It goes without saying that this year presents a difficult task for all of us. We all have questions about our place in this world. How does the vocation of healers come into contact with the evolving and unpredictable circumstances of a global pandemic? Furthermore, an economic crisis and the collective existential transition beckon each of us to the far reaches of our psychic structures. Both in our work with others and any confrontation within ourselves. Up against these strenuous times, we may come together in the hopeful and often humbling realities of our common desire to bring clarity, support, and inspired endurance to the task.
A Culture of Supportive Growth
At Barn Life, I have always appreciated how we make a real impact on our clients and one another. Through positive regard, a weekly reframe, and reflection on the tone, protocol, and culture of our program we manage to lift one another up, fish for blind spots, and enter each new season with the security that we have a strong, compassionate, and united work ethic. I write our theme this week with these values in mind reminding each of you that you are valued and important to who we are and where we go from here. As a culture of supportive growth, we invariably will confront issues of shadow and projection.
Sorting the Seeds
Some of you may already know that I spent my early career working in a church capacity as a licensed pastor of large non-denominational church. I outgrew much of the culture and ideology, at times straining to reconcile culture with gospel. I could not resist the pull into deeper and expanding understandings of self, psyche, and culture. But during that time I quickly learned the lurking dangers no doubt familiar to those in the helping profession. Employment that is thoroughly cultural can ask of you many unspoken standards.
One great lesson came from when I put effort into areas of church life that were not a part of my job description. On the one hand, what a great opportunity to be involved and engaged, to follow my own compass, and contribute to the community I loved. On the other, in time, these efforts became a part of the standard for my job. I became overdrawn and eventually grew resentful. Had it not been for the wise advice of an elder, I may not have made it out alive. How do you sort the seeds between what you do as employee and how you serve?
Shadow in Vulnerability
I always felt this lesson was a good one to learn so early in my career. It can be difficult to find balance. Sometimes expectations can be unclear. This can lead to frustration or even resentments. From the perspective of shadow work, we can say that projection is inevitable. Through the lens of the shadow we recognize that our own understandings aren’t always a reflection of reality. In fact, when tensions go unattended, we may even miss out on the wonderful gift that misunderstanding and tension can provide. We must work to overcome these differences beyond what we may consider comfortability. How can we best model a functional and healthy psychological life to our clients?
We can begin with our own shortcomings – working to confront them and even wear them on our sleeves. We may just be onto something much more evolved should we embrace the universal phenomenon of shadow and projection. After all, as Jung once wrote, “What we resist persists.” This week our theme is shadow in vulnerability. Let’s work to practice listening skills and safe dialogue around vulnerability.
In my years as a clinical therapist and program director, I have encountered many Poseidon problems. Clients express that they feel over-possessed by the unpredictable waters within them. They feel overcome by the surfacing and powerful waves of buried emotions. Why is my anger not going away? Or why do I sabotage my relationships? And why don’t I feel like I am ever enough? When questions like these arise, we can look to the archetypal figure of Poseidon for further understanding.
The Extreme Implications of Vengeance and Emotional Intensities
More than any other Greek deity, Poseidon shows us the extreme implications of vengeance and emotional intensities. On the one hand, we see a figure who carries our ships across the seas to our destinations. This is to suggest that our emotions are the ebbing, flowing waters that carry our dreams and goals. However, on the other, sometimes our emotions get the best of us. We can possess ourselves for years or even lifetimes with their unsolidified reactivity. A Poseidon problem resembles his temperamental kingship.
The Deep and Wide Range of Our Emotional Waters
Poseidon, like the sea itself, ever moves in interaction with the other elements. Waters can stir and lift, powerful, and unpredictable. As ruler of the seas, Poseidon commands the deep and wide range of our emotional waters. A Poseidon man or Poseidon father can be relentlessly powerful in stormy emotions. At other times he is tranquil, softening the edges of ridged and hard surfaces, rocking gently those that he loves in his massive embrace.
A Tremendous Amount of Passion
For example, when our efforts are reliant upon the Poseidon figure, we allow emotions to rule motivations. Of course, this can be quite meaningful. A Poseidon father likely shows great empathy for his children. There is a tremendous amount of passion and squishy moments to be had by watery feelings. But when king is ruled by the seas of his emotions, his wrath and many unsustainable goals are sentenced to the bottoms of the ocean, only to hurl themselves upon the shores soaking the dry land we stand upon.
A Poseidon character is the kingly character of the reactive psyche. He is not the rightful ruler of our inner world because he lacks the vantage point of Olympus. Poseidon loses and is humiliated in many instances before Zeus and the other gods. His power cannot win out for the throne. At least, not if we want healthy outcomes for our psychological and spiritual health.
