Archive for the ‘Initiation’ category

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

June 12, 2019

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 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.

Luminous Wolf, Shared Piercing Dream

January 18, 2019

January 26, 2009 Dream: “My friends are giving me a medal, to be ‘pinned’ on my left flank, belly. I’m apprehensive, say ‘are you going to use rubbing alcohol on that large pin?’

Just then, a luminous wolf crosses from left to right in front of me. Hard to say how far, how close, her actual size, as she seems to be arriving from another dimension. Very healthy with a full silvery black coat, and surrounded by an incredible aura. She stops, turns her head over her right shoulder, to gaze at me. I notice, as part of her energetic aura, from her left flank, extending above her back, is a large arrow shaft, with feathers, suggesting she has an embedded arrow point in her left side, about where I am to be pierced. Her aura incorporates the arrow, as if she is living with it in vibrant health…”

WolfPiercedbyArrowDreamSelected

Waking Reflections: What struck me was how healthy she was, while still carrying the evidence of a likely mortal wound. Still, energetically, this arrow wasn’t limiting her presence and power.

In the dream it seems I am about to receive a blessing from the Spirit Brothers, a medal of some kind, in recognition of my relationship to my wound. (Unpublished back story) The pinning itself will be a flesh offering. At this moment the Wolf appears, affirming our work from the dream time. YES, she shows us, one’s wound need not be the death of one’s vitality. Something like that. Associations to the pelican piercing her own breast, the piercing of Jesus’ side on the cross, and the Sun Dance ceremony all come to mind.

And, we might ask, who is she, showing up with such vibrancy and generating such an incredible aura? An image of the Self? A transrational presence/being?

The Importance of Getting Triggered

September 15, 2018

Thinking about my conceptual frame Couple Experiential State Complex as Activated Threshold, I have been struck this week by the importance of focusing on tracking when we, self and others, get emotionally triggered.

By using the word triggered, I am hoping to tap into our collective, universal sense of knowing we are getting hijacked by something intensely emotional. As in getting one’s button(s) pushed.

A classic extreme example referenced in the early diagnostic manual for PTSD is if you were raped in an elevator, just seeing an elevator can evoke or trigger intense emotional and physiological reactions.

I have been making the case a spike in emotional intensity is the simplest indication we are activating/activated, announcing to all who can perceive, the presence of the blur.

From this perspective, if/when a microfracture in communication pulls us into a blur state, how can we recognize the conflict as meaningful? Might this really be an unbidden, spontaneous opportunity for healing? What if there is no such thing as fighting over little stuff?

Fred Kaufman has a post on LinkedIn Every Emotion Is A Love Story. I find this to be a great opener. If we can trust the emotion is right, but our consciousness of context and setting may be confused, we can turn our energies towards trying to drop into the deeper story. As Rumi advises in A Night Full of Talking: Everything has to do with loving and not loving. If we try on making the case the emotion is correct, how can we access the trauma complex driving the blur? Under what circumstances is this present overwhelming emotion appropriate?

Preparing oneself to enter into such a healing moment includes learning to see the power struggle as a co-created complex. From this perspective, the ritualistic elements reflect what we think of as repetition compulsions or re-enactments of the wounding. In alignment with Bromberg’s description of co-created dissociative enactments, these serve to bring the essence of the original wounding, with it’s associated transference and countertransference dance, palpably into the present moment.

In his discussion of the complexes, in their favorable aspect, John Perry observes: “The repetition compulsion, as has been pointed out so often, provides the ego the occasion again and again to encounter these rejected components of development in order finally to assimilate them in some happy moments….” My sense of what he means by “rejected components of development” is simply the recognition the absence of an elder presence allowed the violation to overwhelm the vulnerable child or adult, necessitating the activation of archetypal layer defenses, ie: a trauma complex. What was needed at the time to understand and work through the emotional overwhelm is still needed. I have played with this in thinking about the function  complexes serve in my Musing on Metamorphosis: the Complex as Chrysalis post. I have to confess for me, teleology is a big word! But, I believe it works!

In closing, I have included the graphic above to highlight the Participation Mystique &/or Trauma Portal detail.  We are all involved all of the time with some deeper level of consciousness, a multiplicity of self-states if you will, which wants to inform us about what more is going on. Because I tend to think about getting hijacked into negative emotion enactments, I find the idea getting triggered serves the blur’s function in opening a portal into the associated trauma. The repetitive couple complex enactments do seem to provide a portal into our most painful relationship failings.

Clearly, we need each other to approach going there. What is needed may be as simple, and as difficult, as dropping into the original scene, so that we may feel all of it, within relationship, bear witness together, and get the story told. (See Sandner and Beebe for an articulation of what it takes to heal a split.) This reflects the conceptual notion traumas, until they can be suffered consciously in the service of re-integration, are incomplete initiatory experiences. Creating the conditions, essentially accessing a consciousness that can bear to suffer the wounding without splitting, is the work.

