Dec

5

Tina Turner, that gravel-voiced, Ike-battered, comeback kid said this: ‘I didn’t have anybody, no foundation in life…so I had to discover my mission in life.’

It’s a plain enough statement: without support she had to cut out on her own, uncover her path, focus hard to push through the neglect that birthed her talent. It speaks to the victimised child in us all, galvanising the hero to action.

Yet it also says something else, something other and reveals a truth that sprang straight from the author’s unconscious without either her awareness or her consent. If you listen to people carefully, with what I call an eye for initiation, often something quite different is going on.

If you ask the right questions more is revealed. Continued…

Apr

25

MemoryI have always been drawn to depth psychology and instinctively understood the Jungian concepts and principles that draw on something happening deep within the structures of the psyche. It is my belief that without this deeper understanding therapists often misunderstand what is happening with the patient or are confined to the necessarily limited perspective of the narrow confines of their own training. Like doctors, we are blinkered by our training no matter how ‘good’ it may be. In fact, the better a training is the harder it is for us ‘to see outside the box’.

What I have found again and again is that I attract clients of two basic types: those, like myself, who experienced severe intra-uterine or childhood trauma and cannot seem to find a way out of their suffering through conventional therapy; and those who cannot find reason or explanation for their symptoms in anything that has happened in this life. Both groups, I believe, are suffering from wounds to the soul that have happened in other lifetimes: research would indicate the clients who experience trauma in early life are in a sense starting where they left off in another life and quickly find themselves entangled once more in the same old drama. The second group are more unconscious and have fewer clues to help them from the life they are actually in.

Both feel stuck, desperate and hopeless, unaware the problems lie deep within the soul’s long experience and that they are endlessly incarnating into lives where their particular complex (samskaras to use the Hindu term) will intensify until they find resolution. Clients can be helped whether they believe in past lives or not. The unconscious and physical body stores the memory of trauma, which moves from lifetime to lifetime within the etheric body. Just like in conventional therapy the process of re-membering, recollection and reunion has to happen for a complete healing to occur.

Deep Memory Process, founded by the Jungian academic and therapist Dr Roger Woolger, synthesizes Jung’s active imagination, Reich’s bodywork, Moreno’s psychodrama and past life regression to focus on the timeless journey of the soul. It is the most comprehensive and multi-layered therapy I have ever encountered and reaches the parts that other therapies cannot reach, cannot comprehend or both. Only a remembered trauma can be let go of. If the trauma happened in another lifetime or has its roots there, which is always the case, then full healing is problematic if not impossible while doggedly looking in the wrong place. (Actually I exaggerate: we are not looking in the wrong place as each part contains the whole, the present holds the past and vice versa, only our vision is dimmed without consciousness of other ‘stories’.)

The therapist’s first task is to look at the patient’s history watching for the themes and breaks which will characterise that life – loss, abandonment, betrayal, suicide, addiction, the archetypal themes of human existence that resonate at our depths and shake us to the core. The ancient myths of the Greeks and Shakespeare’s plays point up the dilemmas and tragic nature of life and death where resolution is rare.

According to Dr Woolger, the most heard story of the soul is that of guilt. As Jung has it: ‘ A complex arises when we experience a defeat in life’. The client sabotages their current life because of deep and painful failures in other lives, most often failing to save family or loved ones in tribal battles or global wars. It seems that guilt, believing we are unworthy of either human or divine love, keeps us in a place of unforgiveness perpetuating our self-hatred lifetime after lifetime. Contrary to popular belief, most past lives are not spent as Cleopatra or Pharaoh, but as ordinary anonymous people caught up in often terrifying circumstances beyond their control.

It is a common view in spiritual circles that the soul needs to explore all facets of human life – victim, persecutor, rescuer – and in psychotherapy that we need own all aspects of the Self, letting go of our projections and facing the shadow, to use another Jungian term. DMP then is not a light or easy therapy but deeply soul-searching, often wrenching, but powerfully effective. It is, as suggested, deep work that aims at equanimity and balance but takes us through a painful journey as we act out the conflicting aspects of our own complicated nature.

