Effects of Shock, Heaven and Hell

I believe that the effects of shock may be under-analyzed, under-valued and under-appreciated for the most part in our world, even in fields of medicine and psychology that attempt to treat them. All I have seen in catching up with the news is the look of shock on people’s faces – flood victims, tornado victims, and victims of personal betrayal. A healthy assimilation of such events in the life of the psyche is little understood. Denial, suppression, and thinking on the bright side seem to be all we know how to do to survive.

Life keeps shocking us, personally and collectively. We definitely have to figure this one out. Every new shock triggers old ones. There are songs and stories, songs and stories, songs and stories about how to focus on the positive, eliminate the negative. Who of us cannot say how life-changing these stories have been? Yet there is more.

Ancient myths, even the Bible, as well as mystics of East and West, do not attempt to be so simplistic. The field of depth psychology in the last 100 years also has tried to restore a sense of balance to the trajectory of social and therapeutic methods that lead to dangerous suppression of disturbing experience and emotion in favor of accentuating the positive, looking on the bright side, focusing only on “heaven.” I am a true believer in accentuating the positive, but will say that life keeps teaching me that respecting and even cherishing her dark side, embracing both dark and light equally, is the way to balance. I remember reading the words of Robert Romanyshyn, a professor as well as a friend of mine, that liberated me at a time of struggle: “Depression, then, is a matter of home, of coming home or trying to, of being called home. It is not an illness to be cured. It is the cure.”

The idea he articulated, along with a number of other brilliant thinkers I was studying at the time, is that psychological life, energy and libido get buried under layers of denial and suppression we have developed, and that depression itself leads us into deep chambers to bring golden energy back. It’s calling is like going into an archaeological dig. As such, going down is not an illness to be cured, it is the cure. Dante, Goethe, Shakespeare – all of our greatest thinkers – encourage an awareness of traveling among the many layers of psychological experience with aptitude and awareness.

People who are experiencing shock right now I see with my heart will need strong support and awareness in our larger culture, awareness that is seriously unavailable, that might help realize that going deeply into the effects that these shocks have visited upon them is the only way through. I wish for all of them an awareness that suffering is not necessary to be avoided, but that it carries powerful, mystical, magical and enlightening potentials.

People are medicine. Nothing cures like empathy and love, human to human. We must see each other through this. To meet a suffering other exactly where they are, then walk with them through landscapes of hell leading to a way through is a sacred calling. These are the tour guides that are needed now. How can we do this for another? When we  enter the landscapes of hell personally and discover the way out, like Virgil and Dante.

Collectively we need a new story. We have separated heaven and hell as if they are mutually exclusive. They are not. They are one thing, each part of a great design. I see even on the news that we are groping for a new way and a new story. I know we will find it. I so believe, so utterly believe, in us.

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