The girl in the birdcage: fear and the victim/child/damsel archetype

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There’s a red-headed girl in a cage at the bottom of my psyche. She is the victim-fear-child. She grows and shrinks in age, and yells obscenities at me. Fear always makes her scream or flinch. I can’t fix her, can’t remove her. Her hair reddens at the sound of rain and she dissolves into poetry… face of porcelain… her dress is always white lace and she claws… and she sits with legs with legs crossed. I watch her. When I don’t watch her she reaches up into my life and wreaks havoc. With eyes on her she is confined to the cage.

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Her hair grows and shrinks. She screams at me until I turn away and draw bird cages, gold like her’s, on white canvas paper. I hold up a blank slate for her and she draws cages too. We laugh and I slide my fingers into the cage to find hers… dissolving into me.

I sit in the room and watch her. I cannot fix her of free her. Attempts only makes her violent. I visit her often and when I have extra… I feed her… peas and broth from a ceramic spoon. I reach my arms around the cage to find it dissolving, just a little, but it re-forms when I move away.

“It’s safe outside” I say, but if I remove the cage she only grows it back from the fear inside. It’s part of her. Some traumatised animals never leave the cage, even when the door is open… even when the cage is gone. The cage is inside their minds and the trauma continues in aftershocks. She knows this. She is this.

Awakened, she reaches up through the bars – a pain-body phantom. She claws at my heart and projects the pain into other people’s faces and my own personal failings. If I watch her, sit with her, she has company and sometimes she lets me scratch behind her ears. She responds to warmth… it melts the ice from the fear… melts the cage momentarily.

We watch each-other.

I can’t fix her…

but can I love her?

birdcage

The girl in the birdcage: fear and the victim/child/damsel archetype

once_upon_a_time_ontwerpduo_2b-thumb-468x625-31805

There’s a red-headed girl in a cage at the bottom of my psyche. She is the victim-fear-child. She grows and shrinks in age, and yells obscenities at me. Fear always makes her scream or flinch. I can’t fix her, can’t remove her. Her hair reddens at the sound of rain and she dissolves into poetry… face of porcelain… her dress is always white lace and she claws… and she sits with legs with legs crossed. I watch her. When I don’t watch her she reaches up into my life and wreaks havoc. With eyes on her she is confined to the cage.

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Her hair grows and shrinks. She screams at me until I turn away and draw bird cages, gold like her’s, on white canvas paper. I hold up a blank slate for her and she draws cages too. We laugh and I slide my fingers into the cage to find hers… dissolving into me.

I sit in the room and watch her. I cannot fix her of free her. Attempts only makes her violent. I visit her often and when I have extra… I feed her… peas and broth from a ceramic spoon. I reach my arms around the cage to find it dissolving, just a little, but it re-forms when I move away.

“It’s safe outside” I say, but if I remove the cage she only grows it back from the fear inside. It’s part of her. Some traumatised animals never leave the cage, even when the door is open… even when the cage is gone. The cage is inside their minds and the trauma continues in aftershocks. She knows this. She is this.

Awakened, she reaches up through the bars – a pain-body phantom. She claws at my heart and projects the pain into other people’s faces and my own personal failings. If I watch her, sit with her, she has company and sometimes she lets me scratch behind her ears. She responds to warmth… it melts the ice from the fear… melts the cage momentarily.

We watch each-other.

I can’t fix her…

but can I love her?

birdcage

The dark moon: regeneration and cradling the self

Collage by Stephanie Wild http://stephanie.me.uk/

Collage by Stephanie Wild http://stephanie.me.uk/

In a world where we are constantly encouraged to shine, to compete, to perform, to do more, there is not much emphasis put on the other side of the cycle: on rest and renewal. When we find ourselves producing less, doing less, we tend to ask “what’s wrong?”. We tend to medicalise ourselves, and seek help for this problem of not being absolutely amazing all the time. Actually, the downswing of the cycle is just as beautiful as the expansion of growth, it is just quieter.

The dark moon is a time for reflection and regeneration. Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés tells a story about an old man who struggles through the dark forest towards the light of a small lamp in a hut. When he reaches the hut a kind woman takes him in her arms and rocks him… and rocks him… and rocks him… and just before morning he is a young man with golden hair, and she continues to rock him, until the very beginnings of breaking dawn, when she plucks three hair from his head and throws them to the half, and the man, now a little golden-haired baby, runs out the door, jumps into the sky and becomes the sun.

