How have all of you been holding up during this time? For me this time has been been challenging but not so different from my normal lifestyle given I spend a lot of time alone at home writing, reflecting and working with clients. I enjoy time alone but I am missing my connections with friends, places and the sense of freedom we all probably miss! Given all this massive change I have reflected upon what I have studied, and the many life transitions, loss and crisis all which I tried to view through a lens of depth and with an eye toward transformation.
Before beginning I would like to say that some of the things that impact how well we are dealing and coping with this time of unknown is greatly influenced by what was going on in our lives prior to this sudden departure from the norm. Was all peaceful and smooth? Were you extremely busy, but focused and happy with your life? Were you dealing with death and loss already? Another factor is if you are alone or with family, where is your family and are you comforted by them or worried for them? Do you have aging relatives in homes or at home? Young children who are out of school? Relationships already suffering life ravages or new relationships put to the test? All and more than these have an impact on our particular styles of coping.
Our personality styles also impact our coping and depending on our introversion and extroversion we cope differently. That is a whole other topic of conversation for another time. Just know we all cope differently and by honouring these differences and accepting we are all under stress will go a long way to make things a bit easier.
I thought I would share with you some of what comforts me in these unknown and unconventional times. But first a little history: My study of Depth Psychology began pretty early. I began reading books from my brothers shelf. He was a Minister, theologian and counsellor. He had so many books. I love to pick through them and eventually borrowed them when working on papers in university. He had old psychology books, theology, mythology and counselling books. I never realized how much they impacted me.
I am sharing this because I realize that my initial university studies were psychology and clinical psychology but over time I became more interested in the study of what lies deeper. Not just cognitive behavioural or evidenced based or action related but what drives each and every one of us on a daily basis? What sustains us daily and what spirit or soul animate in our lives?
Especially in troubling times, crisis and trauma …..we tend to rely on our usual patterns. That which has worked before. Sometimes these may indeed work but often they are more a reaction/ habit and what we really need is time to reflect, go deeper and ask what is really being asked of us during this time? Today I am referring to this particular crisis of Covid 19 but it could be related to any life change, transition or loss. This being different because it is global. This to me is so interesting because it is Mythological, archetypal…truly beyond us in scope and our ability to predict and even reading patterns is not giving us a real answer. As some scientist noted…studying a pandemic means you know a lot about that pandemic…not pandemics in general ….this is new and different. We are all learning about it together while alone.
Being alone can be comforting or can lend to running way from oneself with more distractions. If each and every one of us could take some time with our self for reflection, meditation or just breath work we can begin to be more receptive to our deeper self. That which courses beneath us always usually unseen or unheard but never unfelt. It is what speaks to us in our dreams, our symptoms our instinctual knowing, our longings and our moments of connection.
I prefer to dive into dreams. Yes they can be day fodder but they have so much more to offer because more than just a bunch of neurololgical manifestations they are part of who we are and sometimes much greater than that. Dreams make use of many signs, symptoms and daily interactions, a bit of a movie recently viewed, an animal that beckons, a beast that frightens, an old friend or family member or sometimes unknown or archaic images. The latter tend to be called archetypal. More on that later.
Dream images , as I view them in a mostly Jungian sense, can all be viewed as an aspect of ourselves. When viewed this way we can catch glimpses of our nature that we may be dimly or not at all aware. There are specific terms etc. but I will not go into those now. Mostly it is about getting to know more about your whole self, you and your deeper self ( with a Capital S). We all tend to rely on our small amount of self awareness that is mostly our ego. There is so much more behind the scenes.
There are many ways to engage with your own dreams: starting with a dream journal and writing what ever thoughts images or memories you have of your dreams as soon as you awaken. Once you are able to recall your dreams you can begin to flesh them out or relate to them…develop a relationship with them…What is that home in your dream like? Is it large , small, clean , unkempt? Do you have a good or bad feeling about it?
Then make note of things you see or that stand out to you? If its a person, what is it about them you like or dislike? What feeling does the dream and images leave with you….This is good beginning to dream working….
I like to see dreams as a way to know about aspects of myself that are unknown or less known to me. Dreams can have other functions as well. They can have premonitions and warnings, they can pick up others energy and thoughts and if you are very close, living in the same home, you may pick up on others dreams. There are also archetypal images , as I mentioned earlier. Some archetypal events include but are not limited to: birth, floods, death, apocalypse. Some of these things are fears on the outliers of our psyche. All the environmental issues(I won’t go into here) are bringing our awareness to the need to respect our earth, our lives, our souls and it is a time that it is a global call to awareness. This makes the power of these images and mythological themes so much more powerful.
Joseph Campbell studied mythology and religion. He collaborated with George Lucas on Star Wars and the use of the oedipal relationship between Luke and Darth Vadar was a powerful symbolic / mythological field and between the power of story, great filming and mastery of the field the film was a huge success. Now many people use myth in their films because they know the power of the stories and their impact. The heroes Journey thats the stages of leaving and going in search of ones deeper self and returning with the gifts or boon to assist in your part in the world. The patterns of the heroe who was brave enough to follow his own path and suffer trials and eventually return with the Gold…bring something back ( the return) to offer to sustain the community.
Our dreams include these kinds of stories as well as the darker types. We can learn to relate to these dreams by giving them voice, life on paper, music,, drawing, paint etc. Through this relationship we give voice, character and awareness to our deeper self and the messages with in. During this time of incubation we can honour the quieter and deeper part of ourself and bring it to our awareness.
So during this darker time leading to the solstice and the darkest days of winter as well as the darkness of Covid 19 and the chaos that is part of this time I leave you with the encouragement to develop time to go inward and reflect on how this is all impacting you and your loved ones. Take time to listen to your dreams and see what might be waiting to be explored and provoke you into moving forward in a way you had not previously considered. Use this time to become more in tune with nature and those around you. If it is your children take time to listen and hear their concerns, read stories and enjoy the time for quiet and slowing down knowing the light will return, we will be required to approach things in new ways and be ready to adapt and be part of the world in a deeper way moving forward.