A Clash of Complexes (Or Exploring my Cranky Six-Year Old)

March 30, 2012

It was one of those moments when I felt myself so tightly bound in the grip of the complex that I could not back up despite having a roomful of curious, confused and possibly judgmental eyes on me. “I only want to change some money” I exclaimed for the third time. I had just arrived in Bhutan, the group of eighteen of us were at lunch and the organizer had just announced the afternoon’s agenda that did not include going to the bank. During the discussion I had my position challenged by statements like, most people don’t have passports with them, you can spend American dollars and a money changer will come to the hotel tonight” and I finally succumbed feeling irritated, shamed and humiliated without really knowing why this seemed so important and why I could not let it go. I was tired and exhausted from having got up at 12.30 am to go to the airport, I had not slept and it would have been easier to put it down to fatigue but I clearly recognized the signs of the thing that James Hollis defines as “charged clusters of history”. I was in the grip of a complex.
I realized I needed some time away from the group so I excused myself from the afternoon activities and set off to find a bank. It was a simple process that took me five minuted. To my surprise here most people speak some English and I was soon contently holding 5020 Ngultrums in my hand (about $100.) wondering why on earth I had not changed money at the airport when I was standing by the cashier waiting for the group. It is though I was binding myself to the group’s agenda. We had been told we would change money as a group and for some reason I gave away my independence. In hindsight this is insane as a group changing money takes for ever while for an individual it is a moment.
I went for a long walk trying to come to grip with the thoughts, feelings and energy that had so bound me after lunch. Now I felt shame, embarrassment and judgment of my behaviour but that was not where it started. I traced the energy of that moment and began to unravel the Gordian knot of emotions, feelings and energy that resulted in the outburst. There were a number of considerations that at first seemed somewhat unrelated but combined they trapped me in a turmoil from which there seemed no escape.
1) I was inordinately tired and exhausted. I had only just recovered from jet lag having flown across the date line and adjusted my biological clock by 14 hours. Then having to forgo most of a nights sleep in order to check out at 1.00 a.m. and catch the flight to Bhutan.
2) I had learned from previous experience particularly in Bangkok Airport that this state causes me to become exceedingly ungrounded and make bad decisions however I did nothing to remedy that fact.
3) While the rest of the group was having a chance to rest I was stuck in the lobby as my room was not ready.
4) I do not do group stuff well and unwittingly making it worse by suppressing my challenge rather than exploring it. Atum (Our pilgrimage leader) had suggested a practice of selecting something to metaphorically leave in Bangkok, I chose ‘my being in a group angst’ thus ensuring that it would unconsciously increase it’s power over me. (Just what was I thinking? I put that down to fatigue.)
5) The issue of not having local currency taps into an absolute dislike I have of spending American dollars anywhere except the U.S.A. I have always considered it somewhat disrespectful the way Americans expect Canadians to accept their currency as though it is their own. In addition local currency gives me a sense of comfort and control, I knew it was highly likely I would want to pop into the grocery store for a couple of beers before the day was out.
6) There also was a sense of broken agreements as we had been told there would be an opportunity to change money and this had been reneged on.
7) This was compounded by a sense of not being heard or listened to and the distinct lack of sympathy from most of the group except for a sweet Canadian woman who related to my feelings.
All this combined to create a result that in some ways resembled a child’s tantrum at not getting its way. So who was this child that had resurrected itself from the past to wreck my day? I spent an hour meditating, contemplating and trying to understand where this child developed such an intensity but had trouble either recalling a specific instance from my childhood or relating to the child’s response.
I followed the steps outlined in my post and even though I could see the childish behaviour, as an adult I could neither understand or relate to it. It seemed so out of proportion to the situation. http://wp.me/phAyS-j3
I believe a major step in healing the energy of these complexes requires honouring the child’s experience and showing compassion and forgiveness but I just could not go there. I was stuck. I was too pissed off with the prospect of facing the group again. Then the miracle I needed to adjust my attitude. As I lay on my bed reflecting on how I had reacted, the words – “just like a tired cranky six year old came into my head and eureka I found my compassion. Suddenly I could see myself at six: tired, cranky and needy and my mother trying to cope with my new born sister and four year old brother. What hope did I have of getting attention without throwing a tantrum? I felt a flood of compassion for my inner child and finally I could move on. Now I could consider how the adult could face the consequences without giving in to the tendency to hide. I found it surprisingly easy to own my discomfort with my colleagues who of course were totally understanding and forgiving. In fact I found out that my willingness to share my experience significantly helped two others who had also been experiencing some angst in the group. As I completed my journey with this complex two poems came to mind. The first by Rumi from the Guest House – ‘The dark thought, the shame, the malice, meet them at the door laughing and invite them in. Be grateful for whoever comes because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.” Also from John O’Donohue who in his beautiful poem To Bless This Space Between Us suggests gratitude for the days “when the veil is lifted and the soul can see delight.”

