Posts Tagged ‘depth psychology’

Clusterf**k: me, you, the economy and the planet

July 31, 2011

I had a dream not too long ago in which I was witnessing a huge, gorgeous spiral galaxy, the stars twinkling like diamonds against a velvety dark sky. On one of the arms of the galaxy however I noticed a huge mass, like a glut of stars all tangled up together so that the energy could not flow. It was a galactic mess. When I woke up, the word “clusterfuck” occurred to me.  I do not know where that word comes from, but I know I’ve heard it before, probably in reference to traffic inLos Angeles.

Of course, with my Jungian training, I took the dream personally; it was to me a picture of my psyche – lovely, natural, part of the starry cosmos, but LOOK what I have going on over here – a tangled mass of psychic material that energy cannot flow through.

A week or so after having this dream, a similar one occurred. I was walking through a crowded town that seemed like the whole world, almost like an M.C. Escher drawing with layers and dimensions winding out of each other. My dream was not abstract like his drawings though, the scenes were more realistic. I wandered into an area that was literally covered with shit and diapers, too many babies had been born there, too many mothers starving and unable to handle the chaos. I was knee deep in it and could only try to slog my way out of the enormous area teeming with stink and sickness. I saw someone on the edge starting to clean up and struggled with a sense of hopelessness. Can this mess be resolved? This guy seems to think so.  The place reminded me of Kibera, the slum outside Nairobi in Kenya where I worked a year ago. But Kibera seems clean compared to this terrain.

Again looking at the dream as a personal message I saw it as an earthier way to view the galactic mess. Shadow work is daunting. I can see a cluster of internal things it begins to refer to, debilitating results of the tangle and  illness that results. A sense of hopelessness is a temptation. It takes effort to hang on to glimmers of hope.

Then last night I read an article in the recent More magazine about a toxic mess the size of a small continent floating in the Pacific ocean made completely of plastic and trash. A deep sea diver named Mary Crowley apparently discovered it. She relates the story of the beauty and wonders that made her fall in love with diving, then tells of the horror of what she found – plastic pieces, plastic bags, beach chairs, miles upon miles of junk clustered together. The description she tells will make you weep and feel sick. There seems to be a vortex in this location that draws the trash dumped into our oceans and water systems to itself. Hundreds of thousands of living creatures have eaten the bits of plastic and died from it. Many of the fish who eat it are eaten by larger fish, who are eaten by other fish, who end up on our dinner tables.

As I read I couldn’t help but think of the clusterfuck in my dreams.  I have taken the dream images personally, and they are personal, but they are also visions of bigger things going on. In the holographic model of the universe, each cell reflects everything that is in the whole. In this, everything that is in the universe is also in me, and everything in me is also in the universe.

The article tells of the controversy and antagonism that is coming Mary Crowley’s way because of what she discovered and because she is determined that there is something to do about it. It seems llike she now is a vortex for a lot of toxic psychological and political material. Yet she is driven by a sense of hope that the mess can be cleared.

An analogy comparing depth psychology to deep sea diving has occurred to me many times over the years for a variety of reasons. Now I see it again. I love to slip into the waters of psyche and see what resides there, beauties not visible on “land” or in daylight consciousness. But along with the investigation come encounters with deep shadowy material. There is horrifying stuff in there along with the wonders. Many people and religions want to rise above, transcend, move out of the vibration of shadow material. Such efforts easily turn into dangerous repression and phobic denial rather than mastery, which causes the mass to simply build in power and toxicity. Author Thomas Berry writes that what we need now is not transcendence, but “inscendence.” We need to know how to go in or we will never be familiar with the problems. But there are a lot of taboos around this.

Experience tells me that working with shadow will never be successful until we clear judgment from our hearts and minds. It is a terrible waste of time to judge and moralize about the problem in the ocean rather than simply get busy finding ways to resolve and prevent it. Similarly if I judge myself about the matter in my own mess, that will tend to dispirit and suck energy from what is required to simply deal with the issues. I need to be as clean and dispassionate as a surgeon as I go into the problem areas.  Judgment increases the mess, obfuscates, complicates and delays every effort.

The poet Rilke writes, “Perhaps everything terrible is in its deepest being something helpless that wants our love.”  I believe this. I find when I think anything through to its core, there lies a reason for compassion. Nobody who bought a beach chair or a bottle of water meant to poison the planet; our collective ignorance and shortsightedness wasn’t apparent at first, then it rapidly got out of control and went beyond us. So it is with my own internal mess. One thing led to another. Compassion is a natural result of comprehension, of seeing clearly. But it takes getting through the revulsions, the taboos, instincts to condemn or to cast into otherness. Compassion is fierce and takes more courage than any other stance. Compassion is fearless.