Working with Awareness of the Seas
We can look to his nature as a kind of barometer of our own masculine relationship with emotion itself. If, for example, we are out of touch with the Poseidon role – that is, we do not rule over emotions with some masculine energy – we may be subject then to the natural occurrences of water damage. Should the waters go untamed or unaddressed, perhaps the solid ground in our lives will be washed away. Should we fail to recognize the Poseidon energy when it swells and thrashes against our boats and shores, we are then destined to play out his mythology in our lifetime.
The trick is to see his role and work with awareness of the seas. For to be the sea is to suffer greatly. This week we ask simply: Where can we see Poseidon in our lives? Furthermore, do we need more emotional attendance? Finally, do we need to release the attempts to rule our psyches from an emotional ocean?
Uranus once ruled as the god of the skies. With Gaia (Mother Earth), Uranus fathered the primal forces of the universe. As strong and powerful forces, his children, the titans, held the elemental system together. And, like many fathers, Uranus reveled in his authority above the others but, in time, grew fearful. He worried that his own children would rise against him and began burying the titans deep into the earth. Gaia, out of desperation to protect her children, pleaded with several of her sons to help dethrone the power-mad father. All of the sons were cowardly but one. Cronos, best known as Saturn, agreed to hide while Uranus came to lay with Gaia. When the moment was right, Cronus struck Uranus at the base of his genitals and cast them into the seas. Graphic as the scene was, it effectively awarded Cronos the position of power over the universe.
The Wounds of the Father
As wounds of the father are so often hereditary, Cronos, too, began to fear losing his reign over his children. But instead of hiding them, Cronos aggressively begins to devour them and firmly reserves his control. Let’s consider what these stories have to say about fathering. Firstly, we can readily see the role that fear plays in the life of a father. Whether it be by a need for dominion or mere significance, the authoritative father is compelled to repress the new with the old. Fathers may rely heavily on the “right answers” to maintain their reign. Cronos/Saturn fathering often relies on the old wisdom to confront and swallow the new imagination. However, it may rob children of the chance to explore their own identities. Rather than finding one’s own strength, like Uranus to Cronos, these dominant energies can pass along their fears and strategies to their children.
Stoic, Stubborn, and Aggressive
Consider that we associate Cronos with law, time, and rules. His distant and rigid manner is dry, direct, and unyielding. He is stubborn and aggressive. This is how I can best describe the Cronos aspect of the psyche. There is in each of us, and likely we can observe in our own parents, a fear-driven desire to preserve and repress change. To secure our mental health and our sobriety, pay our bills, and succeed in our lives, many will rely heavily on the inner Cronos figure. This replaces the unfolding and emotionally rich experiences of life. For example, the stoic “box-checker” in treatment may emotionlessly execute goals with minimal living connection to the human unfolding.
A Repression of Our Own Growth
Secondly, we may consider the consumption of the gods as a kind of repression of the many aspects of our own growth. Out of fear of volatile forces, the soul can become buried within swallowed emotions in the belly, churning and grumbling but held down by dry and rigid saturnian consciousness. As a result, as our next story will demonstrate, this doesn’t work out so well for Cronos. In fact, the dry, rigid, and distant figure well preserves the gods until the new life (his own son) risks it all to save his siblings.
Zeus and the Warrior Defenders
As Cronos devours each of the gods, Zeus is protected and hidden by his mother, Rhea. Zeus, a young baby, is hidden away in caves and protected by the Minaeds. Under further research, we learn that the Minaeds resemble warrior defenders. Just as our hidden inner child has many defenders, so, too, does Zeus. To put it another way, as rigid and threatening circumstances force the inner child into hiding, it also can cause us to recruit defenses for that child. Our emotions, gifts, and individuality may be blocked by these defenders whether the threat of danger continues or not.
A Flood of Archetypal Energies
Rhea and Zeus devise a plan to offer to Cronos a poison (in one version of the myth) or a stone (in another) wrapped in swaddling cloth to consume. Rhea tells Cronos that this is Zeus and Cronos quickly devours the offering. Cronos becomes ill and throws up the entire pantheon of the gods consumed.
And you thought your family was dramatic? There is a lot going on here! Firstly, we have a sort of warning for the Cronos experience. Should we father ourselves, for example, in this dry, consumptive, and distant way, we may eventually purge the many inner figures all at once. And I don’t know about you but the idea that a flood of archetypal energies pours out all at once sure sounds like chaotic forces to me. Have you ever wondered why when you’re doing everything “right,” the chaos can come up all at once? Could it be the enacted myth Cronos?
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.