Piercing Encapsulated Trauma: Three Crones Receive the Knife

Posted August 14, 2019 by chuck bender
Categories: Communications from the Dream Time, Complexes and More, Connecting the Dots Series, Dream, Initiation, Soul

Tags: , ,

I want to offer this dream in support of recognizing the issue of how to access encapsulated trauma complexes. Healing requires the dismantling of the defenses which were our survival; one must first cure the partial cure.

11-29-12 Thursday 4:56: Very vivid, short dream with three of us, all women. I’m one of the them, and I am also myself, observing my woman-self as if standing behind and looking over my crone self’s shoulder. We are standing together in a kitchen and we understand we are dead, or have died, and its not a problem for us. The focus turns to the idea, the recognition of the timing being right, for giving and receiving the knife. This is a ritual process we are in charge of doing periodically. It is somehow vitally important we attend to this for the sake of the community. The woman opposite me pulls out several ancient, long curved bladed knives and with great intention brings one forward towards the belly of the woman on my left, making contact and slowly plunging it into her; the movement is a bit downward; I/we can all feel it going in deeply. Then, slowly withdrawing the blade, she turns to see me, signaling now it will be my turn to receive the knife. I seem to ready myself for this by involuntarily shuddering and leaning first forward, leading with my head/chin pulling up and back, offering my belly, and then, intensely anticipating the knife finding my belly, I can’t help flinching and pulling slightly back. I am struck by how deeply I can feel this wounding, penetrating me to my core, opening me up completely; there is a moment of tremendous surrender and release of pitiful grief as I fully experience receiving the knife. Coming out of this deep practicing of having been pierced, I am silently, through my tears, attentive to what will happen immediately, my turn… I am thinking, yes, this is what we do; this is what it is like, it happens like this to all of us. It is painful. This is the way it is.”

At the time I had this dream, my sense was it was a compensatory dream pointing to my ongoing vulnerability to inflation; this offered a radical image of deflation. The intensity and directness of the action suggested I was/am experienced in the giving and receiving of this primary wound. The ritual, anchored by ritual elders, crones in this instance, seemed to be in the service of supporting the community/collective to be continuously aware of the reality of ongoing sacrifices, both conscious, in this case, but also unconscious. A contemporary example of this would be government actions which seem completely removed from the profound impact on the children separated from their parents, without notice.

My analyst offered what seemed to me to be a very helpful interpretation. He suggested the crone on my left represented the opening of encapsulated trauma. While I have been able to grasp the conceptual meaning of this dynamic in this regard, the dream provided a direct experience of the relationship between role of the encapsulation in defending against previously unbearable trauma, in contrast to gaining direct access in the service healing: this piercing of the encapsulation is necessary for one to access the original wound directly.

From this perspective, this sequence signals progress on the continuum of my personal work to “cure the cure”.

In order to access our wounds directly for purposes of healing the split one must both suffer and bear witness to an immersion into the original affects. As Donald Kalsched has observed, for this to occur, a deconstruction of the partial cure defenses is required.

One more comment for now: We clearly have problems with inflation at the collective level. At this level, it seems the three crones are keeping the vigil for all who may not be able to choose deflation. At the human, personal and couple work level, how often do we put our partner in the position of delivering a necessarily deflating message? What might be going on here for you?

Making a Case for Trauma Complexes: Mending the Tear that Always shows…

Posted June 12, 2019 by chuck bender
Categories: Author, Complexes and More, Connecting the Dots Series, Conscious Enactment, Initiation, Learning to Think and Work Symbolically, Poems, Soul

I just decided to open this with a Neal Young lyric from Round and Round.

“Round and round and round we spin,
To weave a wall to hem us in,
It won’t be long, it won’t be long
How slow and slow and slow it goes,
To mend the tear that always shows.
It won’t be long, it won’t be long.”

What is with mending the tear that always shows? I am thinking this tear that always shows captures symbolically the universal experience of the time we encountered something beyond our emotional breaking point. Then, something has to give; symbolically, a tear accommodates this unbearable strain. Stein and Stein, in their discussion of Psychotherapy, Initiation and the Midlife Transition, suggest that these days, in the absence of formal rights of passage rituals for most westerners, the therapy setting can provide the container for transformative ritual processes. They reference the art and science of maieutics – midwifery – as an image for containing and supporting psyche in what is essentially a birthing process: the ego suffers a symbolic death in the process of getting more deeply connected to the guiding Self. The greater consciousness (Self) can not come through the lessor (ego) without a death.

