Bringing Sustained Change
Perseverance is crucial for long term change and necessary to overcome challenges using new methods. Many of our clients have fallen into patterns, as we all do. Unfortunately, their “normal” way of dealing with life stressors has been maladaptive. Often, clients have created methods to deal with negative, uncomfortable, or intense emotions. Some of these methods work for a time in that they successfully alter the reality of pain. However, maladaptive skills such as rage, disassociation, disconnection/cut-off, and substance use are not a panacea and thus eventually fail. The cost of these maladaptive skills creates a new set of problems at worst. At best, it supports and maintains dysfunctional behaviors.
Getting Out of the Rut
One significant challenge in learning and applying healthy adaptive skills is to get out of the rut of the “same ol’” that has been practiced through the many years. These trained neurological pathways and practiced responses never simply dissipate. Only hard and consistent work through perseverance can bring sustained change. It can be difficult to maintain focus and utilize new adaptive coping skills. It opposes the tendency to rely upon the familiar even if the familiar is the crux of pain. As humans develop and learn coping skills during the different stages of development, they find a sense of what works for them and then they stick to it, until they face the new challenges that further development brings. Herein lies the crossroads. do people learn new adaptive strategies to meet the new challenges or do they revert to known coping methods?
Transitional Regression and Maladaptive Coping Skills
When people are faced with new challenges and feel overwhelmed or overburdened with the reality that development brings, then people tend to revert into behaviors that worked for them in an earlier stage of development. Clinicians call this reversion “transitional regression”. Reverting to an earlier stage of coping initially brings a sense of empowerment. It also provides a sense of comfort due to the familiarity of these coping strategies. However, regressing often brings even more stress and even shame. Reverting to coping skills of earlier stages that do not meet the demands that new development requires creates higher levels of stress and perceived incompetency. Moreover, this reversion into maladaptive coping skills can exacerbate vicious and familiar cycles. So people get stuck and they stay stuck.
The Torment of Sisyphus
To initiate change feels to many like the pain and torment of Sisyphus. This exacerbates the feeling of being stuck and encourages the continuation of maladaptive coping strategies. This can occur even if the familiar prolongs pain or causes new pain and discomfort. It is familiar and many equate familiar with safety, which unfortunately is not the case with maladaptive coping skills. As clients start to develop new coping skills and when they are beset by old haunts, new challenges, and painful emotions that arise from facing underlying issues, there is a significant challenge in not regressing to old behaviors. This brings us to perseverance and the importance of staying the course of new change and practicing functional and adaptive coping skills with diligence.
This week at Barn Life Recovery, we are working to raise our clients’ awareness of transitional regression. We are working to build and sustain behaviors that are conducive to their treatment and life goals, including the benefits of perseverance. If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health issues, please give Barn Life Recovery a call today. We are the first treatment center in the state of California with a license to treat mental illness at a community-based level. Contact us now a learn to love life again!
The High Reaches of Pure Imagination
Let the youthful soul look back on life with the question: what have you truly loved up to now, what has elevated your soul, what has mastered it and at the same time delighted it?…see how one complements, expands, surpasses, transfigures another, how they form a stepladder upon which you have climbed up to yourself as you are now – Nietzsche
Nietzsche helps us understand the youthful soul is in spirited ascent to the high reaches of pure imagination. In the image of hope and potential, we find our why for recovery and change. Nietzsche understood that these ladder rungs upward are the life infusing potencies of the soul. The top of the mountain, the holy grail, and the divine encounter often resemble the longing for recovery, the bliss of a lover and the ideal image of a transformed new life. For our second week on The Lady and the Unicorn, we turn our attention toward the virginal soul. Virginity represents much more than sexual purity. Consider the Mother Mary and her significance in the Christian mythos. Her purity becomes the rightful womb for new life and the child of transformation. We need not look at virginity in the sexual and literal sense of the word here, but the psychological.
An Honest-to-One’s-Self Expression
Lets briefly look at the virgin archetype. When we consider virginity in terms of the psyche, we see the uninhabited potentiality for spiritual insemination. Virginity means pure – uninhabited or untainted, a potency of something or someone without pollination. Virgin in this perspective helps us to attend to what is our own. This is the rightful starting place for a soul in ascent. In Greek mythology, the virgin goddesses personify a complete “does-what-she-does” quality. A virgin goddess is not susceptible to penetration psychologically; rather, she seeks nothing and embodies, in action and being, an honest-to-one’s-self-expression. Consider the Greek goddess, Artemis. Artemis wears a short skirt so she can run through the woods and hunt, fires true, golden arrows at whatever she is after without miss, and prefers the company of her nymphs in the privacy of the wild. Virginity personified in the image of Artemis captures independence, strength, play, and solitude.
