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

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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.

597f53fad7ff6f562ae01e3dfab9a850_6VnCQma1JA3PK39cnkMw893BEXVJ9qW

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

“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.

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.

Nietzsche’s Archetypes : Camel, Lion, Child

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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.