I have suggested that in the absence of good enough ritual elders, traumas can be lived through, but remain essentially incomplete intitiatory experiences. At some point, in the midlife or later, we need to open up this encapsulated, episodic memory centered trauma complex in order to re-integrate the split off material and thereby gain conscious wisdom in the ways of the world.

Had an elder been present at the time of the original insult/injury, something like an episiotomy might have been indicated and offered, to mange the inevitability of the tear, in the service of enabling the birth of the greater awareness, while minimizing the scar tissue.

Here, below, I am trying on the idea that our universal challenge is each of us has suffered a tear somewhere along the way. For me, this tear points to the reality one has suffered through, survived, a core wound; this is a wound of disconnect. We then put in place all manner of workarounds.  Might we just accept and support, together, recognizing any and all lost and/or rejected parts of ourselves? (see not-me (Bromberg) For me the Bromberg frame recognizes all kinds of highly individualized modules of being,waiting to be invited back in; what I am talking about here is the idea that there is indeed a primary, ground zero tear that is the tear that always shows.

I believe Robert Johnson has describe this as the Fisher King wound; the wound which never heals, experienced/received at the time we first registered an emotional overwhelm which our consciousness at the time could not contain.

Walking it through:

You know, we’ve all had our troubles.

Something comes along, at some point, that you just can’t hold; consciousness is ruptured, overwhelmed; one becomes two.

Blessed psyche – blessed as in life saving – comes in and facilitates, manages, finesses this tear; we get split, disconnected, separated within our self. Symbolically, this psychological dismemberment is recorded as a death.

New defenses arise, support workarounds, adaptations. We get through, or not.

These wound-generated defenses form the basis of the partial cure. Partial in that it employs dissociation to cover up the reality of the now-buried-to-consciousness disconnect. Amnesia assists, amnesia for the amnesia enables. We go about our business.

For some, perhaps many or even most, this partial cure may be enough.

But, the fact is, until we can gain access, debride and bring healing into the primary wound, we will be characterologically challenged. Incapable of risking vulnerability, self-self and self-other communications will be burdened by an unseen constraint/constriction.

The partial cure at best functions as kind of governor on one’s ability to feel the feelings which inform emotional intimacy.

Healing this split requires we bridge this divide with consciousness.

Bridging the divide starts with bearing witness to the reality of the chasm.

Creating, embracing a mature consciousness which can priortize staying grounded enough, connected enough, safe enough, to hold the energies of the original split without splitting, is a big first step. This is the place of bearing witness. We recognize the importance of learning to open and hold steady, as we can, in the experience of an immersion into the images and affects which required the split at the time of the overwhelm. Rilke’s image of A Man Watching comes to mind here:

“I can tell by the way the trees beat, after
so many dull days, on my worried windowpanes
that a storm is coming,
and I hear the far-off fields say things
I can’t bear without a friend,
I can’t love without a sister.”

How can we hear, bear, love, in the face of such distress?

Our work is with the partial cure until such time as we can gain access to the hidden disconnect. I am thinking Jung and Donald Kalsched’s work with the divided self complex frame* is about this issue at a radical level. Perhaps it will be helpful to think about a hierarchical short list of events/episodes/scenes contributing to the composite divided self complex.

Accessing the split off trauma complex, suffering an affective immersion into the dissociated experience, heals the split. (See Sandner/Beebe on healing splits)

Understanding conceptually that increasing consciousness and well being puts one in the position to surface one’s inventory of split off episodes of trauma, one by one, sounds daunting. Really? Must I/we go there?

Gaining access to original, encapsulated scenes requires a shift in the defenses that have been deployed to maintain the encapsulation. In his discussions about the nature of Sacred Space, Robert Moore observed when sacred space is present, that which is a source of conflict for the individual or group will come in; sacred space pulls for the de-structuring of the ego, which in turn then allows for contact with that which is seeking to come into awareness. See Eliade.

