I should have figured sobriety would be necessary for me. I kind of figured in high school. I had an aversion to parties, booze, pot that lost me a lot of friends then and later an addiction to those things which would also lose me a lot of friends.
The mere amount of energy I have put into trying to moderate substance use in my life should stand as a testament to the fact that my life would be better without those substances.
Jordan Peterson says to look where you haven’t looked before, where you’re most uncomfortable looking. If what you’re doing isn’t working, do what you haven’t done.
There’s a little loud voice in me that has known sobriety is my next move for so long and the thing that holds me back is this idea of letting something have so much power over me that I must actively shut it out when so many others imbibe and indulge without issue.
The friends I thought were friends were just people whose behavior justified my own.
I didn’t want to admit weakness, but it’s going to take a lot more strength to be sober than it does to drink, so clearly that whole ego trip is just the insidious voice of the addict trying to win.
The metaphor of the devil comes in handy to identify the clear line between the structure of my existential, hopeful self and the addicted Gollum hoping to get his hands on the precious again. I can think of no better representation of addiction and the ways in which addicts justify self-sabotaging behavior.
I didn’t want this to be a sobriety blog because I wasn’t ready.
What makes a person ready to quit?
In most AA groups, I believe the answer is rock bottom. I’ve hit rock bottom a couple times. I see it looming if I do not change my behavior. The addict in me wants to deny this, but she will not win this time.
You decide you’re ready when you decide you will not lose to yourself, to a beverage, to whoever laid trauma down on your impressionable body or psyche, to your pain.
Today, you are a dragon. Rise and burn it all down by walking with your head up and your shoulders squared, with clear vision and kindness. When your life lends itself to destructive behavior, burning it all down looks like being helpful, useful, kind, interactive.
The best part is that if you’re not the kind of person who does this, that’s okay. Addiction goes hand in hand with narcissism. You don’t have to start out by loving yourself.
If you’re like me, you probably think you are a terrible person who is weak, selfish, and can’t understand why she can’t plant two feet on the ground without detonating some kind of self-destruct bomb.
This is also narcissism.
Today, I’m ready to let go of this version of myself. She sucks.
I’m not going to wallow or hate on myself either. I’m just going to start by focusing on one thing I can do better.
Dedicating myself to sobriety today and writing a post here is a start. My personal recovery goal is for better relationships and friendships. My issues with those stem from some serious trust issues which decades of therapy have not fixed at all.
The best way I know to start cultivating trust is to keep your own promises—who can you trust if you don’t trust yourself? So today I will keep my promise to stay sober. I’ll go to work like I’m scheduled to do and I’ll eat some nourishing food.
On days like these, that’s enough. Just let that be enough today.
I’m starting to carry around the justincases…little bits of psychic baggage that are accumulating around a picture of what this life would look like justincase I’m not seeing things correctly.
I do not feel seen.
You know when someone gets you a present and it’s something they would like? And, while the gesture is kind, you want to give it back to them and say, “This definitely looks better on you,”? You know that kind of gift?
I did that yesterday.
We drove to the beach, a campground area that is my new favorite campground and that I imagined driving our family out to in the summer times as we flew down an aspen-lined country road on a sunny afternoon with the windows down.
It felt like Cali again. There’s nothing I like more than a long drive to somewhere beautiful on a sunny day with the windows down followed by a joint on the beach, a swim, a sandwich and a beer. Paradise.
This is what we do, DJ and I. We pick a place on the map, pack our shit and drive. We camp and have adventures. Sometimes when you’re adventuring you find that the adventure is a simple, straightforward thing. That’s rare for us, so when we arrived at the beach yesterday without incident I guess our adventure seemed unadventurous.
I didn’t take a picture of the beach. We’ll be back. Thimbleberries and salmonberries grow in thickets along an estuary separated from the ocean by the road. It’s too early in the season, but thimbleberries bring me back to childhood when the climate in Tahoe was moist enough to bring them to fruition in grandma’s front yard and the lot across the street.
The beach has sand and calls for an evening bonfire to be lit. The forest is wild and green, the trees stretching tall like slow-moving giants. My feet itched to explore. My kids, when or if they come into this world, will know this place. Tiny daisies litter the grass.
This is the second adventure into the wilderness that I am dragging him on in as many weeks. I’m starting to think he adventures with me because I want to, that his part in this is more tolerating than enjoying our outings. I’m starting to remember, too, that this is okay.
There’s something charming about the man who drags his feet behind his woman, complaining. He doesn’t always do this, mind, and it’s no judgement on his character. I complain far more frequently. Hands down.
Not every adventure is going to be adventuresome. Not every day is going to contain enthusiasm or joy. Many do. I laugh much more than I used to. The low days and the valleys are beginning to inform the meaning of my time in more positive ways. Often, I’m finding, those lows are based on a basic inability to communicate my needs, wants, boundaries, or to take proper action that respects those in others.
When we arrive, we walk around a campground that’s taunting, really, since everything is still locked down. We have no firewood, but crave a bonfire and some hot dogs.
The justincases is a term I use for this realm of thought I’ve hardly given credence to, being an extremist and a bit of a xenophobe.
I like when we show up to a beach on a rainy day and lament that we did not plan to stay and camp. I like when it’s uncertain, what we do next, and one must act according to what is best for all involved. When was the last time I consciously did this? Paused and asked, “What is most beneficial and least harmful to those around me? What action means an equal exchange of energy?”
There’s a line between flow and will. It’s a subtle current to navigate.
I’m working on Jordan Peterson’s Self-Authoring program. I’m listening to Russel Brand’s Recovery, and I have a daily practice of listening to Ram Daas, the Tao Te Ching, Upanishads, or some EDM, metal, punk, reggae, rap, Joe Rogan or my friend’s spiritual comedy podcast, PerceptionistsAnonymous.
I’m starting to believe staring at my phone activates the fight or flight part of my brain, that social media is toxic, that I surrounded myself with bad people when I was younger and in turn became a bad person. I am remembering myself again. I lived.
Fuck your social media. I do not care to be social.
I hung out with grimy metal heads with poor values and worse morals. Their only moderately respectable value was loyalty to one another, especially if one of them happened to stick his dick in a chick other than his girlfriend. Gross.
I thought that in order to forgive I had to be able to be in the same room with these people without resentment again. That just amounted to more damage only this time it was my resentment causing shit where there need not be.
Now I see my resentment is over. Those days are in the past.
My perception is flawed because I am still influenced by those pains as though they exist in the present, though they are long gone. When I’m down, it’s clear I am the cause of my own misery now.
We are going to meet DJ’s coworker and her husband. I feel alarm bells and insecurities clanging in my brain making it hard to think and shortening my temper. An imagined reality and jealousy. I want to pick a fight with him about making friends with women.
I want to remember the version of me who trusts. I want to remember the version of me who is open and happy and secure in herself.
I want to remember the version of me who isn’t shallow and worried about the kinds of trips I’ve been tripping over. There’s a me that knows how to be happy. There’s a me who stands with her shoulders squared.
I have been circumambulating, watching this version of me appear and disappear like a carousel horse I’ve been waiting my turn to ride.
So this is the battle. After shedding the old, that long dark night of the soul that was this past winter, I am left with the bare bones of a personality and a fresh, almost innocent awareness of the present. Some yoga and meditation offer me objectivity. A lack of conviction in my perception allows me to question everything. There’s too much to relearn. I did not know trauma was so insidious.
There’s more than one trauma, more than one lesson, and my life has been a snowballing, destructive, pathway of self-avoidance at the expense of others.
Then I set out to heal and it got worse before it got better. Seeing ones faults isn’t easy. Ego deaths can be difficult.
From what I can tell from all these recovery or self-authoring or psychology programs designed to help a person heal from trauma and addiction is that taking responsibility for one’s faults and resentments is the first step.
While it may not be your fault, it is all your responsibility.
No one else has to live with you.
So when I say I want to be the version of me who trusts, I get to choose.
Who is this person? What does she do? How does she trust? How does she trust and keep good boundaries?
I think this looks like believing in the kind of love that is open-hearted, honest and allowing space for that.
My suspicious brain and my rational brain and my emotional brain are constantly at war. I think we all understand this in some way or another. What’s more, I think finding the sweet spot where I am aligned in all of those parts of the brain, where my actions are being taken with intention and belief, that is my aim.
It seems, too, to be the aim of many recovery and spiritual programs—balance.
I am still on this idea of discernment.
Discernment, our ability to choose, is supposedly what separates us from the animals.
What does that mean?
It means we can retrain our instincts, something that becomes especially important after experiencing trauma, even more so when you outgrow those traumas.
It works like this:
He’s ten minutes late.
My rational mind knows he’s at Have a Heart getting weed. My heart knows it too. My instincts switch on to when mom was late to day care which sometime meant hours and I never slept well. My instincts are trained to switch to anxiety. I’ve been cheated on, too, and the kind of walking-on-eggshells glass heart feeling I’ve been carrying around has been the cause for behavior I’m not proud of, mostly rooted in a victim mentality wielded as justification. The dark night of the soul involved seeing my past actions without the veil of victim and realizing how I could have taken more responsibility, made better choices, set better boundaries. And, while the things I experienced are not all my fault, it is my responsibility to deal with them.
So I choose to go to dinner with DJ’s coworker and her husband. My insecurities are screaming at me and the untamed wildling in me that comes out in social situations sometimes surprises me still. I’m afraid of her. I do not understand this part of me. I’m remembering what it’s like to make friends, what kinds of boundaries exist between people like distance and differences of opinion and taste.
I step on toes. I’m opinionated and have generally felt nothing more than a disdainful tolerance for people for the last four years or so. It shows. I tried to fight it too. My heart became all shriveled like a raisin even the sun doesn’t want to touch anymore.
I think my family broke me out of this phase honestly. I wanted to start a family at one point and realized I would not be able to raise a family in that environment…alcohol and cigarettes and poverty. I gave up on the idea. My family has struggled. My family is normal.
Don’t give up.
That I don’t change for no one attitude is stupidity and laziness designed as pride. We all change. We can embrace and shape it. That is discernment. I was stupid. It wasn’t necessarily my fault, but it doesn’t change the fact that my fear blinded me.
I’m learning new skills. This is how to fix your credit. This is how to separate business from personal. This is a dance we’ve all agreed on and just do what you’re supposed to and squander your spare time for all those hobbies and dinner parties. Here’s how you do sobriety: start with kombucha and vitamins. You’ll need some probiotics and antacids. Find ways to occupy your time like building a meal plan maybe or painting your toes.
Here’s how you relax enough to realize this is basically all we’re doing…looking for things to do with our time. Is this why civilization? Did we just get bored and arbitrarily create rules and try to enforce them and build new worlds because we couldn’t just chill?
Civilization is just a game of ego building, the same ego building we do in recovery. Done unconsciously, the ego becomes destructive like mine did. Like ours has. Done consciously, the ego becomes well-trained like that time I recovered from an eating disorder.
Wouldn’t it be cool if people figured out how to change their own minds to overcome their own ego projections and we didn’t need to tell other people how to live because of our own projected ideas of reality colliding?
Then again, where’s the fun in being just a blob consciousness? No conflict, no learning. Friction creates growth. That’s why fucking feels good.
Either way, there’s a choice. Meditation offers the objectivity necessary to choose, I think.
So I’m training my instincts, which are wrong, trauma wrong. This is discernment. I choose to trust. I choose to believe. I choose to be responsible for myself, my own self-esteem. I choose to learn how to make friends, how to observe, how to build new instincts.
It feels like that same screaming wrong feeling of eating when I hadn’t in so long. My body revolted against the rough scratch of cereal and the sun kissed fuckyou! brightness of orange. But I powered through. I ate.
I must see this situation for what it might be and most likely is: an opportunity to be a fully functioning, secure adult with a healthy relationship and friendships.
My trauma brain is like: this is all going to be fucked and it’s going to blow up in your face like it always does and everyone betrays you and waaaa waaa.
There’s a very real possibility of all possibilities.
And it all might get fucked and go wrong again, but I’m honestly tired of worrying what if. That’s not the life I want to live. A what if life.
No more pointing fingers.
This life is mine. This person is me. I take responsibility.
A lot of this cyclothymia deal involves paying attention to what I eat. I don’t worry about calories, but breads, pasta, and processed sugar are things that will make me crash. Sugar makes your blood sugar spike (you guessed it). Simple sugars are digested quickly, offer a burst of energy, and a crash follows. The recommendation is balance. If you get sugars from oats, for instance, the fiber in them will allow for slower digestion and a more moderate, even flow of energy over a longer time without severe mood spikes.
A chocolate bar will make you stoked on life for ten minutes and then maybe the day is a bit grayer for a while. This morning in the shower, I had an onslaught of depression and meaninglessness about half an hour after my donut. I’m trying to enjoy this lovely shower and the sugar crash hits, but I’ve forgotten that I’ve eaten a donut so I just feel like nothing is worth it and why bother out of nowhere.
Meditation is the only way I know of to cultivate the kind of self-awareness that allows for observational experiences of emotions when I’m experiencing intense emotions like hopelessness or anger or jealousy. Observing my emotions objectively after a donut is significantly more difficult than it would be after meditation, in any case.
I should not drink coffee but I love it.
This morning I ate a donut and it fucked up my whole day. Not worth it. The lows I feel from a sugar crash are worse than the come down after a mushroom trip. Come to think of it, so is the crash from alcohol. Nicotine was the worst. Somehow, miraculously, awesomely, I no longer smoke. Thank geode.
Differentiating a sugar crash vs. a crash from an emotional trigger vs. a crash from a current concern that is legitimate and requires attention are compartments I’ve been building for my emotions for a lifetime. As I grow, so must my understanding of where the boundaries of these compartments stand naturally. This seems neurotic to me. I wonder if it’s necessary or even fully true.
I am learning to observe the emotions objectively, sit with them. My fight-or-flight systems are on idle for the first time in a long time. Today the engines were on full bore. I woke up at 5 AM ready to go, made coffee, knit, did some reading, some listening, took the dog on a walk, all before 7.