F Scott Fitzgerald said it is the hallmark of genius to hold two totally opposite ideas in the mind and work with them. The ancient science of alchemy wrestles with the union of opposites, not least aiming to bring together those most fundamental of forces, the masculine and the feminine. DMP recognises this schism and the revolving nature of the Self, identifying with one aspect, then another, over and over until satiated. For it is another Jungian principle that a pattern has to be exhausted before it can be given up.

Where DMP differs even more radically from conventional therapy is that it works to achieve resolution in the after-death states, what the Tibetans call the Bardo realms, where powerful healing work can be achieved as the soul is freed from the limitations of bodily existence. Although clients are not hypnotised as with other regression therapies, he/she does embody the Past Life Character. The therapist encourages the client to suspend disbelief and follow the thread of the story that will come to the mind, or the charge in the body, often starting with a piece of artwork.

As the client finds himself in another world the therapist encourages the client to trust imagination and go with what arises. The therapist then becomes an attendant to the soul, following the client, bringing them face to face with painful experiences and through the story to its end, usually death, before moving to the bardo realms. Often the therapist uses props: a rope around the client’s neck; a prod with a wooden ‘spear’ etc to facilitate the story and the healing. There is often powerful somatic release, crying, shaking, screaming, trembling as the body lets go its hold on the old.

The tabla rasa theory then is discarded, utterly and completely in this practice: all the major complexes of our lives and the psychic structures that drive us to repeat, wretchedly, our past sins, are seen as laid down before birth. As Plato suggested millennia ago, the soul chooses both circumstances and tasks and we are doomed to repeat the task until we learn the lesson. Stubbornness, pride, the desire for vengeance, what AA calls our character defects ensure that in the main we don’t. Some of us are particularly stubborn about that.

Resolution and the relief of unhealed physical ailments are remarkable. Unfertile, hopeless women become pregnant, physical symptoms disappear, guilt evaporates when understood and success descends on a life after years of abject failure unhelped by conventional means. It is one of the great ironies that psychotherapy, which originally meant study of the soul, does not attend any more to the part of us that it names as needing healing. The soul is missing from modern therapy, which is why I despair when I hear about the perpetuation and popularity of the CBTs etc. We continue looking in the wrong place with a limited view and we fail through a lack of vision that is not our own but a culture’s that has ditched meaning for meaninglessness replacing soul with sound bites.

This article was first published in the Jan/Feb 2010 edition of Kindred Spirit magazine

Apr

25

Face‘Myth is the foundation of life: it is the timeless pattern, the religious formula to which life shapes itself…Whereas in the life of mankind the mythical represents an early and primitive stage, in the life of an individual it represents a late and mature one.’

Thomas Mann

The twin themes of exile and longing, one the shadow of the other, are archetypal energies, which sit uncomfortably within each human being. In modern society the sense of being at home in the world is often absent and too often people step right out of the womb into initiatory experiences that set them spinning before they have the chance to touch ground: separation, abandonment, betrayal, parental addictions and depressions. There is neither chance nor time to incorporate love and self-esteem into the psyche before it is ripped apart and the Self thrown away. These early experiences almost always signify an expectation of barrenness due to an actual experience of bleak no-thingness from previous incarnations. The pressure to resolve has built over lifetimes and is immediately re-stimulated at the onset of the current life.

But resolution is problematical. People in denial about how wounded they actually feel and suffering from the internalisation of early injunctions to ‘pull themselves together’ by parents or caregivers equally cut off from their own emptiness are the norm, the spiritual deadwood that clogs, and finally strangles, the culture. Most of us have done such a good job of hiding our pain from ourselves – often behind a veneer of success or competence – that it seems there is either no way back to the Self or no need. This is mirrored in our disconnection from the earth.

