Archive for the ‘Poems’ 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.

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…

Dream: When life is a parade!

July 11, 2018

Sunday, 5 AM: Dream Setting, my office in the Academy, with my couch against a wall, when all of a sudden the couch started to seemingly push itself away from the wall, revealing a hidden door, opening, with someone coming through the door into my office. And it was, he was, the first in a procession of an increasing number of circus like performers, mostly wearing red, who colorfully, exuberantly, take over the space, singing songs, putting on a show; quite a musical actually, reminiscent of the Music Man…

Waking reflections: I was struck with how it was like a musical production, and the fact that historically I have not been a fan of musicals. While writing the dream down, I associated the emergence of the singer/dancer, as if out of the woodwork with the Rilke image of “…that which steps, festively clothed, out of the great darkness.” (from his essay on Love and Other Difficulties.)

Comments: With all the  heaviness in the country, and in each of us, this was a fun, magical, refreshing interlude, reminding me of the existence of resources in psyche which can come in when needed. This dream felt a bit like my delight in reading the Rilke image:

“Therefore this too must be the standard for rejection or choice: whether one is willing to stand guard over the solitude of a person and whether one is inclined to set this same person at the gate of one’s own solitude, of which he learns only through that which steps, festively clothed, out of the great darkness.” (my italics)

Secondarily, I did recently enjoy watching the movie The Greatest Showman which was amazing and likely helped populate my dream images. I watched West Side Story earlier this year and found it very powerful – and still highly relevant.

In terms of family of origin, as a family we did love to sing. I did grow up in Mason City, Iowa, birthplace of Meredith Wilson, best known for his play/movie The Music Man.

 

Intolerable Suffering and Neurosis

October 2, 2017

I chose the heading above to re-introduce this quote from Sandner and Beebe:

“Jung contended that neurosis sprang from the tendency of the psyche to dissociate or split in the face of intolerable suffering. … Such splitting ‘ultimately derives from the apparent impossibility of affirming the whole of one’s nature’ (Jung 1934, p. 98), and gives rise to the whole range of and conflicts characteristic of feeling toned complexes. This splitting is a normal part of life. Initial wholeness is meant to be broken, and it becomes pathological, or diagnosable as illness, only when the splitting off of complexes becomes too wide and deep and the conflict too intense. Then the painful symptoms may lead to the conflicts of neurosis or to the shattered ego of psychosis. The way back, the restoration – perhaps always partial – is the work of individuation. …”

Let’s think about the idea that such splitting ‘ultimately derives from the apparent impossibility of affirming the whole of one’s nature’.

Might we choose to embrace our inner guidance? Dedicate ourselves to making a place for our true selves? Not easy!

 

 

 

 

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…