Nursing the primal wound

Every now and then someone will treat you really badly, whether it’s accidentally, incidentally or intentionally, and trigger all this horrible emotional stuff, right? Maybe it’s your boss, your current or former lover/partner, your best friend, mother, father or child. Maybe the’re triggering anger, detrayal, anguish, fear. Maybe you react assertively or barely react at all but either way the feelings are there. The projections run wild: “That bitch!/bastard!/creep!/idiot!/scoundrel!” How dare they? We feel wounded, underneath all the other emotions. We feel hurt. We probably feel like the other someone else has hurt us and is doing us damage, but most probably, the damage has already been done – was done ages ago – and we are re-living it over and over, and over…

The primal wound is the center of all other turmoil.  It probably comes from the drastic post-natal separation from the womb or some other very early childhood trauma and every other painful experience has compounded it. It is what Eckhart Tolle calls the pain-body. He describes it as a tangled mess of wounded ego – of trauma, abandonment, betrayal, hurt, fear and general suffering. The pain-body is often dormant. We wander around living pretty sweet lives until something nasty happens and triggers all this shit.

The wound is primal because it predates narrative-memory, it is part of primary human experience.  It is the wrenching separation from the feeling of being connected, of being absolutely safe and warm, of floating in the center of the universe. It is so difficult for us to learn that we aren’t the center of the universe – at least not to everyone else – because everyone is struggling to learn the same thing. This traumatic separation triggers our base survival fear. We are terrified of our limitations, or our mortality, of our insignificance. There is only so much a young ego can take before it ruptures and becomes wounded.

Although it’s obvious that living life through this woundedness is not in one’s best interests, we can become awfully attached to our wounds and the traumas and dramas that inevitably surround them. We construct our identities around them: “I am so-and-so and I am ____” insert addiction/trauma/negative label here. We can even be proud of what we’ve suffered to the point that we refuse to stop suffering. Our woundedness gives us an excuse to opt-out of life-obligations, it gives us an excuse to be nasty because we were once treated that way. Really, you don’t need the excuse. If you want to opt-out, do it, if you want to be nasty, go ahead. Excuses are just more unnecessary justification. If you want drama, there is plenty to create and share. If you’re over it and want to move on then begin the disentangling process.

We feel justified in our suffering, in our anger, in our vengeful thoughts. Maybe we are justified, let’s assume we are, either way justification isn’t useful. If we just stay ‘justified’ we tangle the wound even more. We can hold onto all the crap. We easily get stuck. Let’s try something different. Let’s try disentangling from current projections and old trauma. Drop the other people from the equation for a minute. Good work. Now, what is left? That wound. Over the years it has been pushed down into the unconscious to fester, it has been covered over with all sorts of ugly and pretty things. It has become like a boil, an infection seething under the skin and this new trauma, this new trigger of pain/fear/anger has brought it to the surface. It’s not a pretty sight, but it is a chance to clear out the pus, clean the wound and let it heal.

Awareness is always helpful, like a flashlight in the dark. If we can focus on this wound – not in an unhelpful dwelling-on-it-going-around-in-circles kind of way because that will only get us more tangled up – but in way that is clear of projections, in a way that regularly cleans it out and wraps it in safe thoughts, in a way that occasionally squeezes out more of the pus until there is none left, then we can give it all the right things to heal. We don’t do the healing in our minds, we just remove the barriers. Healing is automatic in the right circumstances. To speed it up we can nurture ourselves. We can eat the foods our body really wants (not the kind our wound-wrapped-mind craves for comfort), we can move and stretch and exercise in the way our bodies prefer. We can create and be with friends and in nature and do all those things that feed us. We can listen inwards to what we really need instead of looking outwards into projections of happiness on the buffet-table of life that may be all empty-calories and no nutrient-density. A special kind of freedom is possible when we can separate ourselves from the drama and projections of the mundane world, and freedom can be terrifying too, but at least it’s not tedious repetitive cycles of pain.

