Archive for the ‘Soul’ category

Piercing Encapsulated Trauma: Three Crones Receive the Knife

August 14, 2019

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…

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 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.

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?

Mystery and Complexity versus Nuts and Bolts?

November 21, 2018

Perhaps like the alchemists of old, I continue to have energy for trying to find the keys to open the locks to all that would bind us. In practical terms. In everyday life sound bites.

The band The Moody Blues recorded a couple of songs on their 1969 album “To Our Children’s Children’s Children” that I have always loved. Their titles are “I never thought I’d Live to Be a Hundred” and “I Never Thought I’d Live to Be a Million.” In the first, they reflect:

“I never thought I’d ever have my freedom. An age ago my maker was refusing me the pleasure of the view.”

This morning, early, I am feeling gratitude for this life and this view. May we all be blessed with the gift of the questions which keep on coming.

So, the work goes on: How can/will I describe the ineffable, today?

 

“When reality is simply too painful to experience, then the psyche has a way of allowing life to go on—but at a price.”

December 1, 2017

In the words of Donald Kalsched: “When reality is simply too painful to experience, then the psyche has a way of allowing life to go on—but at a price. This is a psychological defense we call dissociation. Dissociation is organized by a re- markable “intelligence” in the psyche that insures survival. I have called it the “self-care system.” We don’t have to think about it. It’s a “mechanism.” It happens automatically.”

The Atlanta Friends of Jung set up a short interview with Donald Kalsched prior to his presentation. It is a powerful if brief overview of theory and practice. Check it out.

The Secret of Salvation in Dante’s World

September 28, 2017

The paragraph below is excerpted from a source quote posted under Images of the Journey in Dante’s Divine Comedy, by Charles H. Taylor & Patricia Finley:

“The secret of salvation in Dante’s world … is insight into the nature of who one is, how one injures, what it feels like to be oneself the victim and to make others the targets of one’s desirousness, rage, pride, and deceits. Those who make it to Purgatory are not less shadow-driven, narcissistic, obsessed, or pathological than others, but they have not refused to make conscious what they are, to bear the burden of themselves, and to come in time to take full responsibility for their own natures. By coming to know what operates in us behind appearances, whether driven by unconscious instinct and aggression or by more deliberate betrayals we can choose to take a stand against whatever in our personal character moves us to wound others and our larger selves.

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.