As the late, great John O’Donohue writes: ‘We need to remain in rhythm with our inner clay voice and longing. Yet this voice is no longer audible in the modern world. We are not even aware of our loss, consequently, the pain of our spiritual exile is more intense in being largely unintelligible.’ The truth is most don’t know they are in exile and it often takes life to seriously derail to bring them face to face with reality. A divorce, a major loss, an accident, failure, addiction. All of these are sudden initiations which can deepen a person, pulling their soul towards meaning, purpose and new beginnings, which might otherwise remain out of reach. Crisis and opportunity are natural bedfellows.

In older, wiser times initiations were prolonged and planned encounters that acknowledged the need to mark, honour and ground the movements of the soul. The most well-known, still practised in earth-based societies, are the rituals and markings that transfigured boys into men providing a brush with death that may or may not be survived. Such initiations took place only after initiates had been held and contained within the bosom of family, culture and community and had incorporated the Paradise Garden within the Self. This making and unmaking of personhood is a sacred craft that honours all involved.

How different to the sudden shocks modern westerners encounter, sometimes as soon as they hit shore. But if the culture is lost and cannot provide what is needed consciously, pressure will gather within the psyche to provide what the soul needs to experience to turn back towards a sense of wholeness. ‘The organism,’ as Jung said ‘is self-regulating.’ Without the necessary container of family (and I don’t include families that demand convention and conformity in the child and quash individuality) and community the soul finds itself in exile, often without knowing it.

This sense of exile lies somewhere within each human being whether it is felt and accepted or not. Such alienation was experienced in earlier times as a physical banishment, exile to France for instance. It was understood that separating a person from all they had known and loved, stripping them of all possible comfort and sending them to foreign lands was a fate worse than death. The sense of exile is carried within us all – even in an abundant life it waits quietly in the shadows – but so too is the inner king who will one day return to centre stage, though perhaps in another lifetime.

For the brush with death is real. Without the right nutrients and soil during early life things are hard enough. With abandonments and abuses the child is too raw to risk moving out into the world. Adulthood cannot be adequately faced, as there is simply not enough ground beneath a person and not enough nourishment within. Whichever way the head turns things look bleak. The wilderness is all around and the wolves are everywhere. If you arrive at a crossroads either road looks bleak. The first involves bringing out the survival bag and again toughing life out from within the limits the mask of competence provides. That way involves living from a false self where no authentic healing is possible. The second involves drowning in the sea of sorrows and turning towards escapes, addictions and fixes. Or you may do a combination of both.

Yet the truth remains hiding in the rubble. The poet Emily Dickinson understood it: ‘There is a pain..so utter..it swallows substance up…Then covers the Abyss with Trance…So Memory can step around..across..upon it.’ No-one is heading in the right direction, which is towards the wound. Almost everyone is scrambling like fury away from the abyss. But those drowning in the sea of sorrows are infinitely more able to grab the life raft than those trapped by their self-sufficiency and pride. For the waters of emotion and feeling are flowing and can carry the floundering soul to safe harbour or new adventure – the next initiatory experience.

The sea of sorrows has another vital function: it acquaints us with longing. Out of the wound of exile come many gifts, perhaps the chief of which is the experience of longing. The soul calls for home and somewhere in this world and the Otherworld the call is heard and messengers, unseen and otherwise, come to our aid. Earthly exile mirrors our longing for our divine origins and draws us back to our beginnings, before the world turned. As the Sufi master Rumi says, your longing itself is the return message. Crying out for help becomes both call and answer.

My own calling is to help bring balm, healing, understanding and re-orientation to those who are adrift at sea and those whose heart long ago dammed the tide of feeling in order to survive and protect what was left of them. For I have known both experiences and have lived at both poles. I have a particular interest, compassion and sympathy for those sensitive souls who have been packed off to school at a young age and drilled in a system that replaces essence with conformity. They are those eccentric individuals who did not belong in any camp and have not really found a home in the world where they belong since. Something inside is nagging that all is not well or things are already wildly out of control.

There are many ways to bring the soul home. This is one. It is well-suited to those who find groups difficult or experience them as traumatic. When home can be found within through a reparative experience within a true relationship then the individual is ready to respond to the siren song of adventure and turn back once more toward life, this time with an eye for initiation and a glimmer of hope and faith once lost.