The Winds of the Spirit
The youthful soul, firstly calm and quaint grows curious and full of life. As the virginal soul consciousness inflates and the winds of the spirit fill our banners, life takes on a rich and passionate quality. What stirs us with fantasies of heaven? The role of virginity can be seen as the uninhabited, the new potential and inspiration. The Virginal Soul resembles possibility and a generative expression in the world. On the one hand, supporting our clients to “reach for the stars” and live into our passions can fund a sense of self and meaning. On the other hand, our hot-air-filled lift can take us off the ground and away from the things of this world. The virginal soul is not the place to bed consciousness, but it is an important place to attend. Can we support the rising fantasies without dropping lead in the proverbial basket?
Recall from last week, the youthful soul is calm and attentive to her string of flowers. The lion and unicorn wear shields of protection over the soul and the handmaiden (ego) simply offers flowers to the souls creation. By contrast, the virginal soul image is filled with life. The image lifts and engages. Note the capes and banners filled with wind. The birds and other animals appear active. The monkey, once sniffing bread in the background, has now taken center stage. Curious and engaged, the virginal soul feeds a fluttering bird on her finger. A magpie and hawk fence on the winds above. She wears her golden dress uncovered with hair alive on the wind. The tremendous movement and presence of full potential are apparent. Next week we will look at the process of descent where virginity moves us into maturation.
The Soul in Innocence
This week, we will be looking at the soul in stages of transformation personified in the 14th-century French tapestries titled, The Lady and The Unicorn, starting with the first of the images: the Soul in Innocence. James Hillman (2004) identified “the addiction to innocence, to not knowing life’s darkness and not wanting to know, either.” Indeed, his diagnosis sheds light on the oppression and suffering that breathe in the shadow of American idealism. That Hillman equates it with an addiction bears mentioning. It is interesting to consider this perspective when treating our clients with addiction issues. Innocence can be an escape from responsibility, confrontation, neurosis and more. Often we encounter a psychological pattern of sublimation – moving from one addiction to another in an effort to remain hidden and unconscious. Additionally, innocence is a protector, a surrogate womb where refuge from confrontation with the Self can be found.
On the one hand, innocence represents a time without care, where, in reference to the soul, life is lived without reflection and opinion (neurosis.) In many instances, we like to remind clients to remember their weirdness as children. Think of the things we say and do in childhood without regard or expectation. Our “weird” expresses our soul-nature. Perhaps we loved to wiggle our bodies or mastermind an army of toys. Perhaps we enjoyed lining up our stuffed animals in categories or by size and color, playing school, hiding in closets, or making up songs. Innocence grants us the experience of fluid, free, un-reflected expression. Innocence is ease of mind, of imagination and the body.
Freedom, Growth, and Maturation
In Memories Dreams Reflections, C.G. Jung suggests that through adaptation a second self emerges to better interact with environment and needs. We become more survivalists – creating a self better suited for needs and approval. How can the persona we show the world tell us about what we value and what we keep hidden? In time the soul may lose expression and, in neglect, sleep behind the second self. Conversely, a soul-centered psychology aims to awaken and attend to the soul in maturation. By regression into the innocent, we avoid our growth. Consider how innocence-idealized may very well be a hiding place and also a threshold into the imagination. Against the backdrop of archetypal innocence, how do we experience freedom, growth, and maturation? Can innocence put into perspective our lost self? Finally, how can we bring that freedom back out into our waking life?
Innocence As Defense Mechanism
On the one hand, the idealization of innocence can concurrently serve a different function in the individual psyche. Perhaps, rather than grow into and mature through our entangled issues, we may instead regress to a helpless and unknowing, irresponsible archetypal possession. The world is chaos and big, responsibility is pressure and overwhelming and, rather than work through and step into a soul in maturation, we might unconsciously find refuge in the complete abandon of “helplessness.” Innocence as a defense mechanism may show up in an attitude of naiveté. “You can’t blame me I don’t know any better,” for example. Does this behavior sound familiar? How can innocence become a hiding place and a regressive move away from maturation? Furthermore, how can innocence draw us toward what was left behind? Is it possible to move into the essence of soul remembered in innocence without abandoning a conscious and integrative process?
Take a look at the image above. We recognize that the central figure is larger than her handmaiden, cloaked in gold, symbolic of divinity, and the blue and red of the imagination and life. This central figure attends quaintly to the task of stringing flowers. The unicorn of the imagination and the lion of the animal nature are attending and raising banners to the central image, the soul in innocence. The soul is attended by a smaller aspect, holding the flowers for the soul’s creation. The focus here is inward and calm. The feeling is intimate and uncomplicated. Can we have these kinds of experiences in our adult life? This week, try to listen and observe with an ear for innocence both in its idealization as an escape from reality and as a way into the imagination, toward the authenticity of the individual soul.