Even in the chaotic hectic lives that we find ourselves in, there is always be a corner of the psyche where that kind woman sits in her rocking chair. There is always time where we can visit her, even just for a moment, even just with a resting thought, a hot bath or shower, a hot drink, a solitary walk, a pausing glance toward the horizon, the minutes before sleep, where we are as cradled as we possibly can be. We need to rest. We need to heal. We need to consciously nurture the self.Do you hear yourself coming up with explanations and excuses of why you cannot possibly rest? That is normal, the mind wants to say busy, to reap reward. There are a million things that you would possibly do… go go go. But even one moment of dropping the pressures of the mind, of letting the world slip away and falling into deeper awareness is precious gold for the inner self… and every step towards deeper intuition is a step towards looking at things a different way, of shifting and dissolving tensions, of solving the problem from a deeper level than the one in which is was created.

This is a lesson in self-care and regeneration. It is not always the time to perform or shine. Our dreams and ideas and hopes need nurturing too, they need to be rocked sometimes. Take this dark moon, and the next and the next… take the two or three day before the new moon every month, to sit quietly at any possible moment, to walk quietly, to rock gently… to be in that space of nurturing. Take this sacred time to honor and cradle the self in whatever way possible. Take this time to heal, because healing is a natural part of growth, of life. When everything is moving so fast, stillness is powerfully transformative.

Just breathe

Mandala by Stephanie Wild http://stephanie.me.uk/

Mandala by Stephanie Wild http://stephanie.me.uk/


A recipe for slow and lasting transformation:

Breathe…
Relax….
Release…
Let go

Things get complicated sometimes.

There may be too many things going on inside your head, inside your life.

There may be too many restrictions, tensions, walls.

There may be no room to expand, or find peace, amid the whirlwind.

I wonder how much of this is a state of mind, how much is actually external.

It seems to always be an interaction.

Inner/Outer

When the tensions begin to impact, and the neural feedback is largely negative, something has to change.

It can feel impossible… trying to change the world around us, but there are always little things, baby steps: decluttering, taking out the trash, clearing and cleaning…

Making small commitments, that can be upheld…

Doing the things, because there are always little things, that let our brains know that we can be rewarded, now.

Making a list and checking things off can help.

When we see the same patterns over and over again in the outside world, it may be time for an inner shift.

How do we make inners shift?

Choices… always choices.

Every thought is a choice.

Every breath can be conscious…

Increasing awareness… holding tensions… letting go.

Find the root of noxious weedy thoughts and dig them out.

Breathe in through the nose for four seconds
Hold the breath for seven seconds
Breathe out through the mouth for eight seconds
Let
Go

Replace the old weeds with more productive and aesthetic alternatives:

I love myself
I love my life
This is the life I want to live
I am good enough

“Good enough”: the power of modest affirmations

A few days ago I was having an episode of crazy – of not feeling good enough – of all kinds of ridiculous internal pressures. That happens… and often there is this pressure to be AMAZING – to be special and wonderful and outstanding and awesome and all of these over-used superlatives.  We overcompensate for not feeling good enough by reaching for the stars (which has often struck me as an ironically air-grasping metaphor). Affirmations usually favor big words, but perhaps there is a quiet power in small humble statements: I’m good enough. Everything’s okay. Relax.

“I’m good enough” is digestible. It’s believable. It’s no great commitment, no great pressure. It’s acceptable, and it’s honest. There’s nothing wrong with being a good-enough mother, a good-enough daughter, or granddaughter or student or academic or writer or any of the other labels people tend to accumulate in their short lives. It is a calm, contented centre in an otherwise chaotic storm of great vulnerability, expectations and obligations. It’s an in-between road that is not a dead-end or wild goose-chase shortcut. It’s just a simple breath of fresh air. I’m good… enough.  It’s an invitation to let go.

This is a time of letting go. It has been a frustrating and transformative couple of years.  Today is about endings, about letting go, mourning the death of the old paradigm and making space… and resting… and allowing the new to arise. Today is a good time for acceptance, for allowing, for letting things be. Today, “good enough” is enough… and probably, tomorrow it will be too.

