Monday, December 27, 2010

Worldboy at Home - a Temporary Eden


This is the global paradise, the tainted garden of eden, where worldboy makes his temporary home. Click on the images for full panoramas from the video "The Feast of Trimalchio" by Russian video artists AES+F.

Search for the video "The Feast of Trimalchio" in 3 parts on YouTube. The piece premiered at the 2009 Venice Biennale and is now showing in Australia.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

An Intelligent Life - It's What You Do

My previous post was about faith, belief, will, thought and finally just being. To establish the conditions for a new life and break down old habits, to end the downward spiral of depression and hopelessness one needs to change one's beliefs. This includes one's beliefs about oneself.

The techniques of meditation and mindfulness are key to this process, which is as much about disabusing oneself of false notions as about establishing faith in new ones. It's destructive creation! We are leading to a new understanding of ourselves and others. Beyond the self our relationships with others have a powerful effect on our understanding of who we are and where we are going. Patterns that we have established in our relationships over a lifetime can be ingrained, worn-in, habitual and enormously debilitating and destructive to our mental health and our interactions with others in intimate contact with us.

To fix these relationships and truly grow we need to change our behaviour, not just our thinking, since without behavioural change, there will be no lasting cognitive changes.

In his book "An Intelligent Life", psychiatrist Julian Short aims to help us make our lives happier. His message is about love, individuality, relationships and self respect. (He draws a distinction between self respect and self esteem). In describing the book http://www.anintelligentlife.com/thebook.html he says:

If we are not sick or in some way physically threatened, there is no emotional problem that is not caused by either our fear of being alone, unloved and rejected or our fear of weakness, belittlement and loss of control. Because of this, the quality of relationships is central to our self esteem and to our happiness and therefore central to An Intelligent Life.

To feel good, we need to act well. We see ourselves in the mirror of other people's reactions and if we want to like the person we see, we need skills for loving and getting love while maintaining our adult equality and making sure our own needs aren't swamped by others. Looking after ourselves means looking after our relationships.

Thinking is one kind of action, and our actions are in a feedback loop with our feelings. Acting well helps us feel well. Friendships and relationships of some level of intimacy and meaning provide us with the ground or stage where such actions play out. Not only that, but they open us up to love and encourage a sense of belonging.

For those of us who suffered a disrupted or disordered attachment to our primary caregivers as children this sense of belonging is something very precious. Julian Short argues that a threat to this belonging, a fear of being alone, is the cause of emotional problems. The book details how our relationships not only provide the opportunity for us to develop self respect through a sense of belonging but also by enabling us to act with kindness, to act better, and therefore earn that respect from others too.

The counterweight to this is self assertion, which is like a territorial defence of individuality. As has been shown in assertiveness training, when practiced in a positive, caring way, this self assertion also contributes to our self respect.

In my previous post about the book "Eat Pray Love" I was inspired by Elizabeth Gilbert's realisation that freedom, mental release, could be achieved through control of one's thoughts. Julian Short seems to be saying something similar, that individuality and self respect, even happiness, can be achieved by controlling one's behaviour.

The concepts of understanding and discipline seem to be intertwined here, and we seem to have arrived at the same ancient truths espoused by various religions via an exploration of philosophy and modern psychology.

Of course, progress on this path is easier said than done, this is the path of The Hollow Man, whose essential goal is authenticity and whose reward is self respect. What could be holding him back from achieving his true dignity? Fear.

But there's nothing to fear but fear itself! For no loss will ever be as great as the loss of attachment that broke his selfhood as a child.

Eat Pray Love - An Inspiration

While critics have expressed irritation at the solipsism and  self-centredness of the protagonist in Elizabeth Gilbert's popular memoir "Eat Pray Love," there is some enlightenment to be found in her journey. Initially impatient with her self-indulgent episodes I began to feel sympathy for the woman. If nothing else, she was good at expressing how it feels to be in pain, and how lost one can feel at the bottom of that particular well of loneliness.

