"Not “Revelation” –‘tis – that waits,
But our unfurnished eyes-"
Ever found yourself telling a tale about the past begrudgingly, either because its telling has become numb standard, or because that telling is a secret lynch pin to an ominously unsafe reservoir of experiences? “What were you like as a kid?” new friends or lovers might inquire. And the worn old tale spills off the same groove in the wax of your past, or the whole matter is deftly skipped over. Many personal histories are marked by emotional or physical violence, instability, parental indifference, and varieties of cause for shame and self-devaluation. While our responses to trauma differ, there are few adults ambling about town without an inner seven year old who impulsively responds in bewilderment and panic when certain content, often surprising to them, comes under emotional spotlight. The alternate manifestation is absence of feeling entirely.
Still, most frequently, these unconscious complexes register as physical sensations: they leave us shaking, unable to speak, aggressive, or subject to a potentially vast number of uncomfortable responses whose origin is simultaneously obscure and stubborn. Exploring our deep social problems surrounding trauma in his recent book The Body Keeps The Score (2014), psychiatrist Bessel van der Kolk points to studies conducted by the CDC providing clear evidence that child abuse is a national epidemic. Indeed, it is now well established that traumatic events split parts of the self off from others, the effects of which are wide ranging mental and physical pathology. These days, symptoms are frequently treated with drugs whose aim is to establish and maintain a cooperative, productive mindset, yet frequently leave individuals groping in the dark, sensing a still painful void in some vital part of themselves.
According to Dr. C.G. Jung, a threat to the autonomous personality of the child becomes critical when unremitting stress and hyper-vigilance have become daily confrontation. The lapses of childhood memory that occur pose a threat not only to creative development and the individuation process, but fracture connection to primitive memories whose origin in the collective unconscious bestow a conduit to our unique orientations, to vocation and identity. Without these anchor points, fortresses of safety in the inner seven year old imagination, the child coming to terms with darkness as it exists in others and himself is without ground, a portion of him split, and bound later to manifest in complexes whose forces are undeniable. (Man and His Symbols, 1964).
An endeavor to work with personal trauma, ominous as the challenge feels, turns life from a series of mishaps and pointless struggle, to one in which a group of protective, creative skills become not only embodied, but guiding forces: our befriended daemons and archetypes. If one considers the instinctual presence of symbols and stories as they reside in the body as well, using both artistic and physical practices to recover missing links, to reintegrate a transition to safety for the inner-child, we are able to return to ourselves the unique vocation of which psyche has been trying to inform us, via all our painfully awkward detours. With this reintegration comes a vibrant, soulful bridge between individual and collective myth. We own our story anew, which is now entirely our ticket beyond the truth of our woundings, toward mysterious, even transcendent partnership with creation. The inner child, however, is not suddenly omniscient, it is instead curious; it lives in constant communication with the unknown, finding safety within the hallways of imagination. As Dr. C.G. Jung declared in the Red Book, Liber Novus, “I had to recognize that my soul is a child, and that my god in my soul is a child.”
~ Andrea Jivan, L.M.T., M.A.
Depth Psychology Intern
Social Media Manager
Jung Society of Utah
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