On not being good enough

Do you feel like you’re not good enough? Apparently that’s the major underlying negative/limiting thought that everything else boils down to, according to self-help goddess Louise L. Hay. She’s probably right. I have been trying to figure out how to be good enough – or feel like I’m good enough – for a long time. I don’t know if I’m getting anywhere. I have been an under-achiever, an over-achiever, a person who does many things and who does nothing. I have followed my bliss and pursued my goals and failed and succeeded. I have feared failure and rejection, and gotten over it, for the most part, because it’s just part of being creative and doing what you want to do: other people don’t always like it. That’s okay.

Underneath all this is an insatiable neediness that I cannot tolerate in myself or in other people. It’s a child/victim archetype thing. I was starved of attention as a child. I was neglected. I wasn’t good enough. It makes me sick. I can’t escape it, I can just avoid thinking about it. Can I ever get to the bottom of it?

Right now… in this major transit-transition period. I feel like I’m going crazy. If you could quite my brain right now it would be saying this:

I want to do too many things. Head is going to explode. Must finish thesis. Figure out how to have career/income/self employment??? Move??? DO EVERYTHING NOW Fiction? I used to write fiction. Do something about that. Order my books so I can sell them? OKAY. now BLOG BLOG BLOG. submit second novel to publisher? NOTHING I DO IS EVER GOOD ENOUGH. get over that. you’d think with all the self-work I’ve been doing for such a LONG TIME I would have figured out how to feel GOOD ENOUGH by now…? Can I even feel confident and proud of anything I’ve done before? Should I write under an alias so I can say what I REALLY think? Probably. Too late. Oh well. WHAT IS MY LIFE COMING TO?

…something like that…

Anyway. I just thought I’d share that with the internet, because embarrassing yourself is all part of being a writer, right?

I am always healing… bringing up more ‘stuff’ and dealing with it. I will figure out how to nurture this wounded child and help her to grow and feel loved. I will… I will… I will… figure out how to let myself off the hook and feel good enough.

Forgive life: Neptune squares my natal Chiron


I don’t quite know how this one snuck up on me, although it does make sense considering Neptune is so elusive and my natal Chiron is in the 12th house of hidden and subconscious things. Perhaps I should have noticed when the stability I had been enjoying since my Saturn Return seemingly morphed into what feels like several months of PMS. I was feeling SO emotional, but couldn’t cry. I even resorted to watching the sad parts of kids movies and Thai life insurance ads (the saddest ever) just to force the tears to flow.

Neptune in a difficult aspect is a lot like a big dissolving/yearning/dream/delusion/spell which can feel impossible to live through and chiron is all about being wounded and healing, so there are some obvious emotional ramification here, but because this transit surprised me, I googled it to see what else the internets could tell me: not very much and came across a Saturn Rising post of an interpretation except (not sure where from) that resonates deeply:

The deeper meaning underlying the depressed emotional state
you are likely to experience is a need to face, understand, and
let go of the pain of the past. You may be clinging to hurtful
experiences in ways you have not realized, storing them up
and nursing an unconscious sense of grievance and mistrust
which may be secretly affecting many of your decisions and
responses to other people. It is not that your past experiences
are unimportant, or that your unhappiness is or was unreal.
But right now you are being challenged to find the capacity to
forgive life for not meeting your expectations. If you can see
where your idealization or unrealistic expectations might have
led you into disappointment, you could go a long way toward
healing these past wounds. Also, you may need to learn to
accept life as it is, rather than as you wish it could be. The
proverbial choice of perceiving a glass of water as either half-empty
or half-full applies to you now. If you see life only in
terms of its unfairness, you will become bitter, cynical and
martyred. If you see it only as wonderful, or maintain spiritual
convictions which are too simplistic or naive, you will be
disillusioned when life turns out to be more complex than you
thought. But if you see it as a mixture of dark and light, and
can be flexible enough to accept both, you will be able to find
the resources to cope with the dark while enjoying the light.

Despite being a glass-half-full person already, I could make some more ground with forgiving life. Faith is something I found, as a child, out of desperation. I was raised as an atheist, and got lost in the forest when I was eleven and prayed to every god I had ever heard of. I found Jesus at camp a few months later and converted to Christianity, then dropped it in favor of polytheistic paganism in my teens when I needed magic the most. Gradually, I let that go too, as I found my own power and needed gods and goddesses less and less. My spirituality evolved into an experiential one, moment to moment, interconnected with everything. The beliefs I have now, I am less attached to, they are lenses: tools for gaining clarity, wisdom and understanding… and yet, over the past few months I have felt this tugging absence of faith.