With the piercing of the encapsulation, a direct, re-experiencing of the wounding becomes possible; the image and affect scene/picture of the whole-body-being-torn-in-two, the primary split, comes into view.

The experience of the relaxing of the typically decades long defense against re-membering the reality of the wound already suffered, is usually accompanied by a profound sense of relief, as one finally gets to consciously know what one has always known. This coming home to one’s self is the felt experience of re-establishing the connection with one’s lost self.

It is the completion of the incomplete initiatory experience.

*This link connects to a short essay I wrote about my divided self complex and includes references to Kalsched’s work in Trauma and the Soul, Kalsched, D. (2013) London: Routledge.

Thinking About Microfractures (Again!)

Posted April 25, 2019 by chuck bender
Categories: Connecting the Dots Series, Learning to Think and Work Symbolically, Transference and Countertransference

In am bringing to the top page an earlier post titled: Microfractures in Communication: So What’s the Big Deal? Check out the post and take a moment to go to the Wilkinson link for the description of the importance of the rupture, repair, and reconciliation cycle. This is as good as it gets in terms of recognizing the importance of getting triggered.

One of the most important concepts to get working in your own language is captured in this single powerful quote within a  quote:

“… microfractures in communication between patient and analyst are vital because they allow the transference to become ‘the engine of analysis, by contributing raw material from the patient’s internal world and history’.” See  Wilkinson on Microfractures

This observation applies to the transference arising in our personal relationships as well. We all need a way to recognize the raw material which will find a way to present its bill, as Alice Miller observed.

Emotionally charged reactions to what might normally be considered small breakdowns in our communication point directly to the raw material of unfinished emotional business.

In a blur moment, the hurt or offense taken by one or both parties at some level can be understood or seen as an out-picturing of an experiential state scene.

The quote suggests these unintended ruptures, in letting the raw material into the space we hold together, become the engine of the analysis. These are the grist for the mill. While we can always try to do our best, planning for the inevitable microfractures that will show up allows us embrace the blur with awareness and curiosity, not negative judgement. What can we learn about ourselves, each other? (see discussion on getting one’s buttons pushed)

This is another way to understand the positive aspect of “healing only occurs in the blur.” We need to support the necessity of going there with enough consciousness to gain our freedom from the unconsciousness driving the re-enactment of the wounding.

From the Author of “It’s Not Always Depression”

Posted March 1, 2019 by chuck bender
Categories: Complexes and More, Connecting the Dots Series, Images of the Self, Learning to Think and Work Symbolically

While attending the Accelerated Experiential Dynamic Psychotherapy (AEDP) Immersion training last month, Hilary Jacobs Hendel’s book It’s Not Always Depression was identified as a very important offering reflecting the fundamentals of how AEDP works to address transformative change. She apparently has been able to strike a nerve in the collective, helping lay people and professionals alike understand the importance of identifying core realities about family of origin issues, including neglect, trauma, etc.

I did attend a presentation years ago by a mental health managed care company orienting primary care physicians to the importance of helping patients recognize their depression or anxiety profiles as biological, setting up the primary intervention as biochemical. For me, the unintended(?) consequence of this was it discouraged physicians from believing in the importance of their role in standing in for the good enough ritual elder, who, in caring about your life and your troubles, helps you believe in your goodness, and your resources, in finding a way to better manage life’s joys and sorrows. I knew at the time this was message was just plain wrong and said so. It was a spirited debate, but, alas, many good people, providers and patients alike, continue to believe in the need to treat depression as a disease, not a reaction to human life situations.* (see comment below) I do appreciate the important role medications can play in the mobilization and recovery process, but we all are in need of support to recognize our life trajectory, and create a narrative which strives to hold the joys and sorrows which are both our ancestral inheritance and the source of enlivenment and meaning.

I just received an email from the AEDP list serve from Hilary and at first glance, find her blog to be chock full of helpful information. A recent posting demonstrating how she works with the change triangle is very clear and concise. See: https://www.hilaryjacobshendel.com/what-is-the-change-triangle-c18dd

Poking around, I see she has a series of four posts discussing “Getting to Know Your Three Brains”. See: https://www.hilaryjacobshendel.com/single-post/2018/04/09/Getting-To-Know-Your-3-Brains-Part-1-How-Brain-Knowledge-Helps. These are very focused daily process guides to correcting one’s one-sidedness, in the direction of hearing from our minds, emotions, and bodies. She identifies the Self as the core consciousness which can function as the Maestro in the orchestra of the three brains: mind, emotion, and body.