People are walking closer together, talking on their phones, emerging from storefronts onto busy sidewalks without looking where they are going. The city is coming back to life slowly but surely. The sun makes an appearance now and then. The flowers here are bright and pungent and literally everywhere. Trees I do not know the name of drip with boughs of pink flowers that skittle the sidewalks with little petals in spring. Bold, waxy, serrated, green leaves emerge from these boughs overnight, giving the tree a masculine feel in summer. I think of it as a hermaphrodite.
I think they are crab apples.
These are the thoughts I’m starting to occupy my time with. Appreciate. Enjoy objectively as well as possible.
When I was younger, I drew a lot. Incessantly. I drew the Dragon Ball Z characters on the back of a boy’s shirt in high school, gave him the picture because I didn’t want it (it was a good likeness, but one eye in the drawing was slightly crooked and my neuroticism kicked in) and he asked me on a date the next day.
I drew so much I didn’t understand social cues like giving a boy a picture you drew from the back of his shirt might mean you “like” him. I liked him well enough, but I didn’t “like, like” him. We were a thing for about a week—until he phoned me one night with his buddies on the call to ask what kind of panties I was wearing.
I said “granny,” proudly. I was a prude.
Honestly, I would have been better off staying a bit of a prude. Being made fun of for not wearing a thong when you’re fifteen is rooted in the sentiments of women being useful to men in a purely sexual way. My lack of a desire to respond left me feeling useless in a way I didn’t know how to account for, not having identified much, at that point, with anything beyond music, sports, my wee boo interests, language, food. Ah life before the confusing introduction of the interplay between my own female self and the poor men who would become my unwitting victims.
That makes it sound like I meant to hurt them. Maybe I did. Maybe I distrusted and disliked men after hitting puberty because I was the girls who hung out with all the guys—I was sporty, strong, and pretty reserved by the standards of a lot of girls—so when puberty hit, I lost a lot of my friends. But then, it’s not men I distrusted; if I’m considering puberty the moment I stopped trusting men, it is human nature I distrusted, which explains the control issues and xenophobia, plus the eating disorder if you think about it.
Hitting puberty is like discovering an animal has been living secretly inside since birth, taken over half your brain, and must now be tamed and trained to behave or endured.
Use your intuition just not where it matters. That’s how I was trained. How backwards. I was trained to put my faith in men in such a way that they stood for the other half of me. I was raised with subconscious messages that I was half a person because I didn’t have a dick. Thanks every story about princesses and rag tag princes with tons of character from a company I cannot name because lawsuits, and from a generation that came from generations that treated women like brood mares. Read A Coal Miner’s Daughter. Actually, I think there’s a movie. You can watch it. Better yet don’t. Stay happy.
I have subconsciously been running toward my other half only to discover over and over that approaching a relationship as half a person doesn’t save me from having to find that other half. This half is the part of me that knows the action steps I must take towards becoming actualized as a fully functioning individual in society.
Were generations of women before me treated so piecemeal that none developed for herself a personality beyond the expectations of what that personality should mean? Did we develop in secret? Is this why the madness? Is the madness our gift? Hysteria reign!
Responding to my drawing in such a way that the gift of it felt like a mating exchange, in the most typical sense, is not just rooted in the “usefulness” of women. That’s my SJW talking, wanting some conviction of certainty and some finger of blame to point for hurts about this femaleness I haven’t reconciled.
Creativity is birthed from the same energy as sexual energy. I believe it’s what yogis call Shakti, the force of the divine creatoress, goddess of chaos, symbolically associated in the Jungian archetypal sense with the forces of nature, the unknown, the shadow. Gifting someone with a piece of paper upon which a likeness of something pleasing to them has been formed from the deep recesses of this energy can definitely be construed as both a mating call or a gift. Neither of us was wrong. We were just in a state of exploration of the world, but with different goals in mind.
We were on different pages.
Things like this…these missteps in communication…mark the awkwardness of all my years, not just the early ones.
We are all in a state of innocence and exploration of the world, for none of us has lived this moment, this day, this hour, before. Even if you believe in reincarnation, or multiverses, or whatever, this moment is now, now, now, and gone. Always.
After listening to the most recent interview with Elon Musk on The Joe Rogan Experience, in which Elon Musk talks about neural implants designed to fix all brain abnormalities and which may one day replace the need for verbal communication, I wonder if perhaps implants which create a universal language might be necessary in order to prevent us destroying ourselves. “What we have is a lack of communication,” Musk says (I may be paraphrasing).
But essentially the issue of language as symbolic of ideas becomes nullified as we learn to simply transmit the ideas using neural network implants.
Think of The Big Lebowski and Mod—she uses words like “coitus” and speaks Chinese, while the Dude is…well, he’s the dude. You would think he wouldn’t be able to follow Mod’s hyper intelligent, super rational monologues but he understands what’s up, he just uses a different language.
Same meaning, different dialects. How much time passes in the exchange and the interpretation? How many people judge outright and don’t bother to interpret or see on the same page at all when some patience and intelligence will show similar meaning dressed in different getups.
What awkwardness would a generation without these missteps miss out on? What’s more, what is the nature of the new awkwardnesses they must face? Would empathy even matter anymore?
With access to clear cut ideas, no room for error in communication, what speeds will we accelerate our evolution to? And to what end? Already, we have evolved beyond sustainable proportions relative to time. Perhaps it is this hyper speed we need to right the illimitable wrongs that brought us here to the sixth great extinction.
Is this just a symbolic reflection of what it feels like to turn thirty and realize it’s time to maybe start getting some semblance of an actual life together before it spirals out into a sad flushing of what might have been and what inevitably will become?
At times, I feel like Eowyn from LOTR who replies when asked what she fears, “A cage. To stay behind bars until use and old age accept them, and all chance of doing great deeds is gone beyond recall or desire.”
My perception of my ego is as a cage. I feel trapped in here sometimes.
I read books. I write stories. I take solace in aloneness and creation and quiet.
This is one version of me.
To adapt, we are capable of knowing different facets of ourselves depending on the call of the situation.
To understand one another, we are able to encourage individuality by suspending disbelief, by practicing engaging fiction. The stories of others, the way people think, the secret narratives we tell ourselves about why we do what we do, are all fictional, designed to tailor unlike people into a cooperative, goal-based unit. Businesses, societies, religions, armies. Unified masses win out, historically, but to unify we sacrifice our individuality.
I wonder about this concept in terms of the modern American dream, as well as in terms of relationships.
When you’re in the right relationship, it’s not a question of you or them. You are a unit. I guess that means a good relationship requires some sacrifices of individuality. Not because of men and women but because nature.
It’s the laws of nature we distrust. It’s human nature.
This idea goes somewhat against the “Just be yourself,” euphemism in a general sense, in that the self is not a constant thing. Nor is it static.
The Self is more like a being we bring into focus based on the narrative we project onto the situation. What’s more, we have different layers of narrative capacities.
How many people do you envision yourself as?
I guarantee there are hypocrisies.
I love this.
We fight human nature. We are human beings and yet we put rules and laws and societies in place to organize against nature to perform unnatural things as testaments to skill, in a lunatic drive for comfort, rest, and ease which are states that do occur naturally, although not for controlled periods of time. Nature is a flow state.
You, your ego self, may not want to go into work today for instance. You, your superego, knows that in the long term, a day at work is going to make life much easier for everyone.
We have the ability to switch our narrative to influence willpower.
In the face of sickness or illness, it is most important to maintain a narrative of strength unless you are so afflicted because you have never allowed yourself the surrender, in which case surrender may very well facilitate the healing you seek.
Before a soccer game, I would envision the plays, the game, the players, their moves, the field.
Before work I wake up and try not to envision work until I’m there.
In a strangely backward sense, the only way I’m currently managing my superego is by tricking it into being in the moment as often as possible. Awareness of the inevitable passage of time feels like pressure or misery, neither of which I care to be in now.
This tells me that adapting to my current situation requires slowing down, taking my time.
What’s funny to me is that its in my nature to resist the circumstances in which I find myself, no matter what those circumstances are. Resistance often creates the outcome of that which is being resisted. I relate this fight with myself, a sort of constant self-sabotage, to the previously mentioned idea that human nature necessarily challenges itself through diversity, as Darwin noted about the nature of animals.
We are no different from animals if we cannot abide a human code of conduct. I’m so xenophobic lately, I’d rather identify with an animal some days.
In his book Maps of Meaning, Jordan Peterson talks about how he discovered most of what he said, thought, and believed was not honest, not real, or reflected thoughts that were not his.
He goes about encountering this realization by first rejecting his Christian upbringing as a teenager, finding the story of Genesis could not be supported by science and logic, nor could any story about resurrection or virgin births.
Then, in college, he became an ideological socialist, only to discover that most of the people who supported socialism did little more than offer up complaints, talk about a better world, and did little to take action besides this discussion, a painting of words and enemies in the right wing, conservatives who hoarded their money and rights.
Peterson’s choice to abandon the socialist political party with which he had become aligned was set in stone after he read George Orwell’s Road to Wigan Pier in which Orwell states:
This is the section of the book Peterson sums up as saying, “Socialists don’t love the poor, they just hate the rich.”
Peterson’s ideas eventually are such that he rejects all ideologies to the best of his ability, finding the most honest account of something inherently true and collective in (terms of morality) within dreams, much the same way Carl Jung did, and in stories, much the same way Joseph Campbell did.
Peterson draws from his conclusions a method of separating action from ideology in order to identify the contradictions of ideology from the individual framework of nuance in the here and now by rejecting the frameworks which “forged” him, which leads him to discover, arguably, the same Christian and socialist principles he rejected in a more experiential sense by walking away from them in the sentimental sense.
Maps of Meaning is fraught with moral lessons from the Judeo Christian perspective and Peterson is well aware of this. He also is considered a liberal in the classical sense, while many modern far left liberals can be considered Nazis in the vernacular sense. Conservatives too. The theme of this book seems to be finding balance between the paradoxical nature of sentimentality vs experience and where our sublimated unconscious desires play a role in shaping our instincts and individuality.
Orwell also stated in this book that, “This is the inevitable fate of the sentimentalist. All of his opinions turn into their opposites at the first brush of reality.”
Duality is the curse and necessity of sanity and consciousness—a curse because one finds that in avoiding what we don’t want we walk straight into it and in aiming for what we do want we walk straight away from it only to find the seed of our efforts blooming in the darkness of all lost hopes.
In The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious, Carl Jung writes:
“There is no consciousness without discrimination of opposites. This is the paternal principle, the Logos, which eternally struggles to extricate itself from the primal warmth and primal darkness of the maternal womb; in a word, from unconsciousness. Divine curiosity yearns to be born and does not shrink from conflict, suffering or sin. Unconsciousness is the primary sin, evil itself, for the Logos. Therefore its first creative act of liberation is matricide, and the spirit that dared all heights and all depths must, as Synesius says, suffer the divine punishment of enchainment on the rocks of Caucasus. Nothing can exist without its opposite; the two were one in the beginning and will be one again in the end. Consciousness can only exist through continual recognition of the unconscious, just as everything that lives must pass through many deaths,” —Jung 178.
In chapter 2 of Maps of Meaning, Peterson talks about this idea of the divine unconscious—the devourer, as feminine and as symbolically represented by nature.
Logos, order, and consciousness are represented by the eternal male.
Both, if gone unattended for too long, become their shadow forms. Nature becomes chaos to the conscious male archetype of knowledge, logic, science. Knowledge becomes limited, stagnant, irrelevant with the passage of time unless reinvigorated by chaos and/or creativity.
What I find interesting is that in the ancient concept of Yin and Yang, creativity is attributed to males. While in modern concepts of yin and yang, including in my dream book (again, based in Jungian symbolism which draws on ancient eastern philosophies) creativity is attributed to the female.
It seems to me that creativity may be one of the AND factors that may allow one to transcend the narrative of duality.
The creative chaos we may bring to this world may necessarily require rejecting some of its mandates for sanity in order to display the merit of those mandates against the stark contrast of what they buffer us against in the natural and subconscious realm.
To do this as an individual appears to mean withdrawal, from shopping, restaurants, technology, business…what presence does this pandemic place us in and what embodiments of your persona have arisen during this time?
I am practicing present moment awareness and discovering how very far away my mind is from my body at any given time…that is, I’m often in the Orwellian realm of the sentimentalist when I’d really prefer to be in the Jungian realm of the discerning, non-binary individual.
Being totally present in one’s individual life, for me anyways, requires negating the general rules by which we collectively operate, at least insofar as they dictate the actions one subconsciously takes.
Say the general rule is to avoid the dark alleyway, but this particular dark alleyway is one down which my teacher has told me there is a magic lamp that will unlock a wonderful future if I can face the darkness.
In general, I wouldn’t go down this alley, but in this circumstance, what looks scary promises something. Nuance is important and relative to the scale of reference or interpretive lens. This is why literacy aids in developing higher cognitive intelligence which we call critical thinking…perhaps what Jesus meant when he spoke of discernment: reading people, reading situations, reading and assessing using emotional and intellectual intelligence necessarily overcomes the dictates of black-and-white, binary thinking.
Collective dictates do not allow for the nuance of individual experience. They are too broad, the individual and her experience too tied to the moment which undoes the all-encompassing nets of sentimental collective categories. If we follow the collective constantly, we never find the lamp in the darkness. If we go into every dark alley looking for a lamp, we become one of the darkness’ inhabitants.
In order to know the meaning of one’s individual experience from the lens of the individual, we must disconnect from the collective to see what “individual” means in contrast to it, otherwise the experience is not an experience at all…it’s a sentiment.
When I was younger, this underdeveloped sentiment arose as an eating disorder. I didn’t know that overcoming duality was what I was trying to do by testing all the limits I took for granted. Testing your limits will show you what a binary thinker you indeed are.
This time, I was a little less hard on myself.