Feeling confused about my life, anxious about not knowing what the hell I’m doing, I have been intellectualising too much – trying to think my way out of feelings of powerlessness. Feeling frustrated with Uranus on my Midheaven, squaring Pluto in my seventh house, I have been going around in circles into brick walls trying to figure out what to do about my ambitions and relationships… I have been getting stuck on “how?” – the impossible question, when one is walking in the dark. I have been willing myself to have faith. I have been trying… but I don’t think I can find faith in desperation anymore… I think I have to find it in letting go… in forgiving life.

When I was fourteen I chose to write my school speech about forgiveness. It seemed like an important thing at the time, I remember a quote I found in my youth bible: “resentment is like a hot coal in the palm of your hand – the longer and tighter it is held, the deeper the burn, bitterness will leave a scar than even time cannot heal.” – That was when I was learning that forgiveness isn’t about letting someone/thing off the hook, it’s about releasing yourself from pain. I have been progressively seeking out and releasing pain from old wounds, releasing myself from depression, working towards forgiving specific people, but I haven’t yet framed it in terms of ‘forgiving life’. Life is hard and often painful; it’s complex and beautiful and joyful; it can be agonising. Life is full of injustices and unfairness, of vulnerability and betrayal, of being hurt, of fear and powerlessness. Life is a big thing to forgive.

Neptune is all about dissolving, and combined with Chiron there is a great opportunity to both dissolve into pain and woundedness and to dissolve from it – to release it. Towards the end of my last Neptune transit I started writing a poetic journal: “The art of dissolving.” I think I will go back to that now, especially as Neptune is also opposing my Venus and I need a positive creative channel to avoid getting lost in a lower-Neptuanian ocean of spaced-out yearning. In these moments of unreasonable despair I will allow this emotion to come up and affirm the thought that is bringing in light and space right now: forgive life.

write a list

Rescuing the princess, rebuilding the animus and growing healthy relationship archetypes

Recently I have been exploring the common archetype of the princess in the tower, in relation to my life. It is something that crops up from time to time, when I feel helpless or overwhelmed; I feel out of control, like a small child, powerless and desperate; I don’t think I can do things by myself. Whenever this pattern emerges I secretly wish for someone to rescue me, when really I know I always have to rescue myself.

Please excuse the gendered nature of the archetypes presented here – they actually don’t need to a particular gender, that is just the common representation… I do feel, however, that growing up without a healthy father figure/male role-model has stunted and warped the development of my animus, which I have been progressively healing/growing back over the last few years. The animus is commonly known as the ‘male’ or masculine part of the psyche, but is also associated with the warrior or rescuer archetype. If you didn’t have a present or adequate father/male role model, you may well be in the same boat.

Early on, we who need to rescue ourselves tend to fall into the trap of becoming the rescuer – of being attracted to wounded puppies who we think we can save with our love and guidance. This is a massive exercise in projection and gets quite circular. We are seeing our own damaged animus reflected back through damaged people and damaging relationships. Without a healthy animus, we are doomed to repeat this cycle. The good news is that, eventually, we can heal the major inner fractures in ourselves (if we need to). We can piece one together from the aspects of healthy ‘masculinity’ and strength we encounter in our lives. We can make a frankenstein animus and bring it to life – or re-grow an under-developed animus archetype until he reaches maturity – along with culling all the unhealthy/predator/shadow aspects we may have internalized from having painful or exploitative experiences with men.

Even when we have cobbled together a healthy representation of animus inside ourselves, we may find that we still feel tensions and anxieties arising from attachment and relationships – even with healthy significant others who are not wounded puppies. While being attracted to healthy (rather than damaged) people is a sign of significant healing progress, it doesn’t mean it’s all smooth sailing from here. Our new healthy animus still needs to be socialised. Invite him to sit down for a cup of tea. Build a good relationship with him. If you are projecting anxiety onto an external attachment, transfer this projection, along with your needs and desires to your inner animus and practice relating to this inner ‘other’ in a healthy and loving way. He can be there for you, love you, support you and rescue you in an insecure world. Through this inner transformation, the external world can mirror harmonious relationships back to you.

