Existential Angst During the Pandemic

Dr. James Hillman once said that our modern culture worships two gods above the rest: economy and psychology. Today, individuals revolve like constellating planets around these two universal structures. Less common are the words love, soul and destiny. Both the individual and the collective interact with these energies mythically. In such significant times as these, as we face the existential angst brought on the pandemic, we can readily see how these two vessels host our emotional, intellectual and imaginal lives. Many of us turn to the practical steps for answers, paying our respects to the god of economy. Others, turn more so to the psychological fantasy of growth. “I am working on myself… managing my anxiety… trying to stay positive.” And who can blame us? These altars bare all our best intentions and hopes, our efforts and activities.

David Whyte and The Three Marriages

In The Three Marriages, David Whyte argues that the soul must learn to find the common threads within 3 major areas of life. Says Whyte, “we are collectively exhausted because of inability to hold competing parts of ourselves together in a more integrated way” (Whyte p. 9).  Just as economy and psychology occupy our devotional lives, so our distinctive parts must be teased out from dogmatic practices and brought together again with new depths and understandings which lead to new behaviors and attitudes. We undergo tremendous exile from the norms as our rituals to the gods of finances and self-care fall to disruption. What once went to routines now beckons deeper questions and cooks with the heat of transformation.  What once was occupied by work now paints, screams, dances, journals, and condensates on the exterior of the glass vessel.

Emotional Expression and Emergent Life

Whyte says, “the deeper, unspoken realms of the human psyche, work and life are not separate things and therefore cannot be balanced against each other except to create further trouble” (p.13). Our “marriages” must undergo some painful realizations. Clients no doubt are asking big questions about what it is that truly holds them together. To be ok with not being ok is no small feat. As we sift through the areas of necessity for survival and well being, perhaps this is a good time to find the common threads between our values. Over the coming weeks, we are going to take a look at Whyte’s model for the three marriages Spending time in what hosts meaning will support our staff and our clients in the re-visioning work at hand. Fire dries up the moisture and new life emerges from the completed cooking of emotional expression. Let’s get it out!