If we can only hold onto the here and now, this world enactment – what you/he/she/they did or did not do to uphold our loving – we are doomed to continue with our co-created dissociated enactments.

Why not make a dedicated effort to sit with our deeper selves? We have to find a way to get to what was my part in initiating or participating in the dissociation just now? Can we strive to bear to feel as vulnerable as we may be feeling? To be continued…

Connecting the Dots: A Case for Embracing Conscious Enactment

June 8, 2016

My intention with this post, the first in my connecting the dots series of posts, is to pull from my pages the cluster of most helpful frames on universal problems and needs, in language everyone can hope to get working for themselves. Like it or not, we are all agents of consciousness, and when we can understand the importance of our conflicts in bringing us back into the wound that never seems to heal, we can perhaps access the guidance available within us to win our healing, self and other, together, in some happy moment. , It is, after all, a co-created system. This dot is about death and rebirth. Here we go.

Let’s start with a poem by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, “The Holy Longing”:

“Tell a wise person, or else keep silent,
because the mass man will mock it right away.
I praise what is truly alive,
what longs to be burned to death.

In the calm water of the love-nights,
where you were begotten, where you have begotten,
a strange feeling comes over you,
when you see the silent candle burning.

Now you are no longer caught in the obsession with darkness,
and a desire for higher love-making sweeps you upward.

Distance does not make you falter.
Now, arriving in magic, flying,
and finally, insane for the light,
you are the butterfly and you are gone.
And so long as you haven’t experienced this: to die and so to grow,
you are only a troubled guest on the dark earth.”

Translated from the German by Robert Bly

The opening Tell a wise person, or else keep silent is cautionary. It seems Goethe knows something about the mass man who will mock it right away. I believe he is referring to this same mass man when he suggests And so long as you haven’t experienced this: to die and so to grow, you are only a troubled guest on the dark earth.

Until we are able to bring consciousness to our experiences of death and rebirth, we will be a troubled guest on a dark earth. This is an initiatory process. Learning to get one’s binocular vision back on line – the capacity to look both out and in with consciousness  – separates one from the herd. Honoring the reality of inner work puts one at risk for being discounted and shamed by those who have do not have a relationship with their inner work; having a sense of being locked out of one’s inner life is a kind of terrible darkness indeed. The price one pays in tolerating this state of being locked out brings Stafford to mind: “I call it cruel and maybe the root of all cruelty to know what occurs but not recognize the fact.” Reacting defensively to an invitation to share feelings is an engaging form of emotional disconnection.

From a trauma informed perspective, Sandner observed: “Death and rebirth are the mythological symbol for a psychological event: loss of conscious control, and submission to an influx of symbolic material from the unconscious.”

Emotionally overwhelming episodes – what I think of as wounds of overwhelm – introduce us to the archetypal world of mythology and the dream time, while the ego is in a state of unconsciousness.

It is critical to recognize psychological events associated with loss of conscious control may be split off from ego consciousness; at the same time they will be conscious, but not to the ego.

And until trauma, as incomplete initiatory experience, can be worked through, re-integrated into consciousness, psyche relies heavily on dissociation and projection. To be continued…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Image and Force: Jung’s Supreme Meaning

March 23, 2016

RockLight DreamImage1NoMargin3.23.16

 

After recording the Rite of Passage Rock-Light Being dream, I decided to represent the image in pencil, pen and ink, and watercolor. My method for illustrating dreams is to begin by trying to establish the starting point of the dream sequence in the place most likely to allow me to work through and capture all the action, step by step, on one page. I opened this dream with the stone path at the bottom center of the page. I began penciling in the details with no conscious awareness of the greater reveal (Image 1.) As I finished the initial sketch, I couldn’t help but think, “Behold the ancient being with his bright flash of light for consciousness, crocodile brain stem extending into the olfactory region, and stunning child like silhouette! How striking, how primordial!”

EncounteringRLBeingImage2.3.23.16

After completing this scene, I turned my attention to capturing a close up of our approach along the rock face. My intention was to create an image-as-threshold to assist me in my ritually re-entering the startling moment. (See Image 2.)

I was challenged at this time in my work to understand what this powerful dream was really offering me. It was one of a number of dreams in a series which seemed to move out into the world, connecting me in important ways to mysterious meanings which defied rational explanation.

Twenty years later, deepening in my Jungian orientation through a seminar series with the analysts of the Santa Fe group, I came across Jung’s description of the serf’s predicament: “I am the serf who brings it and does not know what he carries in his hand. It would burn his hands if he did not place it where his master orders him to lay it” (Jung, Red Book, 2009, p. 230).