So I quit social media. That has been nothing short of a great breath of fresh air. That echo chamber of grossness is no reasonable reflection of a person or people. What I found was that the people I encounter every day had been infected with my encounters with social media. I perceived these people as those voices in that inter web platform and thought…how strange. I see all these things online, but the people in front of me are normal enough. They have their ulterior motives and goals and dreams, sure, but most people , in practice, are not the assholes we see on social media.
Beneath us, in the under dark of what we want the world to see is the asshole we’ve all tethered down to adhere to the general expectations of being able to tether that asshole down.
Sometimes I confuse the unleashed asshole for a discerning and rebellious individual and later discover they are both the same person. That’s the hard part…owning one’s shadow. just because you don’t always let her out doesn’t mean she doesn’t exist. Respecting our shadowy demons, our alcoholic rangers, our drug-induced euphoric epiphanies and boredom is the key to coexisting with them. Only by knowing, understanding, and respecting the nature of my hated self can I give her room to exist in appropriate ways so she does not become the divine chaotic mother demanding to be unleashed. She need not be repressed…just channeled.
What presence in the now brings the individual is discernment, receptivity, and action in balance with logic and emotion, hopefully. But broad generalizations about what should be based on the opinions generalized by the public take precedence in our individual judgements sometimes, acting as buffers to individual nuance.
Imagine we did not have any cultural stories, but instead encountered all of this life as something new, as children. Can you imagine encountering a giraffe if you were born in the Midwest from this lens of ignorance? No former knowledge of its existence? Is there anywhere in your life you have have been able to proceed into such unknown waters recently?
Today, the world’s books and crannies have been explored, but what of your mind? Your own internal universe? What of consciousness? Unknowns exist within by which we can unearth the power to consciously manifest the courses of our lives, but first there are walls to tear down. Public and collective opinion are the first obstacles.
For instance, Peterson relates a story about encountering a man in a prison who seemed to be the most unassuming of the prisoners, only to find out later the small, unassuming man had made two policeman beg for their lives while digging their own graves before taking it upon himself to shoot them.
The man appeared unassuming to Peterson and to others. He was quite dangerous.
I know someone who says racial slurs all the time but would take a bullet for someone of any color faster than any of my academic cohorts. He’s not an academic. He just likes to get a rise out of people. It’s funny to him. He also is calibrated to the kinds of instincts that demand he do things rightly…by that I mean he takes responsibility for himself, his actions, and his lot in the world, if not always in word, always in action and deed.
In some ways, that’s privilege for him. In other ways, it’s privilege to be able to get offended by words.
In other ways, that debate has nothing to do with me.
Take responsibility for yourself…all the fragmented parts. Learn them, know them.
The horrible part is I always learn about the fragments in hindsight…like oops, there’s that white trash drunk bitch I turned into because 25 isn’t the same as 29 and the lens of my goals has changed my perspective. What’s more, it’s allowed me to see a larger perspective around how poor my choices might have been. What’s more, dwelling on shame will lead to worse outcomes, so we must admit, reconcile, recover, and move on.
Don’t let the shame drown you out. Be brave. Be responsible for all of your goods and bads.
All of us have within ourselves contradictory experiences and beliefs and it’s easy to get caught up in the established contradictions of larger arguments that hold sway in order to feel powerful.
Most of the time, at least nowadays, those arguments alongside which we align ourselves in action, faith, and word have nothing to do with many of us except to bolster our opinion of ourselves and our usefulness to our social groups. This is inherently selfish, self-serving, and also selfless if you are acting in the interest of others. To act in the interest of others is one of my favorite examples of a dualistic paradox. It’s both selfless and self-serving, like love.
The most important question, perhaps then, is how do we align ourselves in thought and in action with who we’d like to become? Only then does joining a cause even mean something beyond wanting to join a cause, beyond the paradox of selfishness and self-serving ness, in that becoming the idea of a person is a fight against ones own baser instincts and closeted skeletons. Although self-serving, facing these also protects the people you love from them.
Similarly, if we are driven by subconscious instincts that have been sublimated by cultural ideals that mean very little to us personally but stand for who we’d like to become socially, what does that mean for the pursuit of love? Are you pursuing what you actually love or what you think you’re supposed to love? I bet at any given time the two are confused and conflated. Life is not black-and-white though we like to think in those terms, oddly enough.
I started having these outbursts at midnight. They occurred when DJ worked overtime. I didn’t realize until he later pointed out that they happen at midnight on the days he works long days that they were left over emotions from old abandonment trauma. Something as simple as being left at day care for too long made me freak out in my thirties. The brain is a a weird place my friends.
From a psychological framework, this looks like, “How do I become actualized or achieve individuation?”
From the lay men’s perspective: “Who am I?”
For the half-assed academic: “How do I take responsibility for my actions when I’m influenced by so many subconscious fears and instincts that I’m not even aware, half the time, of what’s really motivating me? Is that even true? Am I more powerful than I think I am? Can I be better?”
As someone who wrote a stream of consciousness journal online for six months and watched those beliefs change, I wondered about the weirdness of engaging with social media.
A person appears in their picture next to a thing they said by which others identify them and group them into another, larger group that stands for larger ideas.
That’s all great, except if you’re talking about it, it’s probably because you’re not doing shit about it. That’s also great because that person who wrote that thing that’s posted there doesn’t exist anymore. That person has grown and changed and moved on and yet you are engaging with a past version of their ideas. So whatever you see there is you.
Nietsche, for instance, was a person who lived a life and did normal human things, but we don’t know what those actions were which he took to create the philosophies he created. We don’t know what he ate for breakfast or if he jerked off to children crying or anything. We just know his ideas.
And people venerate these ideas despite the fact he was a miserable bipolar poor person who never achieved material satisfaction from his writing.
This is startling to me—both collectively and on an individual level. That we would give credence to someone’s ideas just because they remain known in academic or political or scientific spheres despite the actual quality of their lives or coherence. What’s more, the most outlandish are the ones who bring us the unknown about which we can talk and surmise but into which few dare to travel.
What have we left out in the unknown by grouping ideas and people together in little boxes to avoid the chaos from which our societies have sprung? What castle of sand is built upon knowledge swept beneath the rug for fear of having to expand the mind, to grow, to incorporate that which we don’t know into that which we do?
What I love is how what we know becomes something totally wrong at the drop of a hat, the switching of a lens.
When I decided I wanted to have kids, so many of my actions looked wrong in retrospect, both in how I treated those I love who do have kids (out of my own subconscious fear of becoming a mother) and how I so recklessly treated my body expecting, naively, that I would never change this idea.
Peterson says in chapter 2 that the perspective changes as the goal does. We become different people as we adapt to new goals.
Sometimes, those actions we’ve taken in the past appear reprehensible with new perspective.
The Covid-19 pandemic has revealed how close we are to involuntary change, how easy it would be for this castle made of sand to collapse into the waters of the natural chaos from which we sprung. There is a natural order which we have ignored in many respects. Does it demand respect now? Is this our wake up call to face our shadows?
It makes me wonder about fame and how we let people represent things they may not at all stand for and why we do this.
Why do we negate the passage of time and change?
It was similarly startling to Peterson when he discovered that most of the ideas, thoughts, and words he said were words he’d learned from ideologies and not words he actually believed in.
This is the same realization Peterson came to when he rejected ideology and turned, instead, to the nature of dreams.
This is the same concept Orwell was getting at, I believe when he wrote in The Road to Wigan Pier, “This is the inevitable fate of the sentimentalist. All his opinions change into their opposites at the first brush of reality.”
I think we’re all looking for a taste of that AND factor, the place at which the one thing turns into its opposite is the center point, the balance, the blade’s edge, the red road.
I think, too, that many religions and ideologies seek to communicate this AND factor, only to find its insufferably incommunicable, not only because achieving and maintaining alignment in a balanced state of being in heart mind and body requires navigation of the self through time and space which lends itself to all kinds of tricky situations in which context is key (that is, no generalization really works) but also because the words we use to describe the experiences become placeholders for having to take the actions by which we can become what those words and promises stand for, meaning if we use the words we no longer believe in them.
The act of creating a symbol out of an experience separates us from the reality of the experience.
Me trying to communicate with you via word or picture or video falls terribly short of the actual experience no matter how well I manage to document it.
The truest experience is here now and the consequences of that are so great on a large scale that the best thing I can do in my small world to influence the large scale in my limited capacities to affect change is to be the best I can be to myself and others…like really be that.
Actually DO that.
So where do my words stand as placeholders for my actions?
Six months ago, I was in a similar place that Jordan Peterson claimed to be in his early college days after renouncing ideology altogether.
I was paralyzed…what’s right? What’s wrong? What matters? Why does anything? If everything leads into its opposite why try? Why do we all continue to abide by the rules of a society that venerated greed, selfishness, and environmental destruction? Except that, if everything leads into its opposite, we’re all going to be good as gold here in the damn near future because this is some weird shit.
Probably we’ll be all rich in spirit and really dig being there for each other as the world collapses in flames around us. Won’t it be beautiful?
Or the world will be all gorgeous and awesome and it will damn near (if not totally) wipe us out. Maybe one and then the other. Maybe we’ll rise from our own ashes to find we’re on a weird time loop in which we are visiting our past selves from space as future selves trying to influence the passing of time on such a way as to not end in our own inevitable self-destruction as a species.
Like how the Avengers go back in time to rewrite the history they didn’t like.
Really…who the hell knows?
Know I don’t give a damn.
When it really comes down to it, when faced with insanity, with where is my next meal coming from, with am I going to survive this? When faced with the fight or flight instinct in which the consequence is very much one’s life, people are not their words or their ideologies. They are lucky to be alive.
Some people are living with things I can’t begin to understand. I only know that because of how people do not understand my own thing. It’s super frustrating and can be a thorn around which resentment festers, or it can be the reminder that kindness matters.
Is it really that or is that all I’m focusing on? I’m as guilty of thinking in black-and-white, here-or-there, them-or-me as any racist.
Maybe the AND factor is choice, but then we must be free to choose, and no one is freely choosing to act upon their subconscious inclinations. That is…what you fear is what you act upon whether it be to condemn it or to avoid it.
Will power and intelligence can work to influence the right actions to correct an indirect course, but that’s the best we can do.
Sometimes fate intervenes. Sometimes dreams are realized in a twisted, backwards sense.
We are not in control, but we do have responsibility to control ourselves on a social scale.
These questions of the larger political and economic impact of the sphere in which I exist, while valuable in some ways perhaps in that they manage to keep me in line and out of jail, were doing the same thing that the questions of ideology did for Peterson in his early college days:
They were creating a wall between my knowledge and my experience which hid me from having to embrace self-knowledge.
I didn’t know myself, my impact on the world as I knew it and encountered it, and I certainly didn’t want to see myself, know myself, or love myself, let alone live her.
But taken out of the larger sociopolitical context, when I started to pay attention to the people around me, their thoughts and desires, their actions and wishes, I started to realize that this is the larger world—these people—and “they” are people just like me.
They are people who aren’t all educated by a system that tells them to use specific language, so they wouldn’t know any better. They are people who are as separated from themselves as I was/am.
I don’t know how many people actually say what they mean, act on what they believe, or act rationally on what they believe. I think I, and many others, offer too much credit to the human’s delusion of control over him/her/theirselves.
Our subconscious…the dream world…constitutes the reasoning for most of our actions and we sublimate most of what we don’t want to become or believe in to the subconscious in order to behave appropriately in the collective.
We also live in an environment that is fast paced and has a lot of people operating in fight-or-flight mode most of the time—especially our world leaders. The higher up the economic rungs one climbs, the more responsibility for others.
I wonder, are we collectively meeting our subconscious?
Is this pandemic allowing us to meet what we have ignored in ourselves? In our lives? In human nature?
The access to language with which we dictate the consequences of action is a privileged one.
The access to knowledge containing any respectable nuance requires this access to language.
What’s hilarious to me about Jordan Peterson’s work (I respect the man very much) is that he is an academic. The people his work might serve most, if the idea is to become rich and successful as our Judeo-Christian culture displays through action all the time, are those who don’t have access to the language with which he communicates his ideas.
Peterson was vilified by some, at the start of his famous career (he had a career before fame), as one who supported the alt-right because he was against being told what language he should be allowed to use in addressing trans students and was fired from an academic post for it.
He was against the restriction of language, which is a restriction on individuality and creates room for the government that is supposed to care for us to work against us by inflicting punishment for using the wrong words.
1 in 5 Americans are illiterate. Our prison system is as much a corrupt business (like schools and processes food if you do any research into it at all) as any. Punishment from prison does not mend the behavior…bit it does line pockets. And it keeps dangerous people locked up.
There’s an AND factor we are missing. At least, I was missing it.
Both are valid stories…the corrupt businessman’s and the noble politician, the academic and the racist, the bourgeoise and the socialist.
They are usually one in the same person.
There’s an AND.
Restricting language from a socialist perspective to better the use of language actually undermines the people socialism is trying to protect, which is why Orwell wrote what he wrote and why Peterson condensed that into, “they don’t love the poor; they just hate the rich.” In which case the socialist is the bourgeoise he is against.
We’re all hypocrites though.
The restriction on language itself is one that assumes the man in the kitchen has the same access to your bourgeoisie knowledge as the teacher in the classroom or the educated SJW nazi who thinks that standing for something in word means they also stand for it in deed.
Takes one to know one goes the saying.
“Educate Yourself,” is a saying I hear often and think, yeah! Do that!
Think of the people you know who are uneducated. Ask yourself why they are uneducated. Ask yourself why you do not take it upon yourself to educate them. Maybe we discover not everyone is going to go to college and come to the same conclusions you do.
In which case, maybe your conclusion is wrong. It doesn’t encompass the whole of human experience. It negates. It condemns.
Deed and word are not the same thing.
I knew that when I was told the word of God by people who made me fear the deeds of satan.
Understanding the nature of a person, on the other hand, requires a little more digging, a little more honesty, and a lot more discomfort and accountability on the part of the self.
This primal desires require acknowledgement at one point or another. We either drowned it out with substances, acknowledge and acted upon constructively, or act upon without acknowledgement, often destructively.