So I began to give her the benefit of the doubt, and isn't that the beginning of faith? She began the book on the road of The Sinner, with a big hole inside her that she tried to fill with Italian food. This sojourn comforted her for a while, but fortunately she had planned to move to India to feed her soul as well. This is where she embarked on the path of spiritual growth, the path of Moonchild, The Adventurer.

Here's what I found interesting. It describes her discovery of the meaning of free will versus fate and how this can develop into faith. The task she describes is the essential task of The Adventurer, to exercise will, to control one's thoughts, if you like, rather than have them control you.

We gallop through our lives like circus performers balancing on two speeding side-by-side horses – one foot is on the horse called "fate," the other on the horse called "free will."

....I can choose my words and the tone of voice in which I speak to others. And most of all, I can choose my thoughts.

This last concept is a radically new idea for me... This is a power you can cultivate. If you want to control things in your life so bad, work on the mind. That's the only thing you should be trying to control. Drop everything else but that. Because if you can't learn to master your thinking, you're in deep trouble forever.

On first glance, this seems a nearly impossible task. Control your thoughts? Instead of the other way around? But imagine if you could? This is not about repression or denial. Repression and denial set up elaborate games to pretend that negative thoughts and feelings are not occurring... instead admitting to the existence of negative thoughts, understanding where they came from and why they came they arrived, and then – with great forgiveness and fortitude – dismissing them. This is a practice that fits hand-in-glove with any psychological work you do during therapy... Of course this all takes practice and effort... It's constant vigilance

Sometimes we forget that the discussion of free will is actually about that joyous concept called freedom. By examining and controlling our thoughts we are exercising our freedom to be self-determining. In Eat Pray Love Elizabeth Gilbert says, "I need to do it, for my strength. Devo farmi le ossa is how they say it in Italian. 'I need to make my bones'."

Do we not make our own soul?

"The true God is the God within us," is how Robert M. Wallace says it in the first chapter of his as yet unpublished book to be found on his website http://www.robertmwallace.com where you will also find chapters from his book "Hegel's Philosophy of Reality, Freedom and God." The personal growth that we achieve by travelling the various paths through the dreams of The Sleeping Beauty is a kind of destructive creation similar to that described by the philosopher Hegel. Embracing contrition we create forgiveness. By controlling our thoughts we create our freedom. By exercising and examining our inner life we admit God within us, though God is beyond everything. This is a kind of faith, perhaps you could say it's a philosopher's faith in a philosopher's God.

Curiously, once your life is transformed by this faith, something takes over. One day my psychiatrist told me, "Just be." That was the answer to my question about what the end result of my therapy should be, how I should live once I had defeated my depression and my mental illness. So what I now realise, and have yet to achieve, is that through exploring freedom one discovers faith and beyond faith one just is. With no need for belief, the answer is just to be yourself. This is probably when you come close to knowing the God within you, your soul, and acting for your soul in the external world you are, I guess, someway toward living in harmony with what Christians call God's will, or what a philosopher might call transcendence.

The above quoted works are copyright of their respective authors and are quoted on the basis of fair use.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Moonchild

Eventually the little boy must have fallen asleep because he awoke at dusk having had the strangest dream.

He dreamt that he was in a large, sunny, public square in the centre of an ancient foreign city standing in front of a huge temple which was mounted on top of many massive steps that led up to its high columned entrance. It reminded him of a pyramid.

People were arriving at the temple to worship, or to celebrate something. A religious man was calling to the faithful, beckoning to them, herding them up the steps. Men, women and children seemed happy as they passed him, making their way up to the temple.

When most of the people had gone inside, something struck him as strange: he noticed that all about the great stone steps were life-sized statues of deer and golden calves. They were all posed standing, looking up as if expecting to be petted. Had this been a children’s park and not a religious temple the stone and metal animals might have seemed cute or amusing, but here they seemed ominous, alien, strangely cloying and fake.

He walked closer to one of the deer when no-one was watching. It didn’t look like a real deer exactly, but like a three dimensional cartoon deer. This was not art depicting nature, it was something masquerading as something else. It was like a child’s toy enlarged and exaggerated to a size that was faintly disturbing. It was clearly meant to represent innocence but it conveyed nothing but extravagant artifice.

