing, we all do it, multiple times a day. Every thought is a creation that may become an action, and this action could change the world.
We now live better than we have ever lived in terms of food availability and health care, and yet depression, drug and alcohol dependancy and mental health issues are on the rise. Much of this is passed onto the NHS as a medical problem, however it is a social, family and community problem, and what I am gearing up to stating is that the denial of ourselves as creative beings, who see the symbolic in all that we are, and the Earth that we live on, is adding greatly to our collective problem, because we repress and deny a huge part of ourselves. See my article on the Spritiual and the symbolic. And worse than this, many of us wouldn't dare to write, draw, paint, dance or even sing which was once a huge part of the collective and self expression, for our fear of failing, or it not being "Good."
Then, confusingly, famous modern artists produce something that many of my mothers generation consider to be "rubbish" and they are told that actually, you have it wrong, Tracy Emmin's bed is symbolic and actually very very clever. You clearly then are not clever. Shame on you.
It comes with huge consequences when we try to deny the true self, when we only live to achieve, to produce or to be admired by people we don't know or care about. When we live a false life and are inauthentic with ourselves it can become painful to be alive. I know of people who have attempted suicide because of this, and yet, outwardly they are the very vision of success and achievement our society promotes. But to go inwards, to really examine and explore the beauty and wonder that is you can be frightening, and it take bravery, and so let us do away with the attitude to keep pushing outwards, keep looking out there because there's too much of this naval gazing stuff going on.
We are still evolving as a species, as a group and perhaps this is the next great conquest, to begin to look inwards, to reconnect with us and what our values are, and how creative we all are. Because this work is not a whimsy, not a self indulgent act but one of the utmost importance, because we are, we ALL are beings creating every day, with a responsibility to one another and our world, and in our glorious creations we can decide whether to create a happy, beautiful environment for us all to thrive in; or not. It is our choice, and we can begin to consciously create our reality and therefore others, right now.