Concern with the larger machinations of the world’s political and economic structures when I have no say in them was a waste of time, words, and effort.
I needed to see my deeds and their impact on the scale on which my deeds made impact. And, well, I stood for plenty of things I don’t practice. That’s the hard part of recovery.
I like it, humility. It feels good.
Facing myself and my flaws did not.
As far as I can tell, the AND factor is the idea that most of us aren’t driven by conscious, rational, controlled action at all. We are driven by human nature, much of which we have sublimated into the unconscious for the sake of perpetuating the ideals of a culture that we have outgrown.
The AND factor, I think, is that we don’t even know what motivates our actions most of the time, but we think we do.
Write down your actions every day.
Write down the reason you took that action.
Do this every day and it’s unlikely, still, that you’ll get to the unconscious cause of that action.
Peterson got to the unconscious heart of his desires by rejecting the frameworks that nurtured him: religion, society, ideology.
We discover what drives us by rejecting what drives us.
Try, instead, rejecting everything, only to find you became everything you didn’t want to be.
What’s infuriating is that this is the way, it seems. We are doomed to circle around and around the truth of the chaos that birthed us until returning back to it.
Perhaps the and factor is to forgive, to live, to be kind. We’re all flawed. So what? Let’s be kind to one another, understanding that human nature is not made to bend to the moral machinations of man. Mother Nature calls. We can find a way to tame what’s within or let it destroy us. Either way there will be pain and suffering. I like the idea of being there for one another
Intuition is one of the key ingredients for the Hero. In Harry Potter, for instance, Harry has knowledge and logic (aided by Hermione), a grounded, real-world, present-moment perspective (aided by Ron), and a magical perspective that lends him insight into how his actions effect others in the larger sphere of his world (Dumbledore). Harry, however, is made a hero both by the circumstances of his birth and by his very real ability to intuitively proceed into the unknown. His past and his intuition are what set him apart.
In the tarot, we might see these figures as the Empress (Hermione), the Emperor (Ron), and the Wizard or Magician (Dumbledore), while Harry is always the Fool whose task it is to learn from his encounter with the archetypes on his journey through the wheel (or to self-actualization in Jungian terms). He also has a shadow represented by the most evil dark wizard of all time, Voldemort.
On our own journeys to self-actualization, these archetypes may not seem so clear. If one has encountered trauma (who hasn’t, really?) our intuitions may be calibrated to expect the worst.
Whenever DJ works overtime, I get some seriously bad anxiety. He might come home after a twelve hour day only to have to deal with me encountering a slew of emotional baggage that sounds like, “you would rather be at work, why don’t you let me know, you know how I am about schedule changes, do you even care about me?”
Total over reaction, especially because we’re both working hard to save up right now and I don’t believe the words coming out of my mouth. The logical, grounded, present moment perspectives (Ron and Hermione) tell me he’s just had a long day working hard for us to save for a car and because I love him, supporting him and being kind are what I want to do right now.
Instead he’s subjected to my complaints.
It wasn’t until he pointed out that these fights happen every time he works overtime that I realized what they were:
My parents were often late to pick us up from day care, school, grandma’s, wherever. They worked hard–so much that my sister and I were raised by a village, really. Sometimes mom would be hours late to pick us up with no word. I’d worry about whether she’d died in a car crash or gotten kidnapped by evil men. I had terrible nightmares about my parents being taken away. Sometimes we wouldn’t see dad for weeks. The typical story I guess, “You’re going to your dad’s this weekend!” mom would say and then the rising excitement and the inevitable disappointment when some plan would fall through.
There was that guy who cheated on me when I was 19-24, too, and that situation has really led me to some paranoia around the excuse I was just working late.
Whatever. We all have something or other. The real concern is that DJ isn’t my parents or my ex and attributing the pains I experienced with them to him because of “instinct” is unkind.
It is not loving.
It is not fair.
He deserves better.
So this has to change.
I have to change.
It was a revelation to discover that what seemed like a simple childhood fear of abandonment or neglect had become hardwired into my adult brain and was expressing itself as my neurotic fight-picking. This is the definition of neurosis.
The complaints I was slinging at him were the complaints my childhood self would have offered my parents if she’d had language for them. Children don’t have language for their emotional experiences like adults do and my questions were always met with a, “Sorry, that’s just how it is,” anyways. They needed to be expressed and answered in order to heal that unhealed emotional pattern.
DJ was understanding. We don’t have those arguments anymore.
A few weeks ago, I began to visualize my negative thoughts. I gave them form as demons, pictured them pestering me, and pictured myself forming a ball of light around my body that connected me to the heavens and the center of the earth. When I expand this ball of light, the demons leave. They are not allowed here. This is my space. I envision it, actually, as a universe transposed on this one but physically and energetically containing only me (a practice in multiverse visualization).
Visualization helped immensely. The imagery allowed me to make sense of a tangle of thoughts, unravel them, undo the knots. When I was a kid, my mom would offer this visualization technique whenever I had a bad dream or nightmares. Wrap yourself in a cocoon of light. Nothing exists here but you. The light will burn off anything else.
As an adult, this visualization technique appeared to me in lightworking classes, merkaba activation meditations, and in therapy. Something about it helps on a spiritual level as well as a fundamental psychic level. It helps to create a navigable boundary around the idea of a self in a Taoist sense–the witness, the one behind the one in the experience. This is a bit like jumping out of the hero self into the wizard self. Distance offers perspective.
This visualization technique for emotions is intriguing to me. A friend called a while back and told me she had some immense anxiety about something going on at work. Intuitively, I guided her through a visualization meditation.
If you were to picture this feeling, what would it look like?
Intuitively, she came up with the image of a rubber ball. The worse the anxiety got, the faster the ball would bounce. She actually started to laugh. Being able to picture the anxiety as a rubber ball let her manage it in such a way as to find it funny. Oh! Look at that! The ball is bouncing faster, so that’s what my emotion looks like. This very much reminds me of the scene in book three of the series in which Professor Lupin unleashes a creature called a boggart in the classroom.
The boggart is a creature that takes on the form of what a person fears most. The solution to defeating the boggart is to imagine it as something ridiculous. The solution is laughter. Visualization of unpleasant emotions as objects or as creatures turns them into something around which we can form a narrative or upon which we can take action.
For instance, she was able to throw the rubber ball away.
Picture it bouncing along forever. Picture it in a trash can. Picture it burning in the infernos of hell.
When it comes back, you can now just picture it away again.
Why Does it Matter?
For the Hero, intuition is supposed to be informed by rationality and a grounded perspective in order to navigate the threats of the now.
Now when I encounter those days, I picture my childhood self, laying on a cot in daycare, unable to sleep and waiting for mom while the hours pass. I know that girl in the cot will be just fine. The emotions of abandonment and neglect come up in that picture and are far less scary. They have an image, a name, a context, one that doesn’t belong to my present experience. They come and they go.
Who knew one’s intuition might be calibrated to unhealed emotional dramas from when was five years old?
This process of creating objectivity isn’t just helpful for people with neurosis or mood disorders. Those dramas from childhood may not be bad objectively, but they may be limiting to your present self.
Say your intuition is calibrated to expect the same, the normal, the expected so you never change or grow and you find yourself constantly bored. Maybe you start drama. Maybe you’re unmotivated. Maybe what you are motivated towards perpetuates some kind of pattern you’d like to change.
Good or bad, if your emotional experience to a present situation is rooted in past experience, then you are not actually in the experience of now at all; you’re in the experience of your projected expectations of the now which makes your influence on the outcome of now dependent on your relationship to your past experiences.
If, like me, your emotional attachment to a situation is unreasonable or illogical (rooted in past experience instead of present moment awareness) then it’s possible that our intuitive responses to the present situation may be perpetuating old emotional patterns rather than generating newer, healthier ones.
Cultivating present moment awareness and visualizing emotions that do not make sense in the present, allows me to see them as a flow of passing thoughts and related imagery rather than all consuming tidal waves that dictate my reactions. My intuition requires some recalibration.
For the hero, this looks like seven books of encountering the same enemy who takes more of a physical form with each encounter.
Voldemort starts off as a shadow of Harry’s old trauma–the death of his parents–and grows to become the monster who threatens everything he holds dear in the present. Harry must confront his shadow in order to be free to experience a happy present and future.
Turning an emotion into an image acts like a spacer, taking us out of the victim mentality (why is this happening to me?) and bringing us not only into a space of curiosity and creativity, but also of the archetypal wizard. Seen objectively, we understand the role of this object in the larger scheme of our personal narratives.
What’s wonderful about this for me as someone with a mood disorder is that visualization is a tool that allows me to manage my emotions without identifying with them. Sometimes I just don’t know how to name an emotion. Other times I don’t know why I’m feeling them or where they come from.
Throughout my day, emotions come to me like moths to a flickering light, batting in and out from the darkness of the subconscious to conscious awareness and away again. I can feel immense despair–The world is going to end soon I just know it–only to discover I’m just hungry.
A characteristic of cyclothymia is a rapid cycling of emotions like this.
Exercising the imagination to manage my emotions in this way is both creatively engaging and therapeutic for my general emotional, mental, and physical stability.
The Psychology and Archetypes
As a child, I read and read and read any book, any word, anything I could get my hands on really.
As an adult, I turned to drugs, alcohol, and developed an eating disorder, excessive exercise, anything really to relieve the pressure of what felt like constant emotional turmoil.
Only now, as an adult, am I realizing that cultivating a visual imagination and exposing myself to stories and language has immensely helped me in being able to rapidly contextualize the random emotions I feel at any given time of day so that they can flow through me rather than owning me.
Visualization is replacing the desire to suppress with booze and weed.
While there are other tools necessary to help tame the unwieldy beast, cyclothymia, visualization becomes the first tool in my arsenal of tools.
In this abstract found on the Wiley Online Library, John D. Teasdale published a paper in 1999, the abstract of which talks about what is happening psychologically during this process.
I would tell you more about the research, but the article is one that requires purchasing. So frustrating that knowledge is power and power is hoared.
What I love about this quote is that it differentiates between knowing something and experiencing something.
I knew I shouldn’t have been reacting the way I was to DJ working long days (which only happens sometimes), both for him and for myself, but I kept doing it anyways. I knew, but couldn’t engage that experience because my emotional instincts were calibrated to an experience in the past that kept getting triggered by actions in the present. The past and present seemed related and similar only because I hadn’t healed the emotional need for closeness which I was actually preventing by picking a fight instead of facing the shadow.
The fear is the shadow. What you fear reveals what you want. If we can engage logically, and step outside of our knowledge and instincts into our actual experience (present-moment awareness) then we can logically take the action that creates the desired experience, but not if that emotional trigger takes over first. That has to be healed.
Anyways, visualization allowed me to get out of the persona (who I think I am, the Fool) into the Wizard’s perspective (who I actually am in relationship to others and the past). Visualization is my tool for engaging metacognitive insight, stepping out of metacognitive knowledge.
This is why curiosity and humility are so important. Knowledge is actually a barrier to experience. It creates a lens of expectation based on past experiences that may have no relationship to the present other than via our own interpretation.
The id wanted comfort and closeness and company. The ego acted this out in the form of picking fights with DJ. The Superego knows closeness and company are more likely when one does not pick fights.
The Shadow holds the key to enlightenment. I faced my neurosis with DJ’s help and patience. My Voldemort, in this case, was pretty tame. A young me just wanted mom to tuck her in and dad to say goodnight. Weird.
What’s even weirder is how much of our adult identities are founded in exactly these simple childhood desires.
Analysis For Application: Identifying Triggers
What kind of repeating patterns in your life would you like to change?
When do you notice these patterns arise (what triggers them?) Ask those around you who you love and trust to help you identify when you are engaging in the unwanted pattern and note: What were you talking about, thinking about, wanting, not wanting, what fears arise?
Visualize: Close your eyes and write down the images/words/stories that come to mind in the moment you are triggered. Picture this emotion as one thing in your mind and remove it from your space. Whenever this image comes back, just remove it. Let it pass.
What is actually happening? Actions…not opinions. Look up the definition of summary and keep all opinions and analysis out. Often, I will find that what I think his happening is laced with color from my expectations. In my English 101 class, the first assignment I gave my students was to write a summary only paper. This was my first assignment when I first took English 101 and it’s eye-opening. Keeping opinion and analysis out of summary is quite difficult. It’s also an exercise in objectivity.
Keep a mood journal. Writing down what my moods are doing without explaining them or trying to give them reasons is really helpful. On paper, it’s craziness.
What would you like to happen?
What logical, action steps (physical, daily activities) can you take to achieve that goal?
Keep a log. Take those steps. Record setbacks and what is happening to create those setbacks.
Go easy on yourself. We’re only human.
Good luck! Please feel free to contact me and let me know if you’ve had any similar experiences or if this process has helped you at all.
So far this blog has mostly reflected the depressive side of cyclothymia, at least of my cyclothymia. Lots of negative self-talk and beliefs about the world in general, lots of declarations of how things are without the doing of the things to change them into what they could be. This is the longest and hardest (haha, yeah I laughed at the phallic joke) depression I’ve been through in years.
But yeah it’s been long enough. The blues are breaking. A way out is visible.
Now is the productive period.
Check this out: I took this definition straight from Wikipedia, but during deep depressions or high hypomanic phases when I start to wonder if I will ever feel anything else because this is what I’ve been feeling for so long, this idea is very helpful.
“Enantiodromia (Ancient Greek: ἐνάντιος,, romanized: enantios – opposite and δρόμος, dromos – running course) is a principle introduced in the West by psychiatristCarl Jung. In Psychological Types, Jung defines enantiodromia as “the emergence of the unconscious opposite in the course of time. This characteristic phenomenon practically always occurs when an extreme, one-sided tendency dominates conscious life; in time an equally powerful counterposition is built up which first inhibits the conscious performance and subsequently breaks through the conscious control.” It is similar to the principle of equilibrium in the natural world, in that any extreme is opposed by the system in order to restore balance. When things get to their extreme, they turn into their opposite. However, in Jungian terms, a thing psychically transmogrifies into its shadow opposite, in the repression of psychic forces that are thereby cathected into something powerful and threatening. This principle was explicitly understood and discussed in the principles of traditional Chinese religion – as in Taoism and yin-yang. A central premise of the I Ching is that yang lines become yin when they have reached their extreme, and vice versa.”
