Today we begin a new series on images of a healthy mother and father, or parent models. It’s no real stretch to suggest that parental styles influence who we become. From Freud to now, psychology has been dominated in large part by the reconciliation of childhood experiences with presenting problems in adult life. After all, is it not the inner child we hail supreme in psychotherapy? And why? Of course these formative years mold the ego through modeling of the environment. Naturally mother and father provide our first real images of how one engaged with emotion, relationships, responsibilities, beliefs, and life itself. To one degree or another, our work at Barn Life is about bringing out these models. We explore how we have taken them into adult life: what worked, what didn’t, what motivates, and what destroys.
Our Best Efforts and Worst Limitations
From wounding to winning, the parent models we had present to us our best efforts and our worst limitation. If, for example, we rely too heavily on our strengths, we may never know the meaning of failure. As Winnicott once wrote, “We would be best set up for a healthy individual life with a good enough mother and a good enough father… too good and we never find our interiority; too bad and we find only the survivalist within. Adopted in childhood, these external figures formed how we find motivation, nurture, and relationships to our own goals, both as the clinician and the client. The resources we acquire to substantiate our best selves, as we will explore, rely heavily on the images we hold of how to self-parent.
A Better Understanding of Our Own Unique Experiences
There is a problem with simply processing what was formative from our parents. That is, we may never reconcile these images to the whole. Without corrective experiences of a healthier nature, we are destined to battle out the inadequacies of our ancestors. This series will explore universal images of masculinity and femininity in order to examine the inner parent model. We will explore the missing links between aspects of the psyche both in what may be underdeveloped and what may be over-relied upon. In an effort to bring us closer to the organizing principles of mothering and fathering, we will be spending the next several weeks exploring archetypal images of masculine and feminine figures in myth and fairytale. These figures help us to better understand the nature of our own unique experiences of our mothers and fathers as well as new and improved voices of motivation, nurture, acceptance, and effort.
A Deeper World of Exploration
For our first week, I am encouraging the staff to draw special attention to the way our clients ( and even ourselves) draw on our learned models. How do we confront obstacles? Conflict? Inadequacy? Failure? Stress? What beliefs do we hold about what we deserve? As we will see in the coming weeks, these structures resemble the personified images of mythic and fairytale figures. Indeed, these learned models are doorways into a deeper world of exploration. With the intention of an expanding imaginal life, we will work to make more conscious who is among us as the voice of father and mother inside and out. Furthermore, who might we be longing to meet in the pantheon?
The crown chakra, or sahasrara in Sanskrit, is our 7th and final chakra in our psyche and soma series. Here we engage with the purest and most balanced concept of a higher vision of the self and consciousness. That is, how we are aware of the moment and the experience of our own energy field. Sitting at the top of our head, the crown chakra exposes our capacity for a pure conscious relationship with a universal whole. Rather than the differentiated emotional and sensory worlds of the lower and bodily chakras, the crown hosts our blissful or transcendental selves. If we subscribe to the idea that there is a soul incarnate within the body and psyche, the crown experience would best describe the pure union of harmonious fullness.
The Hopeful and Transcendent Image
I often address the common phenomenon in early recovery of a kind of purified image of health that may overtake an individual for a period of time. This arguably comes as a compensation for the unconscious drives of the bodily instincts in chaos. Once the carnal self has rendered one in a kind of surrendered ego, the hopeful and transcendent image descends onto these individuals. We can feel this when anyone comes from their purest sense of self. Often with radical room for the moment at hand and a strong capacity to accept and flow with the presenting moment. Our term, “getting high” refers to this state. Often, we chase freedom from the mind and freedom from bodily urges. To identify completely with the crown is to cut one’s self off from the entire human experience. Instead, one aligns with the deified world of the archetypes.
Our Transcendent Notion
It is not uncommon to confuse these experiences with the ideal life. On the one hand, what a miraculous place to dwell! After all, our view from the mountaintop certainly shrinks the lower veils and trials of a human/animal life. When above it all, earthly experiences seem trivial, even unnecessary. As Peter once said to Jesus when meeting the prophet Elijah on a literal mountaintop, “Why ever leave this place?” The answer, on the other hand, invites us to appreciate these experiences for what they are. Once some higher bliss can be achieved, we may resist the descent into the soulful life. However, in the descent, we may also bring our transcendent notion down and in as the informing and simplifying guide.
Harmonious and Perfect Organization
A balanced crown chakra produces an ever-present awareness that the universal structures of the archetypes or God/gods are harmonious and in perfect organization. By contrast, we, as beings of receptivity to presenting material of the unconscious, are ever reconciling to that universal whole. From the depth psychology perspective, we are ever introduced to the layers of undifferentiated and unconscious aspects of our wholeness. This chakra introduces the ideals and may possess the psyche for periods of time.
A Mythic Mapping of Our Journey
This week, I encourage staff and clients to not be shy about the ideals. Instead, as we loosen the tensions around the mind, we may begin to let go. We may imagine a state of our best and purest relationship with the presenting moment. These phenomena are a beautiful thing to pursue. Often, our goals in recovery of any kind reflect this climb into blissful harmony. Sometimes our greatest intervention is a mythic mapping of our journey. Should a client become mindful of their ideals, they may, too, confront the need to descend into the raw and tactile world of the daily task, the deeper emotion or the undifferentiated unconscious.