A Future of Hope and Improvement
A lady looks into the mirror seeing her reflection smiling back. A man sits by the fire and reflects on the years that have passed and cannot be relived. The still lake holds the reflection of the moon on her surface. The idea of reflection is multilayered. Thinking about things that have happened in the past (reflecting on their deeds) and the bouncing off of light/heat from a surface (a reflection in the mirror) are to name just a few. As we move into another new year, we say goodbye to the past and welcome a future of hope and improvement.
The Path of Renewal and Recovery
Reflecting back on the choices we have made in the past year, we gain a more rounded view of the time and the effects our choices have brought. Making better choices is important while walking this path of renewal and recovery. Our actions should be a reflection of our thoughts and our thoughts should reflect our actions. But we must reflect on these past outcomes before we can alter our future choices.
Taking Inventory of the Past
The most common celebrations of ancient times involved reflection and revolved around the harvest festivals of autumn. Perhaps it was out of fear and reverence. After all, the days grew darker and shorter, and the natural world began to die away. It was an important time because what was done in earnest during this time laid the seeds for the spring to come in the future. This is the meaning of reflection: take inventory of the past to reinvigorate the seeds of the future.
Improving Our World and Ourselves
The Chinese offer us another image of reflection encapsulated in the teachings of the I Ching. In China, a large platform elevated into the sky was used as a lookout, glimpsing both ahead and behind. As we know, if you are high up, you can see far. However, there is a cost to being able to see behind and ahead. The cost is that everyone can see you better as well. Thus, the only way that we can improve our world is to improve ourselves. The only way to lead others in a positive way is to reflect deeply on our own lives and make an impact there. Obtain a better view and look within.
Barn Life Recovery is the first treatment center in the state of California with a license to treat mental illness on an outpatient community-based level. At our holistic facility in Orange County, our Barn Life staff encourage tried and true healing practices within an idyllic setting. If you’re feeling anxious, depressed, or just plain overwhelmed, please consider giving us a call. Our staff is ready to answer any questions you might have and begin the admissions process. Call now and start to love life again!
Why We Work and Live
It is important to celebrate, and it often goes unappreciated. We live in a world that teaches us to watch three steps ahead. It expects us to rush to the next stoplight in order to be on time for our life. This lifestyle has us seeing life go by as a blur. We can lose a vital part of our healthy psychology when we become too stressed, too busy, too lost or too self-deprecating to celebrate achievements accomplished by ourselves or our loved ones. Celebrations can be symbols of recognition and reminders of positive and desirable manifestations. Over time and with meaningful intention behind the celebrating, celebrations can build solid confidence. This is especially true if the celebration is to recognize the achievement of a significant goal. Celebrations have always been a significant reminder to why we toil, why we work and live.
The Meaning of the Here and Now
Celebrations play a significant role in the formation of our identity. We celebrate many things in life as well we should, and some celebrations have turned into traditions. These then become a significant part of our identity as a people, society, community and as individuals. As we learn to heal our minds and cope with stressors from a light speed lifestyle, we can reflect how the absence of celebration and recognition can erode and jade us. When we lose ourselves to the daily grind, we can lose the meaning of the here and the now. Furthermore, we lose the meaning of what has been accomplished because we are already making plans for next week. We often overlook opportunities to build our accomplishments through celebration as we focus too much on the future.
Finding a Life Spark
Many people struggle with guilt, a twisted sense of humbleness as well as negative self-talk. We are unsatisfied with our lives. We think we will be happy if our lives somehow mirror another’s life in some form, fashion or material possession. When we are “possessed” by these negative thoughts we can become jaded to life. We minimize what we have accomplished and overcome. Little wonder why it’s difficult for many to find a “life spark”. Many of our clients are so lost in their head – understandably so – over what has been done to them, what they have done to others and what pain they have gone through that celebration seems like an insult or at least something undeserving. During this time of powerful traditions and celebrations that are part of numerous cultures, we are assisting clients by helping them to remind themselves why they are doing all this hard work.
Celebration with Intent
Let’s help others practice being humble. This not only requires awareness and management of personal shortcomings but also personal strengths and how we can use those strengths to help ourselves and others achieve life and treatment goals. We can help challenge exaggerated or distorted views of self by encouraging each other to recognize and “own” our accomplishments even if only to celebrate our courage for seeking treatment. Let’s teach each other how to build healthy confidence based upon the truth of our accomplishments. Let’s nourish our willful intent to heal, grow and become healthier people. Using celebration in this way, we can help each other build a strong foundation in reality that can challenge negative self-talk and exaggerated self-critical mindsets that hinder us and our progress.