Sometimes healing sucks: Chiron rising, the problem with progress, and Inanna in the underworld

10606417_1420293591607009_9042831184801292840_n

Collage by Stephanie Wild

The problem with the idea of healing is that the narrative of progress does not always fit well with reality. Life is both a process of growth and of entropy, and many many other things. I find myself, amidst this life, focusing always on getting better – on progress, healing, renewal.

Chiron, the asteroid symbolising the wounded healer, was rising at the time of my birth. It sits in my 12th house, in Gemini. Chiron conjuncts my North Node, linking it closely with my learning in this life. I still have a lot of unpacking to do around understanding these prominent aspects of my chart but I can tell you what it resonates with so far in my life.

Chiron rising conjunct my North Node for me coincides with a life focusses around healing and teaching. As a young child I felt a deep hopelessness at my atheist upbringing. I developed a paralysing phobia of death due to phychological abuse from about age six. Around that age I also had a kind of spiritual epiphany – a vision of connectivity – of people holding hands over the world – a sudden deep understanding of empathy. These are all very 12th house themes. My childhood trauma seems to coicide with early Pluto transits – adding to the death themes. Around the age of 12 I developed depression which I spent many years working through – with counselling, shamanic work and various kinds of paganism (in my teens), and then meditation, copious affirmations, hypnotherapy, energy healing, more counselling and writing (in my 20s). I have done so much healing: food/nutrition based healing, yoga, journalling… basically every kind of healing I came across that resonated in order to try to deal with chronic illness and chronic fatigue. A huge thread through my life story has been healing in one form of another.

By now, in my early 30s, I would expect to be really good at it. I have a couple of decades of actively seeking out, learning and participating in healing processes – and teaching them as well. But life is full of challenges – difficult transits like Chiron squaring my natal Neptune and also (simultaneously) Neptune squaring my natal Chiron. Going through journeys of losing faith and re-growing it, the pain of psychological dying giving way to the pain of psychological rebirth. So much healing.

Healing for me has taken on a very different process, in recent years. It is no longer about crystals and guided visualisations as it was in my teens, or about re-programming my mind with beneficial thoughts and tracing back my past life lessons as it often was in my 20s. Post Saturn return, my healing process is mostly about journalling and paying attention – cultivating my ability to listen to deep intuition, and also every form of self-care that makes sense to me. Astrology, a language I began to learn in my early 20s, has been very useful to me in understanding the learning that I am currently going through – every transit is surprisingly relevant to my life, and the knowledge of the transit’s lessons, challenges and opportunity helps me to get the most out of the difficulties.

Sometimes healing sucks. Probably, most of the time. It is hard. it is painful. It often requires trying multiple things that don’t work before, hopefully, we find something that does. I like to use metaphors for the psyche based on biology and ecological systems: some wounds require intervention in order to heal – we must clean out the pus and muck, untangle and separate ourselves from the things we are caught up in, remove psychic splinters. Other wounds need to be rested in order to heal – too often we think of ourselves as we think of doctors – as active agents of healing, however the real healing is not an active process, just as doctors themselves do not heal. In order to heal, we must remove all obstacles to the healing process which is a natural process.

When I am going through painful healing processes my main coping strategies for this kind of thing are going for walks and journaling. Also – doing all the things I know that help me to take care of myself – which are not always the things that are easy and comfortable. When I am going through a difficult time I want to stay in bed and eat junk food but that leads to feeling worse! The problem with knowing all about healing is that you have high expectations for yourself and want to feel like you are progressing. The processes of healing often don’t feel like that. It can feel hopeless and hard – a big struggle with no clear light at the end of the tunnel.

Sometimes healing sucks because it doesn’t feel like we are making progress at all – and we feel like we should already know how to deal with this shit by now! Sometime the fixation I have with progress – with always getting better – just makes me feel worse. Awareness of this allows me the opportunity to release my grasp on the fixation with progress. I do not need to be always getting better. Life is a process that will always lead to death – ageing and entropy are inevitable if we life long enough. There is still so much to accept here. These topics can be terrifying psychological terrain to tread. When we do stumble upon them the dread sets in, we have stepped towards the shadow, across the boundaries of light and into the underworld.

In Sumerian mythology, Inanna’s descent into the underworld provides a wonderful metaphor for the suffering and pain of such a journey. The goddess Inanna is often archetypal linked to Venus, the divine feminine aspect, the goddess self. Inanna journeys into the underworld to meet her sister Ereshkigal. To prepare for the journey she dresses elaborately, with lapiz lazuli, her garments represent her power, but along the journey, each of the seven gates she passes through force her to remove her garments and jewelery,  piece by piece stripping her of her power. These are the snags along the dark path we tread into our own shadows. When she reaches Ereshkigal, the dark feminine archetype, Inanna is naked. Ereskigal and the seven judges shout at Inanna and murder her. She is hung on a hook. Three days and three nights pass before the god Enki helps to resurrect Inanna. She is reborn, just as we may be when we emerge from deep painful healing, cutting away the deadwood of our lives, clearing space to make way for new life to grow.