With response ease in mind, I wanted to post these resources and encourage you to check out her work. She seems to be an embodied translator of the AEDP process work, with very accessible applications for self-guiding this work.

Once again, it is curious to me about the way this model identifies the role of Self without any explicit cross referencing to Jung’s original work with Self, ie: ego-Self axis. I find this fascinating and exciting, in that it suggests to me an intersection of depth processes. In the mid 1990’s when I attended an update on self-psychology with my early psychoanalytic mentor Rowe Mortimer, I was delighted to hear him describe how the psychoanalytic schools think about internalized others, ie: mother, father, as “active, dynamic, willing entities. This language seemed a perfect, yes, I said PERFECT bridge to what I had been learning about Jung’s complex theory. It is just this bridge that is at the center of my explorations here: the interface between the experiential state‘s self-other-affect, and the nuclei of a trauma complex, reflecting the archetypal layer evoked by the emotional overwhelm. See: https://healingintheblur.com/2017/08/01/complexes-as-bridge-to-the-symbolic-world/

From my work, the archetypal layer and realm of the complexes contributes a depth which speaks to the possibilities of just how episodic memories of trauma get stored and are indeed waiting to be re-discovered by ego consciousness, in the service of healing original wounds. To be continued.

Couple Experiential State Complex as Activated Threshold

Posted February 2, 2019 by chuck bender
Categories: Uncategorized

I am in Florida this week attending a five day Accelerated Experiential Dynamic Psychotherapy (AEDP) Immersion training with Diana Fosha, PhD. With two full days in, I am very happy and excited to report her model, with it’s experiential focus on the transformational experiences, seems to be a field guide for working with the blur. I am so looking forward to differentiating my work with AEDP!

Below is a page I first posted in 2012. I am re-posting it to highlight a few details. More on those later.

In recognizing the presence of emotion as the indicator the unconscious is activating, and in appreciation of the understanding healing only occurs in the blur, we are ready to consider the possibility that getting one’s buttons pushed is just what the doctor ordered. How might we recognize psyche’s timing as an opportunity for spontaneous healing and embrace the opening?

A Couple Experiential State Complex activation brings to the here and now the direct experience of one’s core family of origin vulnerability. Infused with the emotion of the dream-time, this co-created complex sets the stage and provides the script and props essential to facilitating a re-enactment of the wounding. Without considerable effort to understand and keep connected to consciousness, once constellated, the couple experiential state complex is likely to defeat the individual and couple’s best ego-based intentions. While it might seem wise to learn how to extinguish the complex, this approach doesn’t take into account the important meaning and role of complexes.

“During early traumas, our emerging egos split-off and repress aspects of the psyche that parents, siblings, or society found unacceptable. These split-off aspects could be thoughts, feelings, images, or associations. Often they are valuable and worth recall. They may carry hidden talents, intuitions, abilities, or accurate feelings that would make our personalities wiser and more complete if we could integrate them. Until reintegration can occur, our psyches are like the pieces of a broken mirror, which hold in fragments what was once a complete reflection.” (Moore, Robert, and Gillette, Douglas, The King Within, pp.32 33.)

However valuable as they may be, when it comes to opening to suffering them through, it is understandable to resist such opportunities to incarnate these entities. By definition they are the missing connections to the most unbearable experiences of our childhood, specifically the highly charged split-off images and affects at the center of the complex. Acknowledging their existence let alone consciously attempting to experience them directly is counter intuitive to the ego’s self preservation instincts (Edinger on Mortificatio).

Recovering one’s wholeness necessitates that at some point we embrace unbearable split off trauma in the service of suffering it through. On a side note, my long term care consultations offered the opportunity to bear witness to the return of the repressed: if one lives long enough to become demented, that which one’s defenses have kept out of conscious awareness will begin to resurface. With cognitive faculties on the ropes, these storms of affect can wreck havoc on the now beleaguered mind. Suffering through that which could not be borne consciously at an earlier time is what is required to complete the initiation.