Jung posits, here, that a psychic force left unchecked or buried for too long, like depression, will manifest in a shadow form of it’s opposite. A good example, perhaps, is the prevalence of depression in comedians. This is a healthy expression of the shadow form. Other, less healthy expressions may be violence, spending sprees, binge drinking or constant partying. For someone with cyclothymia or bipolar, severe depression may conversely lead to severe elation.
I really like that this definitions says, “in time an equally powerful counterposition is built up which first inhibits […and then] breaks through conscious control,” because the last couple weeks have been the inhibited. The last few years even.
What this means is that if my last three or four months have been characterized by extreme depression (and they have) then that depression will pool like the water before a dam, getting calmer, gathering quietly, going nowhere. The natural response to the going nowhere is more water, the dam breaks, and instead of no water, you have a flood. The flood, in this case, can be hypomania, a high energy state defined by:
Feeling extremely happy or euphoric
Not needing as much sleep as normal
Irritability or agitation
Becoming more physically active, which may include fidgeting or pacing
Thinking very highly of yourself
Poor impulse control and/or judgment, which can lead to risky choices
And here is something: Last night I am trying to explain to DJ, who is doing his best to understand, that mental illness is not something that can simply be fixed by saying just do A or B. Check out Responsibly Depressed: Eat the Orange. I wish it were. Then this struggle would be over, wouldn’t have happened in the first place, and I wouldn’t be having to change my whole lifestyle and he wouldn’t be having to watch the person he loves go from being Dr. Jekyll to Mr. Hyde daily, sometimes multiple times a day.
I realized that explaining symptoms to someone is as useful as telling someone with said symptoms to just not have them.
These symptoms mean absolutely nothing out of context. When being diagnosed, I was given a list of symptoms like this for hypomania and depression, told not to drink or do recreational drugs, and sent on my way because I refused medications which had not worked in the past.
These symptoms later manifested in my life as screaming matches with exes, booze and exercise binges, days on end of video games and job after job being not right or too restrictive. It manifested as hypersexuality and exploration in open relationships (not a bad thing necessarily but usually in response to a paranoia of being cheated on, something that an ex when I was young did chronically and the shadows of which have literally followed me for a decade. Those are going away finally. Thank God).
I did not put two and two together in those moments. There were things I knew to look out for because I remember them from my teens: Spending sprees, sleepless nights, and a lack of interest in the things I love. Hypomania and depression. The transmogrified shadows. But the manifestation of symptoms is all over the board and someone who is not in their right mind entirely may have difficulty seeing them for what they are: effects of a brain that is not producing the right chemicals in the right quantities necessary for healthy functioning because it is not getting the right nutrients, minerals, and food.
“The western ego construct is the organ of rationality. The exclusion of transrational reality from consideration leaves it unchecked by any power outside itself and prone to profound and dangerous inflation…The western ego construct buttresses its stance of omnipotence and omniscience with a claim to superior and absolute knowledge through its scientific construct (p. xvi).”
That is, because science and rationality are the dominating forces of understanding in the Western world, we address mental illness from a rational perspective at the exclusion of the transrational–things like premonitions, talking to animals, medical intuitives, etc.–which may be a rational part of the human experience that we simply do not understand yet. There is a lot that rationality and science can aid, but there is far more that is excluded from consideration in the vast realm of possibility that lies outside our current knowledge base. Transrational is a term that does not account for pathological experience, pathology meaning the chemical component of mental illness.
This excerpt comes from and article in Psychology Today by Darcia F. Narvaez PH.D. and author of Moral Landscapes, in which she explores and questions the validity of Hunter Gatherer ways of life as a cure to western consciousness, something I am also exploring and intend to write more about here the more I learn. There are theories, even, that western civilization is the cause of the disease. There is extensive research on this, actually. Here is a great Ted Talk for dipping of the toe into these existential waters.
The rational approach is important. Meds can be extremely helpful and I am not against them, especially when situations become a matter of life and death. Episodes are extreme, scary, and sometimes a dose of of meds can allow for the rational mind to break through.
Still, I believe a natural, holistic, sustainable approach to mental illness is as essential to the survival of our species as a natural, holistic, sustainable approach to caring for our land, animals, and food.
My own reactions to meds have been unfavorable except in the early years of discovering what the hell this brain does. They allowed me to watch the cycles, bought me time to do research, to create a lifestyle change. But in the long term, the rational approach and meds often do not address the underlying problems, perpetuate an unsustainable way of life, and are not advanced enough, yet, to only target the source of the psychiatric disorder, thereby affecting the entirety of the brain’s functioning rather than just the areas that are functioning improperly.
Again, psychiatric meds have saved many lives, my own included, but I believe they are a temporary fix to a problem with a much greater implication about the unhealthiness of our society.
I am starting my path towards healing with a book called Med Free Bipolar: Thrive Naturally with the Med Free Method, by Aspen L. Morrow and it is no surprise to me at all that Morrow starts off, in chapter one, by announcing that the greatest probability of the cause for such a drastic rise in mental illnesses in the last fifty years in our country is how we treat our food and how we treat our bodies with food.
“[…]the real answer, I believe, lies in our eating, farming, and toxic load[…]Just one missing vitamin or mineral in a plant or animal can cause disease, discoloration, or deformity. Humans are no different. We cannot get everything we need simply from a healthy diet anymore, because the minerals are no longer in our soils, crops, water, or processed foods.We have to add more ingredients to the mix” (pg 2).
The other ingredients are minerals and vitamins and community developed over hundreds of thousands of years of hunter/gatherer behavior and radically displaced by the last 200 years of industrialization. More on that in Steven Ilardi’s Ted Talk, “Depression is a Disease of Civilization.” We have displaced a vital–in fact, perhaps the vital–piece of ourselves which is the ability to live for the sake of being alive.
I believe this is the reason for modern present moment awareness movements, outdoor lifestyle movements, and various others that call us back to the instinctual joy of living for the sake of it.
Morrow goes on to explain that the brain, while only “weighing about 1/5 of the body total,” requires about 20% of the total nutritional requirements for a fully functioning human (pg 3).
So the first step is educating myself about nutrition, what my body needs at a baseline level, and giving it that. Many many more posts to follow on this.
In hindsight, I welcome the depression because it has taught me to see the impact of this neurotoxic brain on my relationships in the past, in the present, and upon myself. The things I’ve justified in order to deny that this was something I must change my life to fix are not exactly commendable, but watching the life I’ve been dreaming of slip through my fingers as depressed me acts, rational me watches in a corner KO’d, and hypomanic me stands outside the ring just waiting to jump in has armed me with solid will power and battle horns. This is not just about me and my relationships. This is about healing a disease about which there is very little literature, and about which I can do something to the benefit of more people than just myself.
I have spent all these years on this because I believe our society is sick. We willingly harm ourselves in order to remain attached to materialism, convenience, an illusion of power, irresponsibility, and boisterous ego. The American dream lifestyle is based on the accumulation of as much wealth as possible to the individuals willing to do the work to gain the wealth at the expense of our people and our planet so that what?
I’ve been asked, like many, what my first memory is. Do you remember? Mine, I usually say, is of catching a white butterfly in my Grandma’s front yard. The butterflies liked the daisies in particular, and back when I was that small, my feet fit between the stalks. As a woman I tried to catch butterflies in the same garden and discovered my thighs met the stalks before my feet had a chance to creep beneath them. The resting butterflies would dart off into the afternoon light deterred by my larger legs. I caught them as a girl though and brought one to my grandmother one day who promptly told me to let it go and explained that the oils from my fingers would weigh down the insect’s wings and it would not be able to fly. I was maybe four or five, and the way my grandma explained things convinced me that butterflies wings were coated in fairy dust that we stole every time we caught a butterfly. Flying was something I’d always wanted to do. What kid doesn’t? I’d seen Peter Pan. I wondered…was it alright to take butterfly dust to learn how to fly?
“When they can’t fly, they die,” my grandma explained while I was still lost in thought on the flagstone steps overlooking the garden. I opened my hand, found the butterfly could at least still walk as it crawled to the edge of my palm and then a great leap in my heart as the little thing flew away. I hadn’t killed it, but I’d had the power to fly in my fingertips. At four years old I knew to take the life of that butterfly, even if it let me fly, was a violation of some sort. Against what I couldn’t have told you then because to a child, life is life and there is no separation between nature and nurture and self and them. It is “we,” and “me” and the rest is a playscape. As an adult, I’m still not sure I could tell you. Someone broke into our car a couple days ago and I drove to the bank in downtown to get money for weed and hopefully a glimpse of the thieving motherfucker who I might not have hesitated to hit with the buick had I seen him or her. I think it is the idea of taking without giving back that I’m getting at. It’s not fairness. Life isn’t fair at all. What I’m talking about is if I had taken that butterfly’s wings for my own, that butterfly would be gone and I’d have been able to fly as much as a tiny butterfly’s fairy dust could have let me. I believed then that it was enough to at least carry me across the street. I would have had my thrills and the butterfly would be dead. Sure there were more butterflies, but how many flights across the street did I really need? I could catch them all and put them in a net a swim through them and then all of them would die just so I could fly to the thrifty and spend my allowance money on candy. And then all the butterflies would be gone and I’d never be able to fly again. It seemed wrong to take the experiences of all the flights of all the butterflies and use it in one go for one kid and waste all their lives for that.
The practice of global capitalism is the capture of all the butterflies for one good go for a few lucky people. Except all the butterflies is actually the whole planet in this instance.
I believe that the only thing I am capable of doing to help right now is to help myself, and to help myself I must heal.
That being said, yesterday was a rough one. I did not want to heal. I wanted to be done having to do any of it at all, so I just sat down and cried.
And cried some more I know it’s just on and on. ugh.
I believe that my mental health story, it’s relationship to food, my lifelong craving for being in the outdoors, and my reluctance to turn to medication based on the above perspective and on the fact that medication didn’t work for me are part of a healing path, one that I hope can help me heal naturally and will help encourage others to find a path towards healing that works for them.
So I sit with the pain.
I call my mom actually. Sitting with the pain today isn’t working very well. My head is doing the spiral thing and I will usually call someone to get a little perspective, a little wedge in front of the snowball rolling down the hill before it becomes an avalanche.
And then, weirdly, it breaks.
Like the dam, the pain just breaks. It turns into will power. It becomes a drive to do something and this drive must be based in research, fact, healthful solutions or else it is transmogrified into the shadow inclinations to party, to drink, to fuck, to drop yet another bomb on my life.
The spiral is victim mentality and victim mentality is the easiest way to feel out of control, powerless, well, a victim. The spiral comes on like an attack, comes on as soon as I’m alone at home another day of doing the same thing, being complicit, being what? For what?
We broke down ourselves, our children, and our world to build this civilization, indeed the most massive and wealthiest civilization of all time, but I believe the cost has inflicted great trauma upon the human race. We have exchanged intimacy, community, environmental appreciation and interconnection, health, happiness, wellness, sustainability, and hope for a future for what some believe is the greatness of now.
This pain calls me to heal the wound of civilization on my humanity.
You have taken my instincts, the ground beneath my feet, the food from my belly, the hope from my heart and I still get up every day and go to work because, if I don’t, I will go to jail or be homeless or wind up in an institution. This was the story.
There has never been a better time in history for humans to take back our humanity from civilization or to create a civilization that values humanity. But first, we must address the fact that humanity is beset by an illness, that this illness is environmental, and that we must feed our body…the environment…and treat it as healthfully as we would see ourselves become.
Right now, my only healing work to humanity is to heal me. And that might be as simple as just giving my body what it needs to feel properly alive in this world.
Peace be. Happy yule yall. May this year bring healing.
This is a subject I am passionate about. It seems to me that many people decide, as Anakin Skywalker decided, that if you are not with us, you are against us. We are in the days of the empire vs. the rebellion. Frankly, when have we not been?
Since this is a stream of consciousness blog, I usually go with the first idea that pops in my head. Let’s start here. I have no idea how this will go. Don’t freak out.
It seems diplomacy has failed or has been forgotten. Our children are losing hope for a better future, are being told their future still relies upon their ability to go to college, make money, secure a job and a home, when, “today nearly 30 million acres of U.S. farmland are held by foreign investors. That number has doubled in the past two decades, which is raising alarm bells in farming communities” (NPR.org). These alarm bells are due to the fact that turnover of land to foreigners doesn’t guarantee the land will be used for food.
Frankly I hate the way this article was written. Or I do not like the viewpoint of the person being interviewed. It makes foreign people buying American land sound like that isn’t how America has operated since it’s birth as an English-speaking nation. It sings with all the hatred of those who fear other, who fear change, and who lament their own failings by blaming others. It also makes it sound like if Americans were to keep their land we’d do something better with it.
Children who were raised on the farm lose interest and sell to foreign investors to “cash out” the land as the article puts it. American children, therefore, are being taught to value cash more than the land upon which we grow food or farm products that can be bought for cash. Less people are seeking the work of creating, and are instead seeking to buy the creations. At least in farming communities I guess. Hell hand me a piece of land and I’ll be a ranchhand. Get me out of this fucking concrete jungle.
Probably, none of those things I just wrote are true except for the facts. We should make this an exercise. Where are the facts?
Where was I going with this…
Very few of the above statements are objectively true. They are interpretations of information presented to me through a perspective I don’t like the tone or message of. The facts are simply that 30 million acres of American farmland are not owned by America and that many farmers are older so many farms will be exchanging hands in the next couple decades with an expectation for foreign ownership of American land to increase based on recent trends.
A google search says America has 915 million acres of farmland.
Those are the facts.
