A Flutter of the Cosmic Cape

December 10, 2017

On Thursday I awoke suddenly to the beating of my heart. It seemed faster than usual. Since the procedure that corrected my atrial fibrillation I have been much more conscious of my heart, I focused, it was still in sinus rhythm then it seemed to miss a beat. I was immediately traumatized; I practically leaped out of bed; the possibility that my atrial fibrillation was coming back deeply disturbed me.

Coping With Denial

At first I did not want to know. I decided to engage in my morning meditation practice hoping it would dissipate by the time I finished. However it still seemed to be beating faster than usual. I made my morning tea, sat for a while with my anxiety then checked my pulse again. It was definitely beating faster than I was used to however it did not have the familiar pattern of the arrhythmia that I had lived with for ten months. My first coping strategy was to suppress what could be happening. I would rather spend the day in denial rather than address the situation. I had an appointment with my cardiologist in less than week; I would try to defer worrying until then.

A Tinge of Relief

I headed to the gym. As I began my 35 minutes on the treadmill, I was apprehensive about what would happen. For ten months the treadmill had not been able to measure my heart beat because of the erratic rhythm. (At the time I had assumed all the machines were broken.) Since my procedure they had worked fine. After fifteen minutes I gingerly placed my hands on the monitors. I practically held my breath waiting the fifteen seconds for the reading. Finally 154 showed up. I gave a sigh of relief and offered up a brief prayer of gratitude. It was not arrhythmia but why was my heart beating less efficiently? It was definitely about ten beats faster than usual. Was I becoming obsessional? Was this something to worry about or was it just within normal range? I knew it wasn’t tachyarrhythmia, the levels would be much higher and it wouldn’t steadily decline.

Slipping into Mindlessness

I did my best to pack my anxiety away and get on with my workout. I was relieved to find it didn’t possess me as I got on with my day. It was only later in the evening that I noticed I had shifted into a state of preoccupation with overlapping mindless activity – Netflix, playing games on my iPad and feeling restless. When this happens it is like a stop sign reminding me I had unresolved anxiety.

Contemplation and Reflection

I decided to spend the last two hours of the day in contemplation and reflection to assess what was going on. I began by putting on some sacred music, then picking up my journal.

I began to unpackage my anxiety. It was not so much about the condition – I had lived with it for ten months; I was fortunate enough to have few side effects. However I certainly did not want to get embroiled in the medical system once again.

The Anxiety Behind the Anxiety

Then I realized what eminent Jungian analyst and author James Hollis describes as the anxiety behind the anxiety. I had undertaken a three-month inner journey as a result of my atrial fibrillation. (See https://wp.me/phAyS-CP) Suddenly I was facing a realization that perhaps my quest for meaning has been nothing but a delusion. Perhaps I had made it up to feel better. This was the real fear – that this inner journey had been for nothing In summary, “I guess feel bummed, and the proponents that life is random win out.”

The Puzzle Unfolds

As I sat reflecting, listening to the beautiful music of Enya, some pieces of my personal puzzle emerged. On Tuesday I had held a dream group. During the evening we drew angel cards and another from a deck called The Nature Speak Oracle by Ted Andrews that had previously offered great insight. On this particular evening I had drawn Courage from the angel cards and Power of Prayer from the nature deck. Neither had seemed particularly relevant then but they certainly did now. Then I recalled a practice I often do when I am suffering from challenges of faith. I review what I refer to as my Soul Journal. It is a collection of meaningful moments on the Soul Journey including something I describe as Moments of Awe and Wonder. It is my “Go To Chest” in times of challenge.

Exploring My Go To Chest

Somewhat synchronistically the previous day I had come across the very first entries when I first started in 2010. As I reviewed I began to capture the list again in my journal.

  • Taking a hiking cane for the first time on the day I broke my ankle, without it I would never have made it off the mountain.
  • Doing a 360 over my handlebars to avoid a small child and finding myself sitting on the ground with no injury as a passerby said “wow that was spectacular”
  • Meeting a woman for the first time in a line up at the library and realizing I had her telephone number in my pocket as someone I wanted to write about.
  • Driving up Mammoth Lakes Road and feeling what I thought was an electric shock. When I stopped I saw a turn-off that I knew I needed to explore and found a couple desperate because they had locked their keys in the car.
  • Having a psychic love affair as a result of which my worldview completely shifted.