Undoubtedly you have heard of the third eye chakra. In large part, we might say the third eye is the favored center of consciousness for us westerners. Since the scientific revolution, humankind in the west began to reduce our concept of wonder, mystery, the divine, and imagination to the measurable and mathematical. For example, what once was mysterious magic of divine wonders became the arrangement of chemical structures. Chemistry, mathematics, and the clustering of ideas are products of a western psychology. Here, one can attribute these rationalistic virtues to the mind itself. While artistry flows through intuition, the sciences generally strive for calculation. What does this have to do with the third eye and mental health?
A Lens Over the Eye of the Mind
To be blunt: everything! Our mythological structures – and science is indeed a mythic realm – work like a lens over the eye of the mind. If, for example, we are primed with the narrative that all things can be solved, what then becomes of the journey? I say one of the great problems we all have today is the many predicted outcomes that dictate our experiences before the journeys themselves. When our motive is resolution rather than revelation, our aim is to no longer experience the surprise of life. Wonder dies as predictable systems darken our peripheral vision. The third eye chakra is all about these tensions.
The Soulful Folding of a Meaningful Life
If for example, one does not release the tension behind the eyebrows, strive for execution, and follow the unconscious mythologies of the sciences, the soulful unfolding of a meaningful life may fall under tremendous shadow. Longing, an innate and necessary messenger of the soul, may instead grow perverse. The adventuring and intimate seeker may consider longing to be a precursor to failure rather than an opening into meaning. The third eye is all about mystery as it draws in the images and intuitive fluctuations of the unconscious. When in talk therapy we ask a client open-ended questions, we are supporting them to look with the third eye at the material unresolved. One might ask are we seeking to reduce another’s experience down or to open their experiences up?
An Unbalanced Third Eye
Of course, there is room for both in the balanced third eye. In fact, without balance, one may experience, on the one hand, an overactive third eye. Here, images and intuitions are un-grounding and often disassociating from the presenting moment. At great extremes, we call this psychosis in psychology. Conversely, without an intuitive and receptive gaze through the mind’s eye, one may experience a rigid, obtuse, perfectionistic judgment. One might even have a tyrannical attitude toward one’s self-concept, ideas about the past, others, and more.
A Significant Center of Consciousness
In short, the third eye chakra is a significant center of consciousness. For our purposes, as we engage and develop healthy psychological and somatic relationships between the chakras, we want to generate some awareness around the condition of the third eye. Often, we require the turning of the third eye down and in as we have been to engage with the subtle body of a psycho-sensual world below. As the camera lens, one must work on the role of the cameraman. Where do we turn our attention and, as with any eye, are we taking in the light?
We cannot discuss the throat chakra without a comparison to the Greek god Hermes. His character personifies the traveling messenger between all deities, sending signals and expressions of harmony, disharmony, life, and death. Hermes is a trickster figure, often moving forwards and backwards with whimsical and snake charming personality. God of messages, Hermes has little to say for himself. Rather, he comes and goes with the transferences of soul between upper worlds and underworlds. Similarly, the throat irrigates the vital flow of oxygen, blood, and neurotransmission between the brain, head and body. We could say it is the mythological Hermes at work each time sensation, memory, compulsion, anger, and more come to consciousness. The Hermes mythos hosts all that is the exposed and vulnerable go-between just as the throat carries vital substance across the threshold between the mind and the body.
The Hermetic Traveler
Associated with the color deep blue, the throat chakra is the source of our deep truths. When this chakra is blocked, communication between what is truly taking place in the mind and in the body is repressed. This may lead to eruptions of mood, loss of identity, and a poor spiritual, emotional, and psychological disposition. As the vulnerability of the throat space begins to loosen, one may discover they have a tremendous amount to say without really knowing the source of the information. The “purge,” as I like to call it, is to access the Hermetic stream of consciousness. In other words, allowing the gods of the psyche to pour out in expression. It is the voice that bounces back which tells what we sound like. Furthermore, it is the voice of process – the Hermetic traveler – which carries the sacred messages of our deepest truths.
Balance and Vital Self-Expression
An open and balanced throat chakra frees up our channels of communication. When the throat is relaxed and energy flows freely, not only are we able to commune between mind and body in the inner world but also in the outer world with relationships and vital self-expression. A balanced throat chakra supports the communication of truths in ways that find harmony and understanding with others. Naturally, an overactive throat chakra may instead hurl information, or overcome oneself and others with maniacal intensities. When, for example, we do not transfer anger through the god Hermes, we risk the overtaking of Mars. Anger energy, as an example, can overtake the repressed or the overactive (and they are one and the same). Making one small creates the counterbalance, if only in the eyes of others.
The Great Bridge
This week I want us to be mindful of the formation of words and the purpose of the throat space. My encouragement is to breathe into this area. Allow energy to flow upwards and downwards, transferring the vital wisdom the psyche-soma connection affords. Since all aspects and relationships occur at the threshold between them, we can recognize the throat as the great bridge across which all vital truths and harmonies must cross. May we all be impeccable with our word this week as we observe and connect in the slippery and poetic flow of Hermes.
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