The rest of the article is fraught with emotional undertones of foreign invasion. “One of the main reasons that we’re watching this … is because once a foreign entity buys up however many acres they want, Americans might never be able to secure that land again. So, once we lose it, we may lose it for good,” says Ty Higgins of the Ohio State Farm Bureau in the article. “Foreign entity,” “American” and “secure the land” are words with a connotation attributed to the radical right since Trump’s election. Anything antisemitic, racist, intolerant, fenced in, walled up, contain the nation mentalities have all been attributed to the radical right.
The article goes on to imply that the reason for fear is a potential loss in land used for food, which is inexorably tied to the financial and physical wellbeing of people in the state of Ohio. That is reasonable.
I cannot dismiss that this is a reasonable concern and that undertones of fear around appearing racist or xenophobic or radical right because I do not favor foreign entities owning American soil are something I’ve come to expect from the radical left which is notorious for holding anyone who stands against something that has been labeled a social justice measure as equal to a Nazi.
If I identify with this man’s concerns, the radical leftist might also conclude that I identify with the reasons for his concerns, which perhaps appear to be racist or even xenophobic at worst, patriotic at best through certain interpretations of the article.
This hypothetical back and forth seems crazy; who would argue over such petty semantics? But the nature of the arguments I’ve seen in the radical left vs. radical right and perpetuated by fear-driven or click bait or “hype” headlines has me wondering who wouldn’t. You’re with us or you’re against us, has been the message, and goddamn if the last few years haven’t felt like a cloud of fear hangs over my people. When Trump got elected, I heard colleagues talk about the inevitable outbreak of civil war. People moved out of the country in droves…remember? And people flee here for refuge and we turn them away in droves to protect our failed economy over the lives of our fellows.
Again, we’ve settled on the facts (If only it were that easy).
Again, these are:
30 million of 915 million acres of American farmland is not owned by America and many farmers are older so “two thirds of American farmland is expected to exchange hands in the next two to three decades,” (thirty years…that’s how long I’ve been alive) with an expectation for foreign ownership of American land to increase. Here is another fact.
” To be fair, U.S. farmers and corporations also invest in overseas agriculture, owning billions of dollars of farmland from Australia to Brazil…”
The article is about concerns that China is doing to us through the Smithfield Buyout what we have done to the rest of the world since we became it’s strongest militant force: That is, maybe there are other countries in the world who are deciding that it’s time to take what they want because they can the way America did and does.
So instead of calling the article stupid and deciding the guy being interviewed is a radical right asshole who hates foreigners and now I should hate him, we looked at the facts and discovered that the man’s concern, while his reasons for it are not the same as mine, is also my concern. We hold a similar view for very different reasons. Why would an American child, offered a farm, not understand the value of the offer? Why would an American farmer sell a farm to a foreign entity with no interest in farming the land? If this is a concern for our nation’s food supply, how have measures not been put in place to prevent such a thing?
Yes the pattern is alarming. No it does not mean I think foreigners should stop buying American land or that that’s a bad thing. Based on this article, I think some Americans should start valuing our land more. I think what we lose and are willing to sacrifice represents what we value. I believe American values as they are currently practiced in most public sectors are stringent, do not account for the natural human instinct (is even set on castrating this instinct) and I believe that every rule created or law or punishment beyond the very basic laws of treating ourselves, each other, and our environment with respect as their respective nature demands, is a further reflection of a widening divide in our ability to communicate and indicates a major deficit in our access to language with which to understand one another.
That or we are all a bunch of assholes who don’t care to understand.
That is, I believe the illiteracy or declining verbal intelligence of our people has caused and is causing a major decline in critical thinking, logic, tolerance, and compassion.
That or we really are a bunch of assholes.
Same concern. Perhaps different solutions.
Maybe instead of focusing on how many foreigners are buying American land, the article could have instead focused on why American children are no longer interested in farming American land. Or why Americans are not buying American farmland. Or it could be about the importance of treating our farmland better. The article, however, doesn’t appear to be a solutions piece.
It just is what it is–a piece that brings to light a shift in patterns of farmland purchasing through the perspective of a reporter and a man involved in the farmland biz. I do not have to agree with the perspective. But I read the article. I took the time to do that shit. Now I can hate it and the man and walk away with hate in my heart having not grown at all or I can learn something and move the fuck on.
I feel similarly about people. They are who they are. I can love them or hate them but my perspective ultimately influences my life more than anyone else’s. The perspective that keeps me the most peaceful while also doing the best I can to be kind and respectful and value life is the one I’m aiming to stay on. (Sometimes I find myself off course quite by accident. But I make my way back and move the fuck on).
I am not responsible for what is being created in the world by others, but I am responsible for how I interpret other people’s creations and/or intentions. If I am telling myself a story about other people that causes me to dislike them, I probably have some things I need to come to terms with about who I am for fear of people stems from fear of rejection and isolation which are against our instinctual survival instincts, those instincts we are castrating by working the nine to five office jobs with the back crippling commute and the super high stress 60-80 hour/week service industry gigs or public service jobs, civil servants, CEOs, students–It baffles me. Would people do this if they felt there were other options, or do people choose this?
On censorship: It generates fear. My imagination was much worse as a kid than any of the things adults hid from me. Every time I wasn’t allowed to watch a scene in a movie, I wondered what caused my parents or grandparents so much fear they would not let me see it.
I read a lot. I read three books at a time all the time. My head was always in a story. If I wasn’t reading one, I was pretending to be in one. When my parents or grandparents didn’t let me see something in a movie, my imagination provided the details. I’d read Crime and Punishment, and Hamlet, and Antigone, and I’d been to Sunday school, so I knew that fucked up things happened to people and the contents of the scenes I wasn’t allowed to see in movies were mild compared to the terrible things my fear conjured.
Fear is an amazingly convincing conjurer.
I walk my dog, Anya, to the park down the street where she stands on a patch of grass overlooking Puget Sound and barks at all the dogs passing by. She whines and whines, terrified and I crouch next to her and notice her eyes are looking all over the place without seeing. She didn’t know where to look. Just the smell of all the dogs was enough to make her afraid. After a while she starts to calm down when she realizes nothing is going to happen. Lately we can walk near other dogs without too much fuss.
I do not go to work when I’m having a hypomanic episode and again I am worried about losing my job. The next day I go in, still feeling off but well enough to work. I apologize and say thank you for understanding and offer information about what solutions I’m working towards and chef is like, just be well, or something and the fear goes away because I’m not going to be punished or cast out.
And maybe the symptoms are getting worse but I’m not drinking and my brain and body are healing and I am taking steps, actual physical action, to heal.
I might not seem very patriotic, but I do believe that America is the land of opportunity and that we have simply been taking opportunities for short term success which are leading us to a long term failure. I believe that what looks like failure is actually a restructuring of current infrastructure–grassroots movements and biodiversity farming and buying from the source and social justice movements are sprouting up like flowers from the rich ash of a volcanic civilization which has blown it’s top, spread itself thin, left it’s toxic cloud all over the globe. There appear to be two sides but we are one. The toxic cloud clears, the ash fertilizes the soil. We are beginning to see clearly. All is failing, but all is not lost. We are making room for the new.
Last night in the shower I am thinking about where I’m at with this mental illness, this witch gift. I believe that a healthy diet, exercise, and good relationships can heal this because I have seen it healed in such a way before. I have also come from the perspective that this is a gift which need not be healed and that looking at it like an illness makes me ill. Both are valid. Can adopting a perspective of seeing this as a gift change the way it manifests in my experience? Or did changing the story allow me to cope with the craziness while I just rode it out?
If this is a gift, what has it given me?
Adventure: I craved adventure as a kid and now my life is pretty much always on the move. I move every two years at least. DJ and I plan to do this–travel and cook. We’ve have a lot of adventures. We lost our car in the city once and found it in about an hour. Stranded ourselves on a beach after a six hour kayaking adventure (we were saved by some good friends). Road trips. Camping. Hiking. Drinking and drugs and parties. Many more nights at home relaxing and watching movies and cooking dinner. I cherish the plain moments as dearly as the suspenseful ones. I do not know what today will bring and part of me likes that feeling. I would like to express this sense of adventure more healthfully in my life.
Integrity: I hold to certain values though I’m not sure I could remember them all to write here. They arise in the moment and recall previous moments, but to recall them in this moment would take a long period of reflection. They are written down in journals which I’ve been writing since I was fifteen. There’s a trunk full of them in my room. Upon moving here, the opportunity to get paid much more for a job I would have like much less was offered to me, but moving here to cook without even trying to cook just because someone offered me more money to be an editor is the equivalent of selling my heart. Might as well be a common hooker if all I want to do is make more money. That’s the way I view it.
Some people tell me that this is a privileged way to view the world. I have followed this view into homelessness, poverty, addiction, and healing and it comes from watching a broke happy family become a broken, secure one. Call it what you will. I believe to follow the calling of the heart (and I don’t mean the romantic heart; I mean the part of me that knows the way to inner peace, the part of me that tells me how to live with myself) is to live my life with true purpose and meaning.
Spirituality: The stories I have collected by engaging with spirituality to guide me through life with cyclothymia are fantastic. At least, I love that there are bizarre supernatural encounters in my history. I love that some people are repulsed by the idea while other are like, “Oh yeah I totally believe in ghosts,” and I love seeing how diverse the types of people on both sides of the line are. It is wonderful to me that some people attribute these stories to my mental illness while others attribute the diagnosis of a mental illness to what was once understood as a spiritual gift in some cultures who would train people such as myself to be shamans or healers or guides. The classic chicken or the egg scenario. I fluctuate between both and sometimes hold both perspectives at once.
Mental illness or gift?
Does it matter?
If there is a problem, reach for the solution. I do not know if identifying myself with a label that is viewed as an illness has helped or injured me further, but I think it has helped if only because I am aiming for wellness where before I was engaging in wanton self-destruction fairly regularly.
My current story:
I have a mental illness that has been triggered into further volatility by the death of a friend and a big move, a new job, a new life, and a general lack of self-care in light of these events. The symptoms are worse than I have seen them in a long time and it’s probably a good idea to get professional help if things continue to get worse. I still have other options available to me.
My past story:
I am not mentally ill. This society is ill and mental illness in modern Americans is a product of our unwillingness to embrace certain human instincts which are not conducive to the capitalist model of productivity for the sake of productivity. I reject medication. I reject your notions of normalcy. Fuck the people who tell me there is something wrong with me. WE are sick. This is not a me vs you thing. I am a symptom of a much larger problem that you have the luxury of ignoring because your brain can apparently function just fine without proper nutrition ( or it never had the capacity to fully function to begin with) or you are willing to put up with a way of life that I am unwilling to tolerate. You are complacent and I am not and I will be broke the rest of my life if it means fighting what this country currently stands for.
The spirit perspective:
There are all kinds of things going on in this world that humans ignore because such things do not fit with the model of our current desired reality. Such things involve energy, other worldly beings, healing with the mind and heart and intention, healing with food, interconnection with our environment (we are not separate from it. Building a wall and hiding behind it does not separate you from the ecosystem; it just makes you function in that ecosystem as one behind a wall). We are far more powerful as individuals than many of us imagine and collectively…well, look what we’ve done. When we find we are powerful, we must be brave enough to rise to the occasion and intelligent enough to see that with increasing power comes the increased need for responsibility. More power means bigger consequences. Bigger consequences means less room for error. This is not a mental illness. It is a way of seeing the world which allows me to understand that the death of shamanism in modern culture has given rise to the idea of mental illness. Shamans were often what we would consider schizophrenic or bipolar. They also served as guides through the spirit world or intermediaries between unseen entities and the humans in their village. They healed wounds of the psyche and spirit. They still exist. There are many people today who claim to be modern shamans and Western modernist thought either accepts the role of the shaman as one that plays a necessary role in our human development or dismisses the shaman as someone looking for a way to cope with mental illness. I have passed on messages from ghosts to loved ones. I have exorcised ghosts from my house. I have healed with energy healing.
There is validity in all of these perspectives and there is a lot of bullshit in all of these perspectives, but each exists within me at any given time, sometimes all at once. It’s important, I think, to consider them all. I don’t know if reconciliation is necessary.
I do have a mental illness and the symptoms have gotten worse. The illness may be a product of my environment, a malfunction in my brain, or a gift that allows me to see things others don’t. Maybe it’s both and all. What matters is that whatever it is, I must be able to function. I might view medication as a sign of complacency, a quick fix, but if I’m a quick fix away from being able to function, I must be able to function in order to establish a routine which will allow me to heal naturally. There’s nothing wrong with a quick fix if it helps to achieve sustainable solutions to the problem. The Med Free Bipolar book I’m reading, for example, aims to help people who are currently medicated learn to care for themselves in such a way that being medicated is no longer required.
The ultimate goal: Establish a sustainable existence.
One possibility does not preclude the other. Both possibilities work together, collaborate, coincide in a broader perspective of reality which contains the all perspective. I believe the all perspective is this: We all believe in different things, experience the world differently, come from different backgrounds and desire a better world. A better world is one that practices understanding, cooperation between opposites, healing, kindness, values human life and all life on earth, and seeks to preserve it through sustainable means. A better world lies within your heart and your ability to be at peace in your own skin in such a way that you are at peace in your own skin wherever you go. There is a perspective in which we can inhabit different versions of ourselves in ongoing stories with multiple personality structures to embody the inter-dimensional nature of a human unfettered by the simplicity of labels, categories, and tribes. Proceed with kindness, curiosity, and non-judgment.”
“Where I lay my head is home,” Metallica said. I believe, as all things lead into their opposites, that we are most tuned in with the all when we are the most at home in our own skin. I believe, also, that being at home in one’s own skin requires emotional and mental work but is possible without having to change one’s external environment in most cases. If you believe that being at home in your own skin means that others on the planet must change themselves or cease to exist, or that your circumstances must change first or you must have more money first or they and them and that…then there are some pretty deep seated fears that have gone unaddressed in your psyche and you are acting from fear. By you I mean me.
Supercunt rebel me says those who act from fear are cowards. Is that not the definition of a coward?