In total I recorded eighteen of these moments of awe and wonder. I felt a clarity and calmness. No one contrary incident could cause the experience of years to collapse. My worldview felt affirmed. Perhaps I was supposed to live with atrial fibrillation, if that was my destiny then so be it. I will continue to seek meaning in every experience. It is my way.

Power of Prayer – I Hope

I decided was time to engage in the power of prayer. I have a somewhat dualistic relationship with prayer. I know it works – there are too many amazing stories about prayer. (Check out Larry Dossey’s books on the subject.) But how when and why is all part of what I call the Mystery. Who exactly I am praying to is beyond my comprehension. I don’t believe in praying for specific outcomes for my self. The phrasing of this particular prayer was more a discussion.

“Divine presence within me, I would prefer not to have my atrial fibrillation return but I am willing to accept whatever is for my highest good. In which case I pray for the gift of acceptance and surrender. Maybe it will come back, maybe it won’t, help me to surrender”

An Amazing Shift

I noticed how much better I was feeling. I found a new poem to learn and wrote it out, I did a gratitude meditation and focused on the transmission of positive energy to others. I realized how much better it was to spend my time in this manner as opposed to the mindless television and games playing.

The next morning I felt different. After my meditation I checked my pulse – the gentle, slow beat of my heart had returned. I sat with gratitude in my heart and wondered what I may have been missing.

A Flutter of the Cosmic Cape

The words the fluttering of the cosmic cape came into head. Like the matador fluttering his cape at the bull, perhaps the cosmos had been trying to get my intention.  As I contemplated this possibility, it occurred to me I had lost my way in terms of two practices that used to be a key component of my day. On the day of my episode I had spoken to a friend in Ontario who shared with me her morning practice of music, journaling and contemplation. As she spoke I remembered that used to be my practice before I got an iPad. Then the ability to check e-mail created so many distractions that contemplative practice vanished. Also my evening gratitude practice had also become truncated and squeezed in between TV watching and bed.

Finding My Way

It is time to disengage and set a different focus. My day would begin with meditation; continue with music, journaling and contemplation. At ten in the evening, I would put away my devices and focus on my inner journey. I would try and spend from 10 p.m. to 10 a.m. without devices.

Post Script: Missing The Clues

It was only as this particular episode completed that I realized that the flutter of the cape was perhaps the end of a series of hints and clues my Soul had been sending me. (I sense the fluttering of the cape is one step ahead of the cosmic 2 x 4.)

First I burned myself on a hot dish, then I damaged my ribs helping my friend load his truck, spilt a bag of almonds and lost a toque that I was fond of. Then there were two dreams: one with Woody Allen and the other featuring Donald Trump reminding me that if I follow that which is mindless, shallow and inauthentic I will lose out. All small things but certainly suggesting my life had lost its flow. (See my dreamclarity blog for more on the dreams

James Hollis suggests in his book “What Matters Most” that the psyche asks of us what sustains the Soul and what sustains the Spirit and if we do not answer these consciously they will go underground and show up as somatic disorders, behavioral disorders and projections. I sense my Soul was asking the question but I was asleep.

 

 

 

 

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The Soul’s Journey – Zen Biking

November 3, 2017

IMG_2596

It is a beautiful Vancouver Fall day. After five days of relentless rain we’re having a gorgeous end to October. I wondered about a bike ride but my last experience had been painful. My bike seemed sluggish and even heavier than usual more like a lumbering rhino than a spirited charger. I had put it down to the colder temperatures and my own lack of practice. Finally I decided a lethargic bike and reluctant rider were better than going to the gym so I dressed warmly and unlocked the restraining padlock. It occurred to me that the tires could have lost some air since summer and when I checked the front it definitely felt soft. To my surprise each tire required sixty strokes of my floor pump. These tires were seriously under inflated.