Donald Sander and John Beebe (1985) have observed:

“Working through any split requires not only dis-identification by the ego from the more familiar pole of the complex, but also affective recognition of the contrary pole. Such recognition requires immersion in the side that has been unconscious. There is an unconscious tendency toward wholeness and relief of tension that fosters the emergence, under accepting conditions such as analysis, of the repressed pole. The consequence is that at least temporary possession by unfamiliar contents is a regular part of the life and of the analytic process, an inevitable prelude to the integration of unconscious portions of the Self.” (Jungian Analysis, edited by Murray Stein, pp. 331-332.)

In other words, the experience of remembering that which was dismembering at the time of the original overwhelm requires the ego submit to “at least temporary possession by unfamiliar contents.” What seems unfamiliar to the ego is the experience of finding itself immersed in the historically split off image and affect. This is the blur. 

Staying conscious in the here and now experience of the blur, as a betwixt and between, waking dream infused state of consciousness, supports us in recognizing the blur as an activated threshold. From a psychological perspective, this encounter with the blur for me represents the ego’s experience of approaching the Self, with as much consciousness as it can bear. Remember, the ego is wired for something like 110 voltage, and the Self is wired for 220 on up to 10,000 volts. Considering Edinger’s observation the collective unconscious does transcend time and space, we can only imagine the ego’s challenges, as the “agent of the Self in time,” in attempting to peer into the unconscious; this is something like being afforded an opportunity to look into eternity.

In this aspect, the Couple Experiential State Complex, when activated, captures and embodies the breadth and depth of the ego’s here and now experience when infused by the archetypal, eternal realm of the Self. From this perspective, it symbolizes the universe of possible meanings and interpretations. In this moment, however, it provides the opportunity to enter into an encounter with that which is presenting for healing, here, now.

Random(?) Dream Postings

Posted January 18, 2019 by chuck bender
Categories: Uncategorized

FYI: Poking around in my unpublished-to-date stuff, I found a couple of earlier dreams and thought I would post them as stand alone window into psyche. The Eye Fetish dream below is one of several in a sequence which set a future discussion on archaic human longing. It dawns on me I could put all the dreams in a file…some day.

From the Dream Time: An Eye Fetish

Posted January 18, 2019 by chuck bender
Categories: Author, Communications from the Dream Time, Complexes and More, Dream, Images of the Self

During an hour this past week, in reflecting on an apparent mismatch in enthusiasm between two family members, and the amount of suffering this produced, consciously, for one of the party, the issue of archaic human longing came up. The dream below is one of several which moved me towards a deeply felt experience of this. I will be looking through my archives for a couple more in series as part of bringing this forward. As a stand alone dream, this one is pretty fun in terms of the sheer intensity of the energy. I had the dream the second night into a week long gathering of men with Robert Bly, Robert Moore, Malidoma Some and others, in the primitive Mendocino Woodlands Camp.

July 24, 1991: I woke up at 4:30 AM with a long dream in mind; details fuzzy/sharp and excessive. Doing men’s work here at Mendocino Camp; On and on and on; making shit, talking shit, doing shit; singing and dancing and drumming and imagining.

After all this stuff, what a mess of bodies and stuff happening everywhere, all over, all the time. Robert Bly picks up a little piece of wood I had painted to look like a green snake(?) eye; blue eye, mottled green and white serpents shape; fashioned from a stick with a knot in the center, or maybe plywood, jigged out, and painted. Pretty crude representation at that.

I’m delighted at his interest in something I made. “Why do you want that thing Robert? What is so special about it to you?” He just laughs that big grin and says: “I just like the feel of it, you know…” and caresses it in his fingers and moves on.

EyeFetishDream1.22.14I woke up somewhat disoriented, having gone to sleep with one ear plug in (snoring in the cabin) and decided to go outside with my journal to write it down. The moon was overhead, moving powerfully through the sky channel created by the creek running through the very tall old growth forest. After writing it down and spending some time with it, I went in to the Lodge and painted the image. Just when I was finishing doing so, I heard the voice of an elder coming down the path, quietly singing, who, coming into the lodge to get a cup of tea, walked up to me, took a long look at me, my painting, and then back at me, and said: “Something’s happened! When you are ready, we must talk!” Later that week, we did.