You don’t have to look very far to see the massive  clusterfucks we have created collectively. The economy seems to be our number one reflection of it at the moment.

I know that awakening compassion will move us to a place of vision. Only from there will we be able to see, heal and resolve. No matter what problem we are facing, the demon  is, in the end, something helpless that wants our love.

Superbowl, Loving my Research

February 8, 2010

I am an especially fortunate person in that the subject of greatest interest to me, and the field of my livelihood, is the psyche – the personal psyche, collective psyche and the objective psyche. The latter might be defined as the connective tissue in everything that is. So, there is literally nothing I can possibly do that doesn’t inform my research, that doesn’t improve and develop the skills for what I do. Nothing is irrelevant. I really like this about my work.

Today I was invited to a Superbowl party. I was unable to attend since I’m snowed in. Again. I don’t know anything about football or the teams or the players, but I love the parties because I love my friends and any opportunity to come out and play is ok with me. They know this about me and invite me anyway, that’s why I love them. Today since I couldn’t go I decided to just turn on the Superbowl here in my own home, which I have never done in my entire life. It’s research! I’ve had it on while I do other things, like this. But I’m not missing much of anything except the football.

I am enjoying this, to my amazement. I loved watching the faces of the players at the beginning while Queen Latifah and Carrie Underwood sang. I am unable to imagine what is going through their minds but their faces seem like an endless study. We probably could all almost cry at the sight of the troops overseas in their fatigues standing up for the national anthem, knowing that this anthem means something unfathomable in their lives, and also knowing they will now sit down and love watching this game together.  The grand ritual of the coin tossing; so many people all over the country so excited at the same time about the same thing; the focus, intensity and skill of the players;  the multi-million dollar commercials; Oprah sitting between Jay Leno and David Letterman who haven’t spoken personally in a long time – how could this not be interesting? I love my work. 

Congratulations to the Saints. New Orleans has a lot to celebrate today.

Avatar and Healing the Split

January 18, 2010

Over the weekend I saw Avatar for the second time, accompanying a friend who really wanted to see it. Themes in the movie resonate with much of what I have worked on for the last decade. The book I am writing, as yet untitled, is a re-writing of my doctoral dissertation,  Reawakening Indigenous Sensibilities in the Western Psyche. It is about the split between the indigenous ways of sensing and knowing inside us and the development of the ego and the Western structures of mind; two very different, apparently opposed, operating systems.  The major tool that I use for doing this healing work with myself and others is dream analysis, learning the language of the dreams of the night.

The most fascinating image for me in the movie was the chamber for traveling between the worlds. The protagonists go to sleep in one world and wake up in the other. That is exactly how dreams of the night work, unbeknownst to most scientists who study dreams, much to my serious aggravation. The dream world is just that, a world we enter, an autonomous realm of seeing and experiencing. We go to sleep in this world and wake up to life in that other world. As humans have evolved we have split off remembering or respecting this, to our detriment I believe. Just as in Avatar, we wake up in this world we call “real”  to eat, work, crap, make records and logs, laugh, smoke, do whatever it is that we do, and then return. Indigenous people do not split the realms as we do; they know that both are real and interface each other, and that dreams reveal crucial experience and information. To ignore it is to self-destruct, as we are doing. The beauty of the movie for me is the demonstration of this.

Ever since I was little any time life was hard for me I wished I could be asleep. My mother came in to ask me why I was crying in my crib one day and I responded, despairingly, “I’m awake!” It was so sad I guess. As a 6 or 7 year old, stuck on a horse in a pounding hail storm with miles yet to go before we were home, Mom quotes me as crying and saying, “I wish I were alseep!”  For the last few years I have been struggling with a sleep disorder; it is very difficult to get to sleep and even more difficult to wake up once I am asleep, like I am in a coma. Sleep clinics, medications, serious attention to Jungian analysis, nothing has been working to heal this problem so far. Every day I feel like a lone pioneer trying to resolve it, and am starting to think that this must be part of my calling. Yet it is difficult, and I know that I really must find the way to improve. (The quote for today in my book of daily readings from the poet Rilke says: “The tasks that have been entrusted to us are often difficult. Almost everything that matters is difficult, and everything matters.”)