Flying Like a Gazelle

Finally I was ready to go. I felt the difference immediately. It was dramatic – my lumbering rhino had become a gazelle. What a difference! My ride was relaxing and enjoyable, I could stay in a lower gear range and had time and desire to fully appreciate the beauty of a Fall day.

Rolling Resistance

It was only when I got home and did some research that I found that low tire pressure creates what is termed rolling resistance. This meant that each pedal stroke created less forward motion than usual so my ride was longer and much harder work. Tires naturally lose air over a season and in addition cooler temperatures result in lower tire pressure. During my ride I noticed myself begin to explore the symbolic nature of my experience. In order to eliminate this resistance I first had to check the tires, then I needed to pump and that resulted in air filling the tires. I began to reflect on the applications of this metaphor on the Soul Journey.

Breathe The Free Air My Friend

Air is of course a perfect synonym for breath. Frequently taking time to inhale a breath can change how we respond to any given situation. The parallel to my bike incident revealed itself. First I need check in. Then I have to respond by focusing attention to the breath and then I have do it.

Finding Balance

It is a great practice to see how balanced you feel in the moment. First bring attention to the body, then take a few deep breaths and see what emerges. Occasionally I find my energy id too frenetic and I use the breath to ground myself. (As you breathe imagine you are a tree rooted to the ground.) Then do the same with how you are feeling. I find this particularly helpful when I am feeling inertia and lack of energy. As I bring attention to the breath I often hear the voice, “go for a walk” acting on this invariably enlivens me no matter how bad the weather. Next apply the same focus to your thoughts. Notice as you breathe what is distracting you – is there any negative self talk engaged? Then release it and let it go. Times like this I try and recall Don Miguel Ruiz’s four agreements: Don’t make assumptions, Don’t take it personally, Do your best, Be impeccable to your word.

One More Check-In

Finally my last check in is with the Soul, deeper self, the Force or whatever works for you. Checking in with the breath will often help me see how to connect with what I sometimes think of as “the ground of being”. It helps me remember to feed the Soul perhaps with poetry, a walk, beauty, music, a sacred text or sometimes just to browse through my Soul Journal the repository for mystical and meaningful moments in my life.

Rolling resistance does not just apply to bikes; it’s the force that prevents us from doing that which serves our best. So check-in, take some breaths and fly.


The Soul’s Journey – What Station Are You At?

January 12, 2017

I think that a train journey is a wonderful metaphor for the journey of the Soul. We move from station to station over our life and of course there are two stations that we will all experience – Birth at the beginning where I sense we are unrealized Spirit and the final terminus where hopefully we have fulfilled the Soul’s desires and become realized Spirit.
Of course the stops in between are unique to each one of us. There are many terrains in which we may find stations – desert, ocean, valleys, dark, light, the roller coaster and the stop named Resistance is all too common.
I believe the journey of the Soul embraces every aspect of who we are: the emotional, psychological, spiritual, mental and Soulful. A client asked me recently how to discern what was Spirit and what wasn’t. My reply: “It’s all Spirit to me.”
This is what makes this epic adventure so challenging, so complex and so rewarding. It is important to differentiate between the station we inhabit and the current state. The station is our personal climate while our state is the current weather within that climate.
For example an early station in my life was Fundamentalism. It was a demanding station with a very masculine, authoritarian God, severe punishment for wrong-doing and only one way out by being saved by the blood of Jesus. While stopped at that station there was good weather and bad weather. Times of great happiness combined with equal confusion.
The train eventually pulled out. For a while it travelled through no-mans land then arrived at Atheism where it remained on a siding for twenty years. There was lot of varied states at this stop from enormous joy and success to absolute shock and despair.
Discerning our current station can help us identify the foundation that helps us manage the variety of states that may occur. For example my current station has evolved from the belief that I am a Spiritual being having a human experience. My specific stop at this point in my life is a station called Flow. It represents the worldview that if I stay conscious and aware, attend to my spiritual and psychological needs, set intention and pay attention then what is mine will come to me – both the good and the less so. During a recent Spiritual Guidance evening with the small group that I work with we did a practice to reveal the current station of the members of the group. I started with a guided meditation to encourage a process of practice of active imagination to access the guiding wisdom that each of us can access.