Face yourself bitch. (Sorry I just love the word bitch. It’s playful.)
Stop blaming your problems on all the things and all the people and all the world and how it works. Start living every day in alignment with your values. Maybe you’ll find your values suck and the way you thought you should live is actually just a way to escape taking responsibility for anything (I say you. I mean me).
Also, I like the word cunt.
I like the word Supercunt even more.
Seriously though, it is amazing what happens when one decides that any inner turmoil is ultimately self-generated, that self-generated inner turmoil requires self-reflection, nurturing, and care, and that self-care is perhaps the key to sustainable happiness.
That and this:
I notice that since we’ve moved I’ve had time to reflect on my past in a different light. Accepting this story of having cyclothymia has allowed me to look back and see that a lot of pain and suffering in my life could have been prevented from seeking treatment. I would not change my experiences for the world. It is what it is and this life is mine to live. I love it all. But there are times I would have been a better friend had I known, or I would have trusted more, loved more, drawn better boundaries. There are times when despair dragged me under and I wonder if hope could have cultivated a different tone, a different outcome with similar results but less turmoil.
I look back at the people I have hurt and realize that while I may have hurt them on accident or because of this or that or the other, I still did that. I still must take responsibility for the fact that I could have done better, can become better.
I wonder if I have done this idea justice at all. The merge. Definitely not. There are so many examples unused, so many encounters with this idea in the past that the vague nature of this post is frustrating me.
We walk to a place to get lunch, DJ and I, each listening to music. I like these walks with our headphones in. There is a white splash of dried paint on the sidewalk where someone stepped with a boot. The concrete shows the boot print, a wet, grey stamp against the white paint.
Lately, my flaws stand out stark against my virtues as this boot print against the paint. I see the way I think I know more than I do and find this girl is kind of funny because she is convincing but full of shit at least half the time. Once I would have seen her and been disgusted by the truth of her against the person she thought she was.
But lately I know I am loved and this allows me to feel safe enough to see all of my flaws, to let them exist, to let me be in my natural habitat, to try to better myself, to forgive if I fail, to try again. It is not black or white. It is not you are good or you are bad.
You are human. By you I mean me.
I am human and it feels good. It feels good not to fear that people will discover I’m not perfect. Every one I’ve ever known has known that since the day they met me. How I had this weird idea that anyone could possibly think that I could be perfect or that I should live up to some expectation of perfection is related to the expectations of women raised in my generation and previously.
I remember the pressure to be perfect hanging over me like a sword dangling by a thread above my head–the more female I became, the larger the sword until it was just this internalized weight holding me back from doing anything I wasn’t supposed to. It disgusts me and is a little bit funny.
Perfectionism is a problem of the privileged but it is a problem I would wish on no one.
The freedom I have been seeking is the freedom to be myself. And the more I just am, the less fear I have, and the less fear I have the less I am like a dog whining about something she thinks is going to happen that never actually does. And the less I whine, the more the moment just is and instead of trying to figure it out or worrying about what will be I just start being.
Like that I feel normal.
The switch clicks.
Currently, interpersonal rhythms are not something that I regulate well or which come naturally to me. I still forget to eat despite knowing what I do about the influence of nutrition on one’s body and mind, despite having first hand seen food heal, I do not always eat in a way that promotes optimal functioning. I feel like half my memory is gone. We move and I forget what it is to take care of myself. This isn’t an alien planet. This is just a new city. Just a new house. But I feel forgotten. Like I have been plucked up out of a story and thrown into a cage in a different universe.
When I got in trouble as a kid, I didn’t give a fuck. Stories have always been my escape. I would tell myself some story about being Daniel in the lion’s den or being a ninja training to be invisible and I was a million miles away even though I was in the same corner with my nose against the wall. Adulthood brought me down to reality a bit more and I wonder if this feeling of being thrown into a cage mimics this shift from childhood to adulthood. I do not wonder at all that I like the occult.
Anyways, when the normal switch clicks on, it’s like I lean against the door of the cage only to discover it’s been open this whole time. This might be the most frustrating part of cyclothymia. It’s like the solution seems so simple, the depression just melts away in an instant, and I wonder what I’ve been fighting against for the last four months, if it was even real, even valid.
Yes. I must remember that yes it was real. Yes it’s happened before many times and will happen again and no it is not just going to go away even though it will leave me alone for a couple months.
It’s been two days and I feel pretty sane. Pretty happy. On the second day I have a cider at a bar and feel fine. Don’t backslide just because you feel good now. The lack of alcohol is part of your good mood. Clarity feels good.
I’m normal. A slight leaning towards wistfulness and depression that makes me very hipster sometimes colors my worldview. We walk with our headphones in, as I was saying, and the playlist is Nina Simone’s Feelin Good and I’m fuckin right as rain.
This could last half an hour, two weeks, two months at most. I will take it. I am grateful. But just because I feel good now doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to just go back to doing whatever I feel like. This last episode was a wake up call. The potential for deep sadness and terrible illness lives within me and prevention is part of the cure. That being said, living in fear is not the same as prevention.
If I’m blessed enough to feel “normal” today, I’m blessed enough to work towards a brighter future in any way I can. That still means caring for myself and others.
The normal periods are the ones in which I have historically denied having a mental illness, and then something happens or the depression or anxiety hits and something happens as a result of those and I blame the circumstance instead of the episode. To be honest, it is still not clear to me how much of life has been a result of circumstance or results that were from my circumstances. All I know is I can do my best to aim for better results by bettering my circumstances.
For all the world I do not know what that means except taking care of my health and being kind as well as I can manage.
It feels good, all the sudden, to justhooman. It feels good to watch other people walk through the world. It seems I have been walking around staring at my own feet, afraid of what is happening and what will happen without noticing that so many other people are doing exactly the same thing. So many more are just living their lives. Some are doing that well. Even they fuck up sometimes. The stupid things people do are hilarious. Or sad. Or both. No amount of telling myself this stuff while I’m depressed really changes the depression. If anything it just pisses me off because depression is chemical. Mine is anyways. That’s becoming pretty clear.
Reading was something I did to escape into an adventure as much to escape from life. It taught me so much about empathy and compassion and understanding but also distanced me from people in such a way that I was not understood and did not understand. It was good and bad for me.
Where do we draw the lines? When does this become that?
When does self-improvement because self-mutilation?
When do social justice movements become fascist regimes?
When does conservatism become totalitarian?
When I feel normal, does that mean I was just going through a rough time? Or was the rough time because I am not normal?
This is not the first time I’ve felt the air clear. It is not the first time I’ve made it through a depression, looked back on the hard times and said, this was the path I was meant to walk. If none of it had happened, I would not be here and I would not change here for the world. If I wouldn’t change it, am I ill?
It is perhaps the first time, however, I have decided that spiritual gift or mental illness, I still need to change the way I live my life. I am still going to pursue healing despite the fact the cloud is lifted. I’m still going to value the clarity of mind from not drinking. I’m still going to entertain myself with the things in my life that I once loved and stopped doing because I stopped valuing being for the sake of being. I don’t remember the last time I read a book all the way through.
I am going to get somewhere by being here in my own skin. I am a million miles from where I was two days ago even though I’m still sitting in the same spot, typing on the same keyboard.
Do we fear what we don’t understand because we fear our own stupidity?
Does admitting we might only know a part of the story make us wrong?
Does stupidity really have to sound mean?
Is being wrong all that bad?
For all the world I hope I’m wrong about a lot of things.
Can it not just be something accepted, something endearing, something we make room for: human error?
Perhaps moving here to cook and heal alongside the man I love and my dog has allowed me to cast off for good any expectations I may have had for something else and I am so relieved by this. We have a good life here. All the turmoil is gone when I remember that I am not expected to do anything more than be.
It feels good to embrace this life for what it is. It feels good to remember I chose a humble life.
And yet a part of me understands that I told myself the same story during the depression and there was a very alive part of me that would scream back, yell out, say no it’s not enough, no you’re not good enough, no something is wrong. It is chemical and it is visceral. A part of me understands that perhaps there is a way to prevent this voice from returning quite so fiercely as it did this time around. There’s a part of me determined to conquer that bitch just knowing there are people in the world who go through life never meeting her. There is a part of me that loves her too, for there are things I value that I wouldn’t if she had never dragged me down.
It is the normal episodes which stand out against the paint like a boot print, and I realize that the normal episodes are less common than the ups and downs. I realize, also, that the story I am telling myself about this life is my responsibility to craft. There are facts and then there are perspectives, lenses, through which to interpret these facts. I can read to gain perspective. I can watch people. I can be present. Every time I reach for perspective and understanding instead of walling myself off because of fear, the possibilities become more endless. And the more endless the possibilities, the more opportunities arise. Improving one’s ability to imagine possibilities other than the possibilities ones instincts and circumstances have been trained to conjure (hello fear the conjurer) allows one to see opportunities to other modalities of existence. But it’s important to start with the facts. So I will start there: I have a mental illness.
And I will grow my perspective by learning other people’s perspectives on this, I will allow others’ perspectives to influence my own, to influence how I work with the facts, to influence how I heal. I think that confronting the unknown and that which I fear can create positive results beyond anything I can currently imagine.
I mean, I’ve seen that happen from all perspectives. Humans do stupid things, but we’re really smart too. We can get ourselves out of this pickle I think.
Anyways I’m just rambling at this point. It felt like there was something more…I feel like I did not hit on exactly what I wanted to hit on but circled around it with vague weird examples.
Just the idea of going to see a therapist makes me curdle on the inside a little bit. I’ve been to enough I thought. Done enough of this I thought.
The hospital bills from panic attacks I thought were heart attacks should be enough to convince me that I should not do this without therapy and/or meds. I know alcohol and weed were major contributors to my anxiety and depression too though. Both times I went into the hospital for panic attacks, I’d been heavily drinking the night before.
What if I were to use the money I’d be spending on therapy and meds and the commute to drastically change the way I eat, to pay someone to help me with my finances, to take a martial arts class and get regular exercise?
There are so many methods available to me and the closer I get to fully investing in what are considered “traditional” methods of healing for my people, the more I want to rebel against them. The more motivated I become to change.
Ours are the non traditional methods.
It alarms me that this woman doesn’t ask about my diet or daily routine, that she immediately asks what medication I’m on, and that she immediately recommends four medications. I fit the bill for cyclothymia, perhaps bipolar. Half of Americans will experience symptoms of mental illness in their lifetimes, especially after the death of a loved one, a big move, an illness (that wipes out gut flora), or a separation or divorce. I’ve experienced 3 of these since last January and this is not a question she asks. It’s her job to stabilize me for now. Then it is her job to help.
I suppose the hospital is the same.
It alarms me that we go to the doctor because DJ can’t eat and they offer pain meds. Today he sees a specialist. Today our diet changes ( we buy groceries together and eat together most of the time).
We are not made to live this way. How much of our humanity do we fail to acknowledge in order to validate our current way of living?
There are other ways to heal. That doesn’t mean I have to exclude this one. This method is one method of many in my toolbox. Like any tool, we need the right tool for the right job. The job, right now, is to realign my perception of reality with the general perception of reality.
I’m a psychonaut.
I explore other modalities of consciousness through studying story, religion, philosophy, magic, meditation, intentional body movement, lightworking, drugs (sometimes and rarely), dreams, and food.
Somehow I’d forgotten this. That is the nature of being a psychonaut. One explores the out there and it takes time to come back to the self. I’ve been doing this since I was a child. First in dreams. Then in the form of astral travel. Then with books. Rituals. I came here to have and share these experiences as best I can.
I show up at the therapist’s office at eleven on the dot and find no one is there. I say, “Alright universe. I’ll wait ten minutes. If she doesn’t show, I will abandon therapy altogether.” She shows at 11:11. On the dot. 11:11 is significant to me and many others. I just take it as a sign I’m on the right path when I see it. It’s the make a wish number, the number for manifestation, for turning thoughts into reality, and for starseeds. She apologizes and says all of our sessions will begin at ten after. Eleven after. Whatever.
We talk. She asks about how I got here, what my goals are. I tell her some stuff. She asks me about the dissociation which usually comes from trauma. I tell her I don’t remember any trauma, and anyways I’ve reconciled with my past. I love my parents. They did their best. I am thirty. I’m not interested in what’s back there except to inform my identity as I move forward. We should do this with history. Look back and let it inform us. Have we forgotten that other human being have made mistakes we can learn from?
She says there are two different types of dissociation. One is an out of body dissociation in which it seems like one is, well, outside the body. I tell her yes, I have done this and recall that the first time I french braided my own hair, this is how I did it. I stepped outside of my body, behind myself so I could see what my fingers were doing. I was maybe 14? At the time I chalked it up to astral travel. I do not tell the lady this is how I learned to braid my hair. I know that this kind of story is the kind of story that they use to identify degrees of crazy. Spiritual experience and Crazy are too often misconstrued. That is: Spiritual experience, in our culture and from the standpoint of western medicine and science, is viewed as crazy. My culture negates the spiritual experience as a valid one because my culture does not understand what it cannot see. I am here to validate spiritual experience for myself and others who have been told not to believe in something that is and always has been a part of the human experience. Just because we don’t acknowledge its reality, doesn’t mean it’s not real.
Now it occurs to me that external dissociation and astral travel are the same thing with two different stories attached.
I believe that those who have learned to dissociate out of body are astral traveling. Unfortunately, most people learn to dissociate through trauma when they are young. Something awful happens (molestation usually) and the child, lacking the language and social constructs to explain and identify what is happening outside and within emotionally, drifts out of the body. I was not molested or sexually harassed. I’ve been astral traveling at least since I was six. It is unfortunate that many learn to astral travel because of trauma. It makes astral travel a scary thing. It can be. One can get lost out there.
We have come to view astral travel as something woo woo and out there, but people do it all the time and label it as something else because they are living different stories. That’s fine. No reason to shape a story into anything else if that’s the way you prefer it. For my own part, I do not care to live in an experience that is bound by the reality defined by western cultural constructs. The key, I think, is to acknowledge both and all as equally valid and to choose for yourself how the stories about different realities inform one’s experience.