We are good at celebrating the light and success – we also need to learn to honour death, to sit with pain, understand anguish, to embrace struggle, and to accept the inevitable, when it arrives.

 

 

 

 

Advertisements
Chiron Rising: empathy, connectedness and metamorphosis

Chiron Rising: empathy, connectedness and metamorphosis

Lately I have been feeling unsettled… actually this has been going on for quite a while. We have moved four times in the last year, living in different temporary places, without having enough information to make decisions or plan out what to do next.  A few months ago I gave away all the furniture I still owned, and most of my other possessions and packed my little car with the things my daughter and I need (mostly clothes). We drove to Wellington, stopping on the way to visit my step sister and to play in the snow on the mountain. I have been doing my best to be guided by intuition. The uncertainty has been so challenging. I’m leaning into my fear and vulnerability, and letting go… and letting go.

In my natal chart Chiron, often called the wounded-healer archetype is ‘rising’ in my twelfth house, in Gemini. My life has had a massive focus on emotional and spiritual healing, both for myself and for other people… and for society and the planet (at least in terms of intention if not effect). This call has dominated my narrative and my life, but it has changed a lot over the years.

For a long time I felt broken. I felt I needed to fix myself. But the emotional woundedness and the healing were all part of the same cycle, the same archetypal pattern, much like the victim/rescuer complex. It took me until my Saturn return to really restructure this patterning, and I am grateful, every day, for the stability I have built over this time.

The vulnerability I have been processing recently has been more to do with myself in the world. The process is also one of healing in a different way, because it it one of growing, and growing always involves healing as we push through our own boundaries. In this way I have felt a lot like a seed, sprouting. The hard shell of protection has softened and now I am trying to break through, out of the dark, into the light… perhaps up until now I was planted in the dark soil, learning these subconscious lessons. Perhaps as a child I was a delicate blossom, easily damaged, which became a fruit, which was eaten by the bird of adolescence which took me to such a dark place (to extend the metaphor out too far).

It is a similar metamorphosis to that of moths and butterflies… it is the process of fighting its way out of the chrysalis that pumps vital blood into the butterflies wings. Human beings undergo similar metamorphoses. We are phoenixing beings. We must die to the past to remain in the present. Like Inana’s descent into the under-world, in this journey of deep soul alchemy, we much let our riches be torn away. We must let go of everything… in order to gain everything. It is a painful process. I understand why many people avoid it… and it is not for everyone. We all have different meandering paths through this chaotic social wilderness.

Chiron is not just about woundedness, and not just about healing. It is about empathy. Suffering is something that unites us all, and when we can process past the self-isolation and absorption of the wound, when we can untangle these knots and allow them to heal, that scar tissue remains as a connecting point. Chiron can connect us to the whole, in much the same way Neptune can. Chiron can feel like all the sadness in the world, which is a heavy emotional burden, but Chiron can also blossom into exquisite empathy. I have been feeling this empathy well up in me, as well as a deepening sense of holistic connectedness. I have let go my old life, over and over, mourned the past, and been reborn into the present.

CHRYSALIS_1000

Chrysalis by Stephanie Wild http://www.stephanie.me.uk/

Stilling the mind and the secret power of mental traps

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

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

Meditation can yield spectacular insights about ourselves and the nature of the universe. It also often brings awareness of the patterns we repeat in our minds. Time and time again, we find ourselves alighting on thoughts that look suspiciously like loops. These are the backing tapes of the conscious mind and they often go something like this:

anatomy of a mental trap

These traps often focus on current situations in our lives, work worries, romance worries, issues of powerlessness and frustration. These are the ‘problems’ that are the easiest to fixate on, but more often than not the fixation results only in stress, in an escalation of tension, in the metaphoric banging of heads against brick walls, and not in anything remotely resembling solutions. As Einstein said:

We can not solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them.

The worry often seems to emerge out of nowhere, or from the stillness of meditation itself. The bored mind, in uncharted waters stalks its next dopamine fix: “This is a problem… I should do something.” This rarely ends well. In fact, this kind of bored mind is not particularly good at coming up with solutions. Solutions often come from somewhere else entirely, some deep unknowable unconscious room… [or other more appropriate esoteric metaphor].

Anyway, with meditation, the idea is to go on dropping out of these traps, right? So they emerge and we recognise them and then go back to whatever practice we were attempting. We go back to focusing on our breathing or whatever. But sometimes there is actually a great opportunity here to deepen awareness, to deepen practice and to go meta on this stuff. Sometimes it happens accidentally. The conscious/beta mind is being dropped, the repetitive patterns of tension/traps are recognised and then we catch a glimpse of a bigger picture, of a bigger pattern.

The normal conscious beta mind can’t really do this, you need an altered state. But when you do get a glimpse here it is a beautiful and rare moment of clarity, of seeing the forest for the trees, of realising that most of the time we are just looking at a couple of pixels out of a massive screen and interpreting the world from a ridiculously narrow perspective. It’s interesting that it is the traps themselves that often provide a gateway for this kind of experience. The tension they create – the tension of contradiction – provides a platform for noticing… and a potentially transformative space.

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.

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.