Removing psychic splinters

I have written before about untangling projections and nursing the primal wound, letting go of baggage and peeling back layers… but it’s an ongoing process, right.

Lately something has been triggered for me, but I’m not exactly sure what it is or how to deal with it. In this vague, ambiguous state I feel a bit stuck. What is holding me back? It isn’t big or dramatic. It isn’t agonising. It’s more like a splinter in my chest – of fear or doubt, of past pain. Like a physical splinter, it is inflammatory. For me it is connected with insecure attachment issues and feeling vulnerable… but probably, you have something like this too – that might come up at some point in your life, triggered by someone being a dick or not answering your text messages or something.

Western society is not particularly good at emotions – probably because it is founded on denial and a false dichotomy between the body and mind – which is, ironically not very scientific… so we might as well develop processes to deal with our emotions, right? This is something I just made up, and as a qualified hypnotherapist, I’m totally allowed – this also means when you read it you can make the voice in your head sound very relaxed and hypnotic 🙂

As we know, to clean emotional wounds you need to focus on them. It’s not pleasant, but it’s important work if you actually want to get over something. Focus on the sensation and where it is in the body. It might feel uncomfortable.

Focus… focus…
When your attention slips, that’s okay, just focus again.

It’s a bit like a surgeon, or a mum removing a splinter from a child’s foot.

Focus.

Can you name the feeling?
Let it well up
Submerge yourself in it.
Keep focussed.

What’s underneath?
Let it well up again – feel it out – go through the middle… again…
that centre of the splinter…
the eye of the storm…
splitting discomfort
fear/pain/trauma

Separate this from anything external. This is part of you. It’s all about you.

Focus.
Focus.
Feel it.

Has it moved?
Has it shifted?
Sneaky little splinter.

You could keep distracting yourself – numbing the pain with facebook or beer or movies or whatever floats your boat, but unless you really get in there and focus it will stay there – keeping you stuck.

Stretch from side to side.
Focus.
As you focus it may grow or diminish…
maybe both, alternately.
It may hide and re-emerge.

Eventually it may crystalise so you can see the damn thing.
What is it?
A fleck of wood?
A shard of glass?
A prickle?
A dagger?
A mighty spear?
How big is it?
What colour?
What does it look like?
Does it change?

Distractions are important coping mechanisms – let them come and go.
Re-focus every time.

What more can you find buried here?
Memories?
Baggage?

Focus

Stretch

Focus

Walk it out…

Go for a walk alone, in as peaceful place as possible, with as much of a clear horizon as possible…

…and feel.

Every time your mind drifts off,
Bring it back.
Keep doing it until you can figure out how to remove the splinter.

Then you can just leave it alone and let it heal.

I haven’t been living in the forest for a while…

The Forest

‘Living in the forest’ is a metaphor that I drew from Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés‘ monumental book ‘Women who Run With the Wolves’. The final story of the Handless Maiden is a journey of deep and total transformation, the healing part of this takes place over seven years of living in a forest. When I began this blog I was living in a forest and I was undergoing deep transformation and healing, so it seemed an appropriate title. The last two years (at least) have been overwhelmed by thorough psychological restructuring: Saturn in Scorpio, for me, especially by a very long Saturn return before it squared my Sun. It’s now right on top of my natal Mars.

For the past six months I have been sporadic with blogging. I’m trying to write my doctoral thesis, and I moved out of the forest and into the small coastal township nearby because I had been struggling to focus living where I was. To some extent I’m still ‘living in the forest’ in the self-work that I’m doing: in the processing and journalling, but in some ways I always have been doing this work.

I don’t know where I will live next or what I will do. Part of my recent processing has been about coming to terms with uncertainty and change – which are actually the only constants in life. For a long time I clung to the prospects of security – of owning property, of safety, of regular income… but while these things can be nice, they are not actually security or certainty, because that’s not a real-life thing, it’s a fantasy. Over the past two years everything has changed. I don’t want the same things and it surprises me. I don’t know why I want the things I do want, or why I’m drawn to the places that now seem so appealing. Even more surprising is my sense of stability and the noticeable absence of emotional trauma from my daily lived experience. I suppose these are some of the rewards of Saturn in Scorpio work. Anyway, I will continue to blog (more) regularly, because these sacred, private things are important to share, and because that seems to be a part of my journey.