As I’m going to see this woman, I have time on the commute and I begin listening to Ram Dass, Be Here Now.
I’ve spent over a decade studying different religions and philosophies and methods of healing to understand what this is: what we call mental illness or spirituality, what they still cannot identify or pin me to per say. I cannot say I understand it any better, but there are things I’ve discovered that do help, that tell a fantastic story, and that may make me crazy or not. I don’t really care anymore who would deem me crazy. It is clear that crazy is simply a physical imbalance that leads to chemical imbalances in the brain which fifty percent of my people will experience at one time or another in their lives.
We live here with each other and so must be able to function on this plane and we do so within a story that says anything we cannot prove with our modern and limited science must not be real. Science says it knows what is wrong with me and yet the only cure it has found is a chemical cocktail of meds that are hard on the liver and the emotional landscape and which the body adapts to. I believe that I have made it to thirty without medication because I have practiced spiritual methods of healing that are valid cohealing methods to modern methods. We are not just bodies with symptoms. We are as much mind and spirit. The therapist helps me with my mind, the story I tell, the story others tell, and how to reconcile them. She helps me back into the social fabric of my people after I have jettisoned myself out into what I sometimes call lala land, but what is, I believe, the seam between identities.
We go to see therapists after divorces, loss of a loved one, moves, job changes, because these events change the story one tells oneself about one’s identity. When we lose what defines us, we feel crazy.
Spirituality lends itself to a form of defining one’s self that lies outside of the identity constructs of one’s culture. Therefore, spirituality is a valuable aid in transitional times. Spirituality is something I’ve let fall away from my life over the course of the last six months. It is something I have picked up and put down in different lights over the course of my lifetime. Some of the darkest times were void of spirituality. Some of the darkest times were the most spiritual as well.
Religion and Spirituality are not the same thing at all. Religion is a cultural construct that allows one to view spirituality through one lens that makes some sense to some people. Spirituality is void of cultural construct. Language, however, is a cultural construct so the only methods by which we can communicate spirituality to one another are stories, like religion.
Therapy and meds are a temporary quick fix to keep you alive long enough to learn other coping skills and educate yourself in such a way that who you are makes sense to you in this world. It is going to take time to educate myself in the other modalities of healing and my body is perhaps so deficient in nutrients that it is going to take time for it to heal. Therapy buys me time. It aids the part of my ego and identity that belongs to my culture, a part of me I often try to deny because I have had quite a lot of judgment and disdain for my culture in the past.
This part of my identity, however, is now necessary to cultivate again. It is never good to lose touch with reality which is the experience of the human body, mind, and spirit in this world. It is possible to enhance one’s perception of reality.
Here is how I’ve approached therapy in the past and here is how I believe therapy is meant to be approached by reasonably functioning individuals who are in a rough spot whether or not they identify with having a mental illness: I go to the therapist, I do what she says as well as I can, I learn, heal, and move on. She is a teacher. She is someone who can help me with this particular difficulty in my life. She says I’m on the bipolar spectrum though it’s unclear where I stand exactly. She is surprised by my awareness of the disease and other stories other cultures tell about it. She is supportive when I tell her that I’m reluctant to take meds, if only because I know there are many methods of healing I can turn to first. I tell her that in the event these other methods prove ineffective, I will gladly consider medication and she says she believes this is an excellent way to approach this path.
My only diagnosis was from a lady I saw at the height of a hypomanic episode when I was 25 and that lady told me that she believes I have an important message to share, that I’m not crazy, and that it sounds like I’ve learned to navigate some really out there stuff in an intelligent way that might help people. She said I might have cyclothymia, if anything, and she was looking forward to reading my book when I wrote it. The facility at which I saw this lady no longer exists and nor do their records. They went under this last spring and when I called for my records they said that the files were gone. I was floored because I was trying to get my dog registered as an emotional support animal, but maybe the records don’t matter. They are only a part of the story.
At that time of my diagnosis, I was studying ascension magic, Kabbalah, and herbal shamanism. I’d done mushrooms which sent me into lala land for a while. I do not think that hallucinogenic drugs are dangerous in and of themselves. I do believe that hallucinogens were used shamanically in the past because hallucinogens are one way to experience other dimensions. I do believe that people like me were made to explore these other dimensions and teach our people about them.
I believe our culture eschews the validity of shamanic healing in favor of scientific methods. I do believe that both are equally valid and our understanding of one is tragically lacking. I believe our lack of understanding or accepting shamanic healing or spiritual healing as valid has severely crippled our understanding of what it means to be human. That is, the spirit and otherworldly experiences are and always have been a part of the human experience and denying the validity of these experiences because we don’t understand them is like shooting one’s self in the head because it’s broken. That is…cutting oneself off from the unknown because it is unknown is where my people are at. I don’t know about you, but I always wanted to be an explorer. Space might be the final frontier that we can physically explore. But there are universes within the mind of every human being on this planet. I am not an astronaut, but I am an explorer in the vast regions of my psyche.
I believe therapy and modern medicine constitute one method of healing that is effective for one part of the human being–the body, the ego self, and how that ego self is identified in the world of other ego constructs. The Ego, or the animus, is how we operate on this planet. Without it in health and in tact, our other experiences cannot be relayed. Therefore, people have been tempted to label the experience of the ego or animus as the only valid experience.
But the animus is the vehicle for spirit.
Yesterday, after this lady shows up at 11:11 like a call from the universe and I am listening to Ram Dass, I remember all the spiritual and therapeutic healing experiences in my life like a movie reel. They move through my mind’s eye, the seat of the soul, reminding me of the journey towards healing as one that has required not only the healing of my ego and animus and body and mind, but the healing of my relationship with spirit.
And my life organized itself into a story which I’m beginning to write. Here’s the start of it. I will publish it in pieces here I guess. I’ve been told that automatic writing is how I’m supposed to do this, which is why this is a stream of consciousness blog.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve known the witness at the seat of my consciousness, the one who watches the experiences as they become us, the identity as it fills us, the death of ego as the identity empties, and the refilling of identity as we learn to grow, adapt, and embody the new. Consciousness is oneness and we is me.
I never had to put words to it for it was and is me as much as it was and is you.
But one day my childhood innocence was lost and my access to witness, or the observer, was denied. I was put on a path to learn new information that would lead me back to witness through a different perspective. After many years, I found my way back to us, only to find myself shortly cast back into ego, back into blindness.
I have been many people.
I have found my way back to witness through many lenses, philosophies, religions, and experiences and I am here now to share these with you. We are in the days of learning to settle our differences on a global scale. I am here to share with you how to access the tools of humanity, our humanity, by considering our beliefs, cultures, philosophies, religions, and selves as tools in a toolbox. I’m here to encourage and coach the ways of surrender, creativity, compassion, joy, love, hope, healing, and light. I am here to show you that you are infinite and I am here to show you how to access that infinity by setting down your fear, labels, breaking down your boxes, and surrendering your masculine ego to the divine feminine way of compassion, for the time being. The world moves forward through time and we with it and things change. Our tools are not meant to be permanent fixes. We are meant to adopt the right tool for the right use at the right time as in a kitchen, as in any trade. Our tools are vast. We have hundreds of thousands of years worth of developed tools to access at any given time. We do not have to choose one. We can choose all, knowing that nature’s way is the cycle of life and death and that the way must be respected. We are smart enough now to adopt this way, to allow ourselves to become beings beyond the trappings of the ego. #risesisterrise (Rebecca Campbell).
We are the individual manifestations of the one and we have the ability to see the one no matter who we are, what we believe, where we come from, or what our circumstances.
This sounds all fine and dandy from a super woo woo perspective. Let’s look at what this means from a more practical lens.
I have made it my life’s mission to explore altered states of consciousness and have found a thread of similarity in all states called the witness consciousness. This is the place I believe God was talking about in the bible when He said, “Be still and know that I am God.” The I is both I and God. We were made in his image. It is the place the Buddha retreated to in his meditation beneath the tree. It is the place Hindi’s put their bindis and Yogi’s open their third eye chakras. It is the place the Egyptians revered as the seat of the soul: the pineal gland. The place where visions take place and messages are conveyed in dream and in native tradition, in ritual and in hallucinatory states induced by illicit drugs. The witness, the observer, is the one who inhabits this space in nonjudgment with the eyes of the innocent. The witness watches the human that is you in the experience. The witness is the you behind the experience, the one inside the animus of the body and ego which are bound by cultural construct. The witness is consciousness.
Nothing good or bad about it. The non-attachment of Buddhism and Taoism. Many people write about the observer or witness. Ram Dass, Henry Hess, Aldous Huxley. I was introduced to the concept and was led to the conscious rediscovery of the witness mentality by reading and practicing the meditations in a book called The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself, by Michael A. Singer.
And then I was introduced to Light is the New Black, by Rebecca Campbell which helped me to understand a feminine perspective, something I have not been exposed to in the way of these philosophies, religions, and bodily practices except through the lens of a male dominated cultural mentality. That is not to say a male dominated cultural mentality is bad, just that both the male and female perspectives are valuable and can inform each other to grander results than we can imagine with our limited abilities.
I journeyed into healing bravely by understanding I am afraid. I journeyed into strength by surrendering to my weakness and I journeyed into light by letting the darkness swallow me whole. We must surrender to ourselves. We must face the reality of ourselves with nonjudgment, nonattachment, kindness, compassion, we must grieve, and then we must take responsibility to right what we have wronged. Or we will be the victims of ourselves.
I am here to share with you the value of letting go of what you think you know, who you think you are, and how you think you should be. I am here to tell you that holding onto these things is okay sometimes, but that doing so all the time is not nature’s way and is not healthy for human beings. I am here to share with you that the experience of the human being has been one half lived for too long by so many, and I am here to validate your instincts to surrender to the part of you that longs to be whole.
The way is you.
I am you and you are us.
The way is us.
I am you and you are us.
The way is I.
I am you and you are us.
I am a psychonaut and I am here to share with you my journey through consciousness that I may share the tools with you I learned upon my journey so you may use them in your own. Your journey will look very different from mine. Everyone’s is different. We are all one.
The Upside Down Triangle
When I was a kid, I dreamt repeatedly of being a person underneath the point of an upside down triangle that was so vast I could not fathom the enormity of it. The point of the triangle pressed into the top of my head, resting there, and it offered enormous pressure which I came to associate with anxiety later on. As a kid though, it came to me as a visualization in my third eye. The person was just a black outline of a person, as in those one might see on street signs, and the triangle was so vast that the camera lens of my mind had to zoom outward to see the full scope of it. By the time the triangle was fully visible, the person beneath was so small it was as large as a pinprick in the fabric of the universe and felt as insignificant, except for the fact that I knew that person was there.
I view each of us this way.
The triangle is the oneness, the consciousness of us. It looks like a triangle from my perspective.
Much later, when I wanted to write books, I imagined a world in between, one in which people existed in pillars of light connected to a much larger light source. I walked in the darkness between these pillars that were the rays of people’s lives and popped in once in a while to see how people viewed themselves, only to find that some of these pillars were rooted in the most horrible memories people had.
Later I would come to understand we are all the people under the triangle, that the triangle is just a point of extension from oneness consciousness, and that people operate like nerve endings, flashes of light and energy and electricity playing out a reaction that informs the one mind that is the universe. Our lives are as significant timewise to the universe as the single firing of a synapse is in the human brain.
And ego perspective would say that is not much.
However, all the parts of the brain must work together to sustain the whole. A deficiency in one vitamin can cause serious illness. Vitamin C and scurvy for instance.
Human experience can and, I believe, should be as varied for the individual as the diet in order for the individual to be a fully functioning healthy human being. There is no longer room for us to consider our differences in politics, religion, and state as significant enough that they should be fought over. We must aim to agree where we can and live and let live. We must remember we are all different.
A deficiency of archetypal feminine consciousness has led western archetypal male consciousness to dismiss the validity of dreams, the supernatural, the unknown, death and birth, the creative, the artistic, the compassionate, the trusting, the surrendered, and the healing parts of the human experience in modern America and in other countries who have been swayed by the American way of life. We are missing out on at least half of what it means to be human by pitting male and female against each other instead of understanding them as necessary equally valid parts of the whole experience of being human.
I am not dismissing the validity of the modern American way of life. We are a testament to the greatness that has been achieved by the patriarchal male domination of the world in the form of creating a global civilization, but now our practice of the creation must be lent to other values.
And it is being lent to other values slowly but surely. Zoos are freeing animals for wilderness preservation. Hunting is being adopted as a conservation method which, ironically, it is due to the influence of humans on nature and the sway/responsibility we hold to help regulate it’s cycles now. Even Christians can’t debunk that one. God told you to steward the earth.
I’m as Christian as I am Wiccan.
Many will find this text blasphemous, but this text isn’t for them. We all experience the world differently and this may help some people and it may do nothing at all for some people. If this book isn’t for you, I wish you joy, health and love in all your endeavors and thank you for giving it a try.
If this book is for you, well…read that last sentence again.
I am as attached to the outcome of this book as to the outcome of my life, which is to say not at all and totally and completely. I do not know where it will go and I have no idea how it will end but I’m on the journey with all it’s ups and downs, for better or worse, because I came here to be a human being and I believe that the part of us all that came here to be human is connected, whatever that part is, or however you use the boundaries of your personal or cultural or linguistic contexts to identify it.
Personal note: (Read Link for information on this subject. Also refer to Journal 1/10/2020 and Ram Dass Be Here Now Lectures 3 and 4).
I believe that the more we familiarize ourselves with putting down and picking up the lenses of consciousness to inform compassion, the easier the transitions from one stage of life to the next can become.
Given humanity is due for some large transitions in the direction of healing ourselves and our home, I believe this work can help some people who are in the lens that will appreciate this for what it is: A psychonaut’s exploration of the tesseract constructed by the tools of the human identity extended from the collective consciousness.
Or accounts of the all experience by one individual pinprick in the fabric of the universe.