“Close your eyes, perhaps sigh and feel yourself coming fully present to this time, this place, this moment. Then bring your intention to a single breath. In, Out, Deep, Slow, Calm, Ease, Grace, Peace, Smile, Release, Present Moment, Wonderful Moment.
Now imagine an empty canvas, it is blank, it is waiting for you. It will reveal to you the station your Soul train sitting at. “Held in the embrace of silence, resting in the deep heart, allowing my Soul to be, I come home. Allow an image to begin forming in your mind. Where are you? Don’t engage with it or shape it, allow it to take its own form. When you feel ready begin to draw the image or write the words that are emerging.”

What was most revealing was how unique each image was to the individual journey and in every case there was a deep sense of wonder at the positive aspects of the station despite current conditions that may be challenging. One participant was reluctant to draw because she feared the image would represent her current difficulties. Instead it offered her an oasis for respite when things seemed too intense.
Some times we get stuck at a station too long. We have to be aware that if energy departs from this place, it is time to move on. Resistance can result in being stuck. One client of mine who clearly realized she had stayed too long at stop named Constructive Discontent exclaimed, “I jammed the emergency brake on and can’t recall how to release.”
Unfortunately there is no map of all the stations. We muddle our way through as best as we can – hoping we fulfill our personal itinerary and doing our best to remember the wonderful words of the poet Em Claire.

It’s a beautiful time to be alive.
And the long walk home is peopled—
We, are everywhere.
Yet the struggle to surrender is where we walk alone.
So the next time you fall
look
to either side where you lie
and take the hand
of your dear Sister or Brother
whose own face is muddied.
We can rise together,
even if we fall alone—
for it’s a beautiful time to be alive
even
on this long walk home.


A New Year Reflection – Do you sabotage your natural flow?

January 6, 2016
Diverting the River

Diversion

Recently while on vacation in Sayulita in Mexico I observed a fascinating battle between man and nature. Every day I stroll along the beach and encounter a creek that I have to wade across. In Summer this creek is a mere rivulet but in December it can be quite a gushing torrent that some days intersects the breakers and becomes a real challenge. One day it caused me to take a six block detour to cross the bridge.

The river has a natural flow that elegantly sweeps to the north however for some reason this normal progression offends “someone” because each day there would be two or three Mexican workers attempting to straighten it out. It was laborious as they had to dig a channel then dam the main tributary to try and divert it. By sunset they would finally achieve their goal and the creek would obediently flow through the new course they had set.

Each night the high tide obliterated almost every sign of the man-made diversion. The next day they would begin all over again. Every night the same result: the river just wasn’t interested. It reminded me of the Greek myth of Sisyphus forced incessantly to push a huge rock up hill only to have it roll back down.

It was not long before I began to muse on the metaphor this may represent in life. It seemed reminiscent of the ongoing drama between the Self and the self or perhaps the Soul and the Ego depending on your own worldview.

How often have I attempted to force my life into a channel of the Ego’s choice and by doing so lost the natural flow and rhythm that wanted to naturally evolve? The power of the ocean to force me back seems akin to the Soul’s power to throw obstacles in my way and force change in my direction. How frequently do I think I know best and attempt to remove the obstacles so I can stubbornly and relentlessly fulfill my will.

I recall when I was convinced my focus should be on decision-making. I wrote a book, organized presentations, created a web site, started doing workshops and a consulting practice. For a time I believe this was a passion shared by both the Self and the self.

Then things began to shift. Opportunities dried up, book sales slowed, the phone stopped ringing. For a time I resisted; I tried to break down doors; to identify new opportunities but to no avail. Only when I let go of my attachment could the natural flow of my life resume its course. The path of Spiritual Guidance and working with dreams began to unfold.

So how do we best surrender to the natural flow of our lives. How do we allow the river of our lives to find its natural course. How can we tell when our ego has taken hold and that the Soul is blocked?

Eminent Jungian psychologist James Hollis suggests we pay attention to the energy we feel for something – does it feel alive or has it become a dry husk? I have observed that paying attention to our lives is important. Notice when doors begin to close; observe what is capturing your attention and interest and pay attention to your dreams. Is there some passion that is unexplored? Check in and ask yourself if you feel as though you are in flow.