I feel my particular struggle is emblematic somehow of the split that we collectively suffer between our indigenous and enculturated selves and between our sleeping and waking selves. Maybe without knowing I have put myself into a test tube to work on this; my life and my self have become an experiment to see what might be done.  The only medicine that I haveso far found essential in helping me is the concept of non-violence. I become angry and upset with myself on both ends of the problem – for not being able to do the simple thing of getting to sleep, or the simple thing of waking up. The more judging or impatient I get with myself, the worse the problem gets. The more compassion, curiosity,  tolerance and persistent attention I am able to apply the more I feel I am getting somewhere. It is not an easy tension to hold.

James Cameron has hit a nerve in the collective psyche in both Titanic and Avatar, each immense blockbuster hits. Both demonstrate in their own way the hubris, cluelessness and tragedy of the Western imperialistic standpoint of mind and its catastrophic, heartbreaking consequences. As a student (and doctor) of depth psychology my supposition about why so many millions of people flock to these movies over and over again is because seeing them is like staring into a mirror of our own personal and collective unconscious, and we’re trying hard to see who we really are and how to work out our difficulties. I think Cameron is elucidating and resolving splits in his own psyche brilliantly by telling these stories, and is giving us the opportunity to do the same along with him. Every artist is doing something similar, really. Art, like dreams, help to reveal and heal the split. Art and dreams come from the same or similar realms.

The song lyric “Breaking up is hard to do…  They say that breaking up is hard to do, now I know I know that it’s true.” has always sung itself in my mind as “Waking up is hard to do.” Literally and figuratively, it is hard to do. I’m working on how to make it less difficult. May the gods continue to assist.

Dreams and Shadow

January 16, 2010

Today, January 15, 2010, I write my first blog post ever. First New Moon of the year and the decade, a new beginning. I am a doctor of depth psychology and have a retreat center, Bridging Worlds, in the remote, gorgeous, ancient mountains of Western North Carolina outside of Asheville. My work and passion is to create an environment where people can feel safe to explore their own psychological and spiritual life, either privately or in groups. Reconnection to the natural world and to the indigenous person, with indigenous ways of sensing and knowing, that lives inside of each human is one of my major concerns. Working with dreams of the night is a favorite, and most valuable method. I am close to completing work on my new website, which explains a lot more. I am thinking a first blog should say who I am, thus this explanation. I’m a woman, age 58, who lives alone in the wilderness with my dog. I have two daughters, Josi and Arlene, who are powerful and awesome women. Enough information for now. See website for more. This is a place to share thoughts, concerns and ideas.

So I start with a concern that I have felt slammed with during the first part of this new year. There is so little understanding in general awareness of how to deal with and think about what Carl Jung and Jungians call the personal shadow — the parts of ourselves which are alive and active in our personality structure but of which we are unaware. Generally this refers to the “dark” side of the personality, but shadow includes all parts — strengths, weaknesses, everything of which we are not conscious. In this writing I refer to the dark side.

We all have this side, and generally, in my belief, it is only because we are unaware. Generally it isn’t intentional evil or hurt that we commit. The heart is in the right place but words or actions reveal other systems of operation going on, or are misunderstood and trigger those other systems going on in others. And people for the most do not know how to deal with it. They bounce off of each other, hurting each other without meaning or wanting to, and don’t know how to deal with that.

Christmas is often an intense time in crowded environments where a lot of this is going on and not being dealt with. I had experiences myself and keep hearing those of others so that this is becoming a fascination of mine at this moment. I don’t know the cure, of course, but if I could write a prescription it would be trust. Trust in ourselves, trust in each other, trust. There’s a subtle panic that seems to go off when shadow material arrives, and I am thinking the medicine for that is trust. It sounds simple, but it is actually a tall order.

And then listen to dreams that come in the wake of the experience because they rarely fail to comment with some of the only intelligence and astuteness that will be found. Learning the dream language takes attention and an open mind, but is very worth the trouble.

I think there is an urgency in the world right now that we become a lot smarter a lot faster about this problem. So I’m committing myself in this new year and decade to work to figure this out in whatever way that I can. To own it and work on it in myself, have trust and compassion for it in others, and do what I can for anyone who wants to work on it as a dreamworker, assistant and guide for people in their psychological and spiritual quests.

Ok, I just wrote my first blog. I’ve been thinking about this for a long time, and now it is begun. Happy new year.