Today we begin a new series on images of healthy parent models. It’s no real stretch to suggest that how we were parented influences 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 of these models. We explore how we have taken them into adult life: what worked, what didn’t, what motivates, and what destroys.
Substantiating Our Best Selves
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.
Archetypal Images of Masculine and Feminine Figures
There is a problem with simply processing what was formative from our parents. Specifically, we may never reconcile these images to the whole. Without corrective experiences of a healthier nature, we battle out the same inadequacies of our ancestors. In this effort, I want to use this series to explore universal images of masculinity and femininity in order to open up the conversation about the inner parent model. We will explore the missing links of the psyche 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. Additionally, we find new voices of motivation, nurture, acceptance, and effort.
A Deeper World of Exploration
For our first week, I want to draw special attention to the way we 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 coming weeks these structures resemble the personified images of mythic and fairytale figures. These learned models are doorways to 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 and who we might long to meet in the pantheon
I stood upon a high place
And saw, below, many devils
And carousing in sin.
One looked up, grinning,
And said: “Comrade! Brother!”
The Center of Consciousness
Undoubtedly you have heard of the third eye chakra. In large part, we might say the third eye is the dominantly favored center of consciousness for us westerners. Since the scientific revolution, humankind in the west began to reduce our concept of wonder, mystery, divine, and imagination to the measurable and mathematical. For example, what once was the mysterious magic of divine wonders became the arrangement of chemical structures. Chemistry, mathematics, and the clustering of ideas are products of western psychology. Here, one can attribute these rationalistic virtues to the mind itself. While artistry flows through intuition, sciences generally strive for calculation. What does this have to do with the third eye and mental health?
The Eye of the Mind
To be blunt: everything! Our mythological structures and sciences work like a lens over the eye of the mind. For example, if 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, for example, 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.
A Tremendous Shadow
If 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 a 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. 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?
A Balanced 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. On the other hand, without an intuitive and reception gaze through the mind’s eye, one may experience a rigid, concrete, obtuse, stubborn, perfectionistic, judgment and even tyrannical attitude toward one’s self-concept, ideas about the past, others, and more.
The Role of the Cameraman
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?
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