The New Year is a great time to take stock and assess your life’s flow.

Flow Resumed

Flow Resumed

Remember the power of the ocean to sweep away the obstacles we place in its way. Is there anything you keep doing over and over again and expecting a different result. What do you need to surrender in 2016 in order to open up to a greater sense of flow?


The Beagle Knows The Way

December 13, 2014

Half a day lost staring out of this window
I wanted to know just one true thing about the Soul
But I left thinking for thought
and two inches of snow have fallen over the meadow.
Where did I go?
How long was I out looking for you my withness, my here?
Kate Knapp Johnson

IMG_0362I recently arrived in Sayulita in Mexico. My custom every morning is to don the luxury of shorts and T-shirt and walk along the beach to a viewpoint on the headland at the North end. It is such a pleasure to shake off the claustrophobia of winter and stroll beside the crashing surf. On my first morning I observed a cute beagle wearing a red bandana playing with another dog. As I progressed the beagle passed me then stayed within relatively close range but always in front. I wondered if it was my imagination that it seemed to be glancing behind to ensure I was still there. When I branched off the beach to take a trail inland I was convinced it was following me from the front.
Interestingly enough this is an old espionage trick employed by agents who don’t wish to be discovered, they learn to follow someone yet stay in front. Perhaps the beagle had been James Bond in a former incarnation. I became fascinated in observing her. She was always taking a surreptitious glance to ensure I was there. At the brow of the hill she went ahead when I turned left to ascend a path to the viewpoint but within moments, she panted beside me and forged ahead. At the top, she frolicked happily until I was ready to leave then led me back down the path.
I decided to take an alternate route home and she seemed to anticipate my change of plan. At one point she paused on an alternative trail branching upward and turned back to look at me as though to say, “let’s go this way instead.” I had become quite attached to her friendly presence when she abruptly disappeared.
I was fascinated by this encounter and could not help but think there was some meaning attached to it but it was not until the next day while taking the same route on my own that a sweet metaphor emerged. I began to see the beagle as s symbol for the Soul while I was the Ego. The Ego self always thinks it knows the way while the Soul attempts to guide us on unexplored pathways. Of course the Ego self always thinks it knows better. Yet despite our stubborn persistence to go our own way, as the lovely poem by Kate Knapp Johnson suggests, the Soul will never abandon us.
Last night I had the perfect opportunity to observe this in action. I set out for the town to witness the end of the celebration of the Virgin of Guadeloupe. It concludes in the cathedral and I thought I would enjoy the chanting, music and ritual associated with such an occasion. As I passed my favourite taco place to my surprise there was a seat available at the bar. I ignored the voice that encouraged me to keep going; I set aside my concern that it was too congested jammed between two sizeable males and decided it was too good an opportunity to miss so I squeezed in. The Ego had its way.
The result was in hindsight to be expected. First I seemed to be invisible then the chef got my order wrong, nobody asked what I wanted to drink and the meal came without accessories. Then the man beside began to tell me that he was a chef and went on and on about his training that seemed to result in him working in a brew pub. Eventually he asked me a question, then proceeded to spend forty-five minutes answering it. It was not my favourite evening but at least the food I got, although a surprise, tasted good. The Soul is very forgiving.
During this year I have learned more than once that if I am open to change, leave space and pay attention then the guidance will be there. I just have to learn to follow rather than lead. “I think tomorrow I will follow the trail, the beagle suggested and see how it turns out!”

Postscript: I followed the beagle’s trail. It was not quite the idyllic jaunt I had expected. It was steep, haphazard with too many moments when I had to choose between options. I began to worry about getting lost in the jungle but for some reason the thought of the beagle leading the way encouraged me. Then just when I felt completely lost, like magic the signposts appeared – a rock emblazoned with blue paint, a wider path and finally a rock with the words in English “Base Camp” and an arrow pointing the way. It was a.great adventure and a great reminder that the Soul journey is not always the easy route to take.

