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.

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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.

Deconstructing the Psyche: the animus in the wall

 

 

A wise woman once told me that the psyche is a lot like a wall: if the bricks aren’t laid properly at the foundation, it doesn’t matter how many bricks you build up, the wall will always be wonky. Now, I have a great appreciation for wonky things, but when it comes to my psyche I would prefer it to be strong and resilient.  Most of all, I would love to be free of the feeling that there’s something wrong or broken that needs to be fixed. Apparently it’s possible – all you have to to is deconstruct the wall, brick by brick, fix the problem at the foundation and then you can build yourself a strong, stable wall.

The wonky bricks might come from a number of things: childhood trauma, neglect or needs not being met.  I have been slowly processing my traumas as they emerge, and I am getting good at recognizing them when they’re projected on to other people close to me. I can tell because when trauma is triggered I get intensely emotional – angry, sad, scared – in a way that outweighs reason.  The more awareness I build, the more I can move on. But it’s not only trauma wonky-ing my wall, there are a few bricks missing.

One of the main things I have (recently) realised about my childhood is the absence of good male role-models. People often worry about the lack of male role-models for boys, but rarely do they consider them for girls.  How are we to draw a healthy animus (male part of the self), with no artists model? I grew up with a tyrant of a step-father, a dad who lived far away, no close uncles and a distant (but kind) grandfather. It’s really no wonder that as an adult I have had so many bizarre, and not-very-healthy relationships with men. So, bearing this in mind I have been embarking on a journey to re-construct a healthy animus. Externally, I have built good friendships with psychologically balanced and self-aware men.  Internally I have worked with archetypes – the father, the hero/rescuer, the lover.  I have even started to see this work reflected in the outside world – for example, I have actually started getting appropriate crushes on healthy and well-rounded men for a change.

I don’t know much about this, really, but apparently Jung talked about different stages of development for the animus archetype. The first is very physical, progressing through to psychological and spiritual awareness. At the moment, my animus is still in a petri dish, but it’s growing – and it’s healthy – and it’s a breath of fresh air.

 

Archetypes and Transformation

Archetypes and Transformation

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“The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed.” 
― C.G. Jung

Archetypes are the personalities within the personality. They are universal characters that pop up in various forms all over the world: the child, the clown, the victim, the rescuer, the predator, the hag… They are characters in films; they are characters inside us.

When we start to work with archetypes we open ourselves up for transformation. Each archetype we meet consciously has the potential to heal it’s broken twin within ourselves.

If you are a woman who has trouble in relationships with men it is likely you have a distorted, unhealthy animus, the male part of self. Likewise for men, their anima may be damaged or undeveloped. It is likely that, growing up, we didn’t have enough good relationships around us or opposite sex role models. Consciously thinking about, writing about, and creating a healthy animus or anima can help to restore balance to the psyche.

There are infinite possibilities for growth and healing with archetypes. Ask yourself: what reoccurring problems am I facing? What archetypes are involved? Are they damaged or distorted? Where did this come from in my childhood? What would this archetype be like if it was healthy?