In the Red Book collection, we get to look in on Jung’s initiatory process. In his dialogues with the spirit of the times and the spirit of the depths, Jung describes how he came to understand the existence of an ancient consciousness enlivening us all, and how this guidance, this “supreme meaning” comes to us. The spirit of the depths comes in and places understanding and knowledge at the service of the inexplicable and the paradoxical, sense and nonsense. The melting together of sense and nonsense is what produces the supreme meaning. In Jung’s words (2009), supreme meaning is “the path, the way and the bridge to what is to come… image and force in one, magnificence and force together … the beginning and the end … the bridge of going across and fulfillment…

Furthermore, from this perspective, Jung observed “To understand a thing is a bridge and a possibility of returning to the path. But to explain a thing is arbitrary and even murder…” (Jung, Red Book 2009, p. 229-230).

While I was enjoying a newfound sense of freedom from my compulsion to explain and contemplating on magnificence and force together, this 1994 dream and these illustrations came to mind: might they be an example of image and force in one, magnificence and force together?

RockLight DreamImage1NoMargin3.23.16EncounteringRLBeingImage2.3.23.16

Getting Back into the Boat

February 18, 2016

When we become aware of having been triggered, activated, constellated, possessed, dispossessed, dissociated, or disconnected in some important way, how can we think about getting “back into the boat?”

This image, suggesting we have somehow been knocked out of the boat, brings forward earlier references to the impact on psyche of episodes of trauma and emotional/physical overwhelm. What I am signifying as wounds of overwhelm.

These human experiences have been described as the psychological basis for the mythological motif of death and rebirth.

From Egyptian mythology, Edward Edinger has observed: “When the child Maneros witnessed Isis’ terrible loss and grief upon seeing the dead Osiris, this awesome sight was so intolerable to Maneros that he fell out of the boat and drowned.” We too are vulnerable to losing balance, falling overboard and drowning in the face of intense emotion. It is how we are wired.

From the conceptualization of the ego-Self axis, such wounds symbolically knock the 110 voltage wired ego temporarily out of the boat of consciousness, and drop down into the deep waters of total psyche, in the realm of the Self. Here, they remain as if in suspended animation until the conditions are favorable for their re-integration. These are the original encapsulated episodic memories which form the nuclei of our complexes. On a side note “suspended” is misleading in terms of these are not energetically inert bundles of split off trauma. Their energies are not diminished by time and space.

Depth work is about helping us to get back into the boat with a new relationship to the reality of the waters of the unconscious, the unseen world. It is about discovering a way to re-connecting to those very experiences which, for our survival at the time, necessitated the disconnect.

Getting back into the boat consciously means choosing to open one’s self to suffering directly the images and affects generated by the original wounding experience. By definition, when these wounds of overwhelm are sufficient to knock the ego out of the boat and into the unconscious, the wounding itself evokes archetypal energies via a match with its associated collective, primordial scene. The ego is challenged to bring such scenes back into consciousness.

Years ago I was introduced to the idea that if you want to know about what has been initiatory for a person, you just need to inquire about “when did death come into your life?”

After a long opening night, hearing a hundred personal stories about first confrontations with death, I shared mine, and was then afforded a week in deepening in that exploration.

While I had never forgotten the details of my own near actual drowning experience, I was able to see then, 30 plus years later, how intensely overwhelming that confrontation with death was for me; how it had changed me, and how it was present in my work at that time, and informs me today.

The short story is that I recognized then my intense interest and evolving skill in helping others who required hospitalization in an acute psychiatric inpatient ward, could be seen as a reflection of my own initiatory encounter with death. Recognizing this possibility for the first time, a “name” came to me spontaneously: I was He-Who-Talks-About-Deep–Over-There. I was able to connect the intensity of my interest, dedication, and seemingly inexplicable capacity to sit with the most psychotic, anxious, depressed, and overwhelming experiences of others, my deeply felt resonance with the mystery present in primary process, the non-ego realm, to my ego’s efforts to look out, not within me. My connection with the depths, though largely unconscious to me at the time, was providing some critically important glue in my ability to trust the meaning of the dynamics present in the patient’s compensation-decompensation-recompensation cycle . While we may not be able to understand it yet, it can be understood from a drive to healing perspective; it is not accurate or helpful to reduce the action to evidence of pathology. It is psyche attempting some form of corrective adjustment.

This focus on the other enabled me to be present with this level of experience in the unique energetic field of the inpatient setting, without opening to my own terror and anxiety associated with my encapsulated trauma. This would be an aspect of my partial cure adaptation. My work with inpatients was about supporting them in finding their way back. Back into the boat.

I am pulling together the story about what happened next. It is a bit unusual in that the actual sequence of events have a strikingly mythological, dream time quality.

During that week I realized I needed to find a way to revisit and complete the initiatory cycle. The thought occurred to me, if/when I was able to do so, what might my new name be? What came to me at the time was: He-Who-Talks-About-Deep-In-Here-Now. While I do work out of a talking cure modality, I would place the emphasis today on being present with the full range of emotion. Something like One-Who-Is-Fully-Present-Inner-Outer-Above-Below.

What do you think? Should we practice being fully present? I believe so. Let us make preparations together to get back into the boat of consciousness, the place of re-membering.