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


Control and My Need to be Right

April 24, 2014

I wrote this blog last November then revisited and retitled it when I began my exploration of the power complex and my need to control. After a conversation with a friend where I felt some deep shame and anxiety about the manner in which I tried to make her wrong. Inadvertently she triggered my fear of losing control and I reacted in a way that was a clear sign of a complex engaging. My relocation helped me to see that my need to be right is a way I put up walls to protect my carefully constructed control.

Many of my friends through the decades will have noticed (and likely challenged) my need to be right. I used to say that I was only wrong once and that was when I thought I had made a mistake. That of course is an exaggeration yet my track record is actually good. I have always had a commitment to excellence, being informed and to getting it right that has sustained both my business and personal life.

The unfortunate side effect of this preoccupation can be obsessively arguing the point and refusing to admit even when I am wrong. In the past few years as my focus shifted from the worldly to the sacred I have become aware that true Soul work involves both the psychological and the spiritual. I have also learned a lot about attachment and how it causes suffering and I have worked hard at letting go of my need to be right.

This caused a rift with one long-standing friend who claimed I was no fun to argue with any more. I recall the moment of humbling insight when I realized that most of my facts were actually other people’s opinions. This was accompanied by the realization that truth was frequently relative. For example one man’s freedom fighter is another’s terrorist and that everyone feels justified in their opinions.

So I have become more reticent to take sides and more willing to entertain opposing positions. Even if I don’t agree with them I can at least not try and shout down the person expressing them. This has created a much more peaceful and constructive coexistence with my close friends and helped me guard against raising issues that I know may trigger others.

If I create a furor inadvertently with no agenda then I know any reaction is someone else’s responsibility. I have also learned that the universe has an uncanny way of ensuring I live up to my commitment to unravel my personal psychology by setting the perfect trap. The same way a spider weaves an apparently innocent, gossamer web, the universe creates the perfect environment for my issues to emerge.

Recently I organized a major retreat involving ninety-five attendees. My role included registration, payment and eventually room assignments. At check-in someone came to me and complained, “How come I have twin beds in my room when single people have doubles” My response was quick and reactive, ‘Well you must have requested it.” He protested that he would never have done such a thing but I was so convinced of my perfect system that it never entered my head that I could have made a mistake. I realize now that to even consider I was mistaken would have thrown my sense of being in control.

Fortunately I could fix the problem as a couple had cancelled the day before but I went away aggrieved at his manner and attitude. I have observed in myself that it is very difficult to take responsibility for my behaviour when I am in the midst of the feelings. After talking it out with a couple of friends, the feelings of hurt and misjudgment dissipated and I let it go.

When I got home I checked his registration and found out to my horror I had made an error. Feeling mortified I sent him an abject apology but went no further in assessing my reaction and response. Those of you who follow my scribblings will recognize unconscious resistance setting in. The cosmos has developed a SWAT rapid response to my resistance; it immediately presented a parallel situation for my “enjoyment”.

The next morning I am sharing a conference call with two friends and regaling them with some of the more outrageous stories about what happens when one tries to organize ninety-five well-meaning members of a spiritual gathering to a retreat. (For example one woman booked attendance for herself and her husband. His response was to cancel the credit card.) It had become particularly dramatic during the two weeks prior to the conference with seven people canceling.

One of my friends hoped that she had done nothing to exacerbate my situation. I recalled that she had tried to cancel a couple of weeks before. Her response was immediate suggesting that this was only because I had a poorly defined cancelation policy. I thought it had been really clear, “Refunds are not guaranteed and will be negotiated based on final attendance.” She retaliated that I should have set a date and clearly communicated it. I noticed my desire to argue the point then chose the path of asking if we could discontinue the conversation as I did not think I wanted to carry on.

After the phone call was over I sat and pondered my feelings and energy around the discussion and this time knew I had some exploration to do. Obviously a complex had engaged. It was only then that I realized the similarity of the two incidents. In both cases I wanted to be seen as right. In fact in the moment I could not entertain the possibility of being wrong. In the first example I was wrong; in the second there was certainly some grey area, I had not mentioned the cancelation policy since my original communication in May of 2012. Once again my need for perfect control had been threatened.

The complex once it began to unravel was easy to follow. James Hollis, Jungian analyst and author of In The Dark Wood, suggests that all anxiety and reaction will stem back to the core wounds of abandonment and overwhelment and how we dealt with them as children.