Soon there were no more people outside and dusk descended on the plaza. As darkness fell, the crowd rushed out of the temple shouting and laughing hysterically. There was violence in the air. People set about smashing the statues of deer and calves, knocking their heads off with steel poles or big chunks of stone. From everywhere people came with pieces of wood from which they constructed a very tall tower on the plaza in front of the temple. There they threw the broken statues onto a great pile which they set on fire. Someone had caught the religious man and tied him to the wooden tower. The flames leapt high into the air all the way to the top of the tower which creaked and leaned as it burned hotter and hotter throwing showers of sparks into the air.  Each time this happened it only excited the crowd more. Moonchild was afraid that the tower might collapse on top of him, so he backed away into the shadows. Meanwhile the crowd had become mad, mad with fury and a kind of decadent joy. Soon the temple itself was on fire. The plaza was bright with firelight which cast their faces in shadows and light that made their grinning expressions and wild eyes all the more grotesque.

Moonchild waited until the tower had collapsed into a pile of black cinders and ash. By this time all the people had gone. It was a scene of waste and destruction. The stone and metal animal statues that had survived the fire now looked even more evil, staring at him as if to say, “It wasn’t our fault; why don’t you believe us?”

 

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Will The Real You Please Stand Up?

I used to want and expect someone, a counsellor, a lover, a psychiatrist, a priest to cure me. I thought they owed me the answer to my problems and had it in their power to relieve me of my pain. After all, they were professionals, for the most part, who were qualified or positioned to see my pain. It must have been clear to them that they should use their skills to perform surgery on my mental state and cut out this tumour in my soul. Why didn’t any of them do it?

I recalled that toward the end of another of many sessions in which I had been railing against my parents and their faults and failures that my counsellor told me,

“Now you need new parents, don’t you?” “Yes!” I said, happy that finally someone could see what I wanted.

“Well, you’re never going to get new parents. No-one is ever going to re-parent you.”

“What? You mean that I’ll never get over this and nobody can ever help me?”

“No. Nobody can do that for you.”

“I thought that was what love could do. I thought I just needed to find the right person. Doesn’t everybody have a chance to find their soulmate?”

“That’s not the job of a lover or a spouse. They’re not your parents. Nobody else is.”

“Now what do I do?”

“You have to parent yourself.”

“What?”

“You have to become your own parent.”

“I can’t.”

I felt like I’d just driven off the road and come to a halt wedged in a ditch.

“I can’t be a parent to me or anybody else! There’s no way I’d want to be a parent. I don’t need that kind of burden. What a pain!”

“You have no choice.” He told me.

“What! Not only do I not want to parent myself, who would want me as a parent?”

“Only you can do that for yourself. You have been looking for your inner child. Why? Why else but to become his parent?”

“I can’t. That’s too hard, and besides, I don’t even know this inner child. I don’t even care enough to do all that work.”

“Nobody said it would be easy.”

I began a quest for the answer to the question “Who am I?”

If you’re like me, you have been hiding in a shell. You have been numb, invisible, silent and fearful for so long that you have stopped growing. Your personality is not yet integrated. It is barely pre-formed. It is quite likely "arrested" at one or more infantile or childish stages of development. This is not to further shame you; I mean to reveal the basis and extent of your vulnerability. Without your shell you would have literally broken down.

Inside your shell you may well host several personas. They are not mature or fully formed and exist in contention with each other. These proto-personas are your split-off selves. You have created these splits to accommodate your responses to the outside world. They each embody different needs and respond to different desires and fears. Imagine them as aspects of yourself that you may encounter in a dream. You are still asleep. Each micro-persona, each split was born of an unfulfilled need or an unresolved pain. They are dreamers. A dream is a two-sided coin that either represents a wish, a desire unfulfilled or a fear unresolved. We all have had both good and bad dreams. Psychologically dreams are neither good nor bad, but necessