Wednesday, June 16, 2021

The purifying transmission of grief

Tending to grief is the essence of the wounded healer. Proving a sanctuary and safe passage for its unfolding – in the body, the psyche, and the nervous system – requires that we fall to the ground, at times, and weep.

Weep for the shattering, for the dying of an old dream, for the entirety of the unlived life. It was just never going to turn out the way we thought. It’s too shimmering, too majestic for all that. It is these tears that form the portal to connection.

Grief is not something we “get over” by way of stages and techniques, but an eternal and faithful partner we spin with as the cycles unfold, purifying us by way of lamentation.

We live in a world that has lost contact with the holy yellowing of the soul. But to marginalize or pathologize the experience of grief is to work against nature. The earth grieves by way of her seasons, the rotting of leaves, and by way of the ache in her rain drop. Each evening as the sun yields to the stars we can know and commune with that longing.

There is no endpoint to this turning of the light, no final state of resolution where we land in some untouchable place, free from our embodied vulnerability, our somatic aliveness, and from the possibility of more burning.

Rather, we find ourselves in the procedure the alchemists called the rotatio, the holy spinning of vast cycles of rupture and repair that touch and open the human person.

The soul is endless and the visitors of grief may companion us for a lifetime. But the forgotten, brokenhearted orphans of psyche and soma come not to harm, but to reveal. And to open a doorway into mercy and wholeness.

Grief is not so much a process that we “make it through” and come out the other side fully intact, but a non-linear, purifying midwife of the unknown. It moves not by way of straight line, but by a shattering, involving circle and spiral.

Photo by Karen Nadine

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Wednesday, June 9, 2021

The wound as initiation

It’s important to honor that part of us that isn’t so sure about healing, about turning back toward the shakiness and the shattering, as at some deep level we sense what the implications of true healing really are: the ending of one world, without any solid knowing about the world that will replace it.

And while this may seem exhilarating or thrilling or “what we really want,” it is also disorienting and devastating to the psychic status quo, and there may always be an unconscious investment to avoid this sort of reorganization. This hesitation is not neurotic, but intelligent and human, and is deserved of mercy and understanding.

It’s natural to have some contradictory feelings about healing. While honoring that uncertainty, we can simultaneously have an aspiration to stay open to the ways our wounding may be a portal to deeper healing.

To stay open to the cry out from the heart of the wounded healer: This grief, rage, shame, melancholy, and sadness, these are not pathology, but path; with the invitation to stay open to the ways our wounding can serve an initiatory function.

The wounded healer isn’t only some myth that we can learn about: Chiron and his weeping wound and the Asklepian dream incubation temples in ancient Greece. But a living reality inside our very DNA, in our cells, buried in our neural pathways, and wired into what it means to be an open, sensitive, relational human being.

That Asklepian temple is alive within you now and its doors are open.

The medicine we’re longing for is not found in a wound that is already healed, but in one that is weeping and presenting itself to us, opening itself to be updated with new experience.

The medicine is inside the wound, not something we apply to the wound, a discovery of the alchemists and well as the neuroscientists of relational trauma. The wound has to open as well as the neural networks holding our wounding, so that we can go inside and seed those networks with new levels of holding, companionship, and safety.

Photo by nextvoyage

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Wednesday, June 2, 2021

An autonomic form of gaslighting

Much of our wounding occurs prior to the acquisition of language and is not able to be healed through the questioning and reorganization of patterns of thinking. In other words, we can’t think our way out of trauma.

When our capacity to process unbearable terror, panic, shame, and rage is overwhelmed, undigested pieces of experience are held subcortically and in our cellular circuitry, unreachable by thinking which is a layer removed from the fires of the alchemical body.

Encouragement to “just get over it, that’s totally irrational, you can’t really believe that, you know that’s not true” and so forth is experienced by an inflamed nervous system as the activity of violence and aggression.

It’s like an autonomic form of gaslighting and reflects a deep misunderstanding of trauma and the workings of implicit memory, and only contributes to re-traumatization, in personal, cultural, and collective networks.

In addition to shattering and unendurable experience – which is painful and terrifying enough – there is a profound sense of aloneness that goes with this, the sense that no one can understand, that there is no companionship into the dark night. I am alone in this. This is devastating to the soul.

When that raging alive little boy or aching little girl cries out longing to be held, to be known, to be felt, to be heard, to be remembered… peeking their little heads out as if to say, “Is it safe now? How about now? I’ve been waiting for so long for a companion and friend. How about now?”, they’re really not all that interested in our clear cognitive analysis, rational inquiry, powerful spiritual insight, and thoughts on the matter.

They’re yearning for something else… for you, for your heart, for your holding. To know that you will stay near, that you will not abandon or shame them, that you will do your best to provide sanctuary and safe passage for them to come Home, to be allowed to come out of that frozen state and live once again.

In this way they don’t even want or need to be healed, but to be held. And to feel safe.

Photo by Lisa Runnels

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