Things that grow

Soul work is much like gardening. I use the analogy in my novel, The Seekers’ Garden, that emotional issues grow like weeds. Some are easily cleared away but grow back just as quickly, others have deep tap roots that must be dug out in their entirety and others still must be cut at the source to stem the flow of energy.

Gardening in itself can be incredibly therapeutic. And while much of the work requires direct action, just as much is in patience, in letting things grow, in not worrying too much. Watering. Sunshine. Time.

The same thing can be said for personal growth and manifesting projects in the external world. Our job is to plant the seeds in cleared, sunny, fertile soil, to water and provide nutrients – to nurture ourselves and our dreams – and to allow things to sprout, set down roots, grow, blossom and fruit in their own time.

I recently had a a conversation with a friend who is trying to set up a business and is anxious about everything going wrong. It is easy to get overwhelmed with anxiety, to worry the soil with fears that things might not grow, but any gardener will tell you that will only make things worse. My friend was visibly relieved at the reminder that it’s her job to plant the seed and steward the growth, rather than push and prod. It’s a reminder I could often benefit from too: let things grow.

Nietzsche’s Archetypes : Camel, Lion, Child

http://www.osho.com/Main.cfm?Area=magazine&Sub1Menu=tarot&Sub2Menu=oshozentarot

Osho Zen Tarot: rebirth card.

In Zen you are coming from nowhere and you are going to nowhere. You are just now, here, neither coming nor going. Everything passes by you; your consciousness reflects it but it does not get identified. When a lion roars in front of a mirror, do you think the mirror roars? Or when the lion is gone and a child comes dancing, the mirror completely forgets about the lion and starts dancing with the child–do you think the mirror dances with the child? The mirror does nothing, it simply reflects. Your consciousness is only a mirror. Neither do you come, nor do you go. Things come and go. You become young, you become old; you are alive, you are dead. All these states are simply reflections in an eternal pool of consciousness.

Osho Osho Live Zen, Volume, 2 Chapter 16

In Zarathustra, Nietzsche describes the archetype of the camel as the typical state of unconsciousness pertaining to the general population. The camel does not strive, except for trying to fit in or keep up with the Joneses. The camel is comfortable with mediocrity and unsettled by the unusual. The camel follows the herd and does not question authority. Nietzsche was unapologetically scathing of camels. Carolyn Myss relates this archetype to what she refers to as the tribal level of consciousness.

The lion wants to do anything but follow the herd. It wants to fight and win. The lion seeks power and acknowledgment. The lion must always be right. Nietzsche’s lion fights the dragon. Myss relates the lion to the libel of the individual, the cult of which is prevalent in contemporary Western society.

The child symbolises awareness, rebirth, awakened consciousness. The child is innocent, not naive. The child forgives and let’s go because it is completely in the moment. It does not need to win, it simply is. The child is Nietzsche’s ubermensch and Myss’s level of the symbolic. From this level of consciousness we are able to step away from the drama of the tribe or individual and see the forest for the trees; we are able to recognise patterns across cultures, time and space, to rise above the herd and drop the fixations of ego. This is the level that archetypes work on, on which folk tales and mythology function; it is the level on which astrology, as a symbolic languages, resides.

The card in the image above also explores these archetypes, as follows:

Commentary:

This card depicts the evolution of consciousness as it is described by Friedrich Nietzsche in his book, Thus Spake Zarathustra. He speaks of the three levels of Camel, Lion and Child. The camel is sleepy, dull, self-satisfied. He lives in delusion, thinking he’s a mountain peak, but really he is so concerned with others’ opinions that he hardly has any energy of his own. Emerging from the camel is the lion. When we realize we’ve been missing life, we start saying no to the demands of others. We move out of the crowd, alone and proud, roaring our truth. But this is not the end. Finally the child emerges, neither acquiescent nor rebellious, but innocent and spontaneous and true to his own being. Whatever the space you’re in right now–sleepy and depressed, or roaring and rebellious–be aware that it will evolve into something new if you allow it. It is a time of growth and change.