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Reflections On One Who Hears The Cries

March 16, 2012

This is the second workshop in the series Archetypal Dimensions of Spiritual Guidance. I actually missed it because I chose to go to Mexico, I got punished by a day of rain, however my friend Lynn has kept beautiful notes. This particular archetype represents the perspective of holding love and compassion for both oneself and for others in times of adversity and challenge. Atum presented a beautiful prayer titled the one who hears the cries, “Hold us in the heart of infinite compassion. in your presence we find refuge acceptance on the blessing of graceful peace.”

I realize going through the notes of the weekend that not a lot resonated for me. So I think the best I can do is reflect on how this archetype manifests itself in my life and how I work with it. This archetype does not personalize easily for me. For example to use someone like Kwan Yin, Jesus or Buddha really doesn’t have any positive energy for me and as James Hollis says that “when for whatever reason the energy no longer enlivens that image for us that structure dies for us as a source of the divine, the energy has departed leaving a dry husk.” (I have realized during this program that I need to find my own way and not all of the practices or teachings will apply or resonate to me.)

As far as this archetype is concerned I will review it from three different perspectives. Firstly how is this archetype relevant to my life at the moment? I am frequently the hearer of the cries with both Spiritual Coaching clients and friends. What I deal with ranges from fear of death and dying, progressive illness and relationship issues, financial issues to work issues. My primary role is to listen and empathize and stay out of judgment or problem solving. The cry needs to be heard not addressed however I may offer some tools to help cope – a book, a prayer, a poem or a meditation, but my primary role is to hold them. I observe that those who have a strong belief system may be able to use their faith to sustain them however frequently faith can be severely tested. Sometimes this leads me into an exploration of faith and occasionally into stories about how my faith has been restored. (I keep a Soul Journal that features experiences that provide the foundation for my faith; when I am tested I read them,) I realize that not everyone has resources to call upon when confronted with adversity, tragedy, challenge and change in their lives and I often become a primary resource. I notice there is sometimes a need to explore a current “God” concept as certainty in the old gets severely tested. As the Indian sage Tukaram observed, “Certainty undermines one’s power, and turns happiness into a long shot.  Certainty confines. Dears, there is nothing in your life that will not change – especially your ideas of God.”

Secondly, in terms of when I have a cry I need to be heard, I know I have been exceedingly fortunate in building a community of friends who I can share intimately my concerns and challenges. Some are from the SG community and some outside. They are mostly counselors, therapists and coaches  and all share a common commitment to the journey of the soul. In addition my relationship to my belief system helps me hold my own drama in the context of the mystery.

Thirdly, on a less personal scale there are there is the need to hold the state of the world and the “cries” that arise. I try to avoid exposing myself to too much needless drama. What gets through I hold in the context of mystery. I experienced a major crisis last year struggling with the comparison of my amazing life and the state of the planet. It came back to learning to hold the paradoxes that we all encounter. The way I do this is within the context of a greater mystery.

Atum asked a pivotal question, “What archetype will you bring to the cries when you can’t carry them?” I think my archetype relates to one of the mystery supported by the power of my community and the ability to transport myself into natural beauty. Like Wendell Berry, “I come into the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief. I come into the presence of still water.” and it helps me live in a paradoxical world.