One of my mechanisms to handle that sense of being overpowered by a powerful world was to take control of the situation and being right was an essential part of that control. When this was challenged there was a risk of the fortress being undermined and my job became to defend it. The child within me could not take the risk of the walls falling and getting overwhelmed.

I decided I needed to write to my friend and explain and apologize. It took five drafts before I got it right. When I am responding to something sensitive like this I check each response out by drawing a rune and asking if this is the one I may send. Each negative rune resulted in redrafting and taking out more and more of the self-justification.

The final draft was simple and to the point. “Sorry we got into the refund issue I noticed I was feeling a little reactive and needed to let go. (The complex around needing to be right.) Thanks for your feedback, I realize for the next one I will clearly state that no refunds are guaranteed after the final payment date so everyone understands instead of “Refunds are not guaranteed and will be negotiated based on final attendance.” In fact I will be able to refund everyone the majority of their money.” The rune I drew? – Joy, it seemed the perfect ending.


Control and Resistance

March 30, 2014

Sometimes I think a good metaphor for my life is that of a nursery surrounded by a mystery. It seems that each time I leave the nursery to explore the mystery I am jettisoned back to the nursery again.

This time it began with a visit to the dentist. About a year and half ago I had a root canal and the filling had been gradually wearing away. I had ignored it for as long as possible but it was becoming sensitive and my hygienist appointment was due so I decided to try and combine the two visits.

When I made the appointment I was not convinced that the receptionist had really understood my request, “I want to see the hygienist followed by a half hour appointment with the dentist.” However to seemed no big deal and following my recent journey with impatience I decided that I could let go of my need for control and make a second appointment if necessary. I was prepared for a loss of control or so I thought.

When I arrived the receptionist was tidying magazines, placing them in neat rows on the table. “Nothing obsessive compulsive about you”, I quipped. She laughed and replied that it was her job. Then a stranger wearing a lab coat who had been standing at the entrance to the surgery said without any introduction, “I’m ready for you now.” I froze, “Who are you? I am here to see Erin; you’re not Erin. I don’t want to go with you.”

I presumed they had substituted my regular hygienist for this stranger, (forgetting not to make assumptions). She explained that she was the dentist’s nurse and he wanted to replace my filling before I saw the hygienist.

I relaxed and followed her like an obedient sheep behind a shepherd smiling to myself as I knew a complex had engaged. “How was your day before I spoiled it?” I enquired. “Well I think that is the first time anyone has refused to accompany me”, she smiled. “The first person who was not six years old” I responded.

One of the positives of my commitment to unravel my own psychology is that I no longer judge myself too much for these autonomous reactions that CG Jung referred to as “splinter personalities”. Whenever I behave in a manner that does not make sense, I can see a child’s reaction under the surface. In that moment I became six years old again.  I think it helps me to immediately own what has happened and bring it into the light. My humour helps to defuse any embarrassment or shame that arises while at the same time I commit to an exploration of the complex.

So what happened? Why did this incident cause a complex to engage so spontaneously ?

Clearly it is connected to my misunderstanding of the situation; this caused me to feel anxiety about an unexpected and unapproved change. Obviously this is once again about my old friend control. My plan has been changed. I am no longer in control. I am again a powerless child in the face of the powerful other. At the heart of my reaction is a six year olds reaction to overwhelment.

This time rather than the impatience and frustration I felt at Puerto Vallarta airport, my response is resistance. I don’t want to go with her. Immediately the image of a six year old being taken to school by his mother for the first time pops into my mind. He refuses to enter the grounds until a teacher takes his hand. Then he runs away every day much to the consternation of his older brother who hated being made late. My sense of control was obviously threatened by school.

It fascinates me that even as a six year old I developed the coping mechanism of control to try and deal with my environment. Having a younger sibling I became independent at an early age. I have spent sixty-five years refining my control mechanisms now I am beginning to deconstruct them. First impatience now resistance, I can hardly wait to find out what’s next.

As Dorianne Laux says in her beautiful poem Break, “We put the puzzle together piece by piece loving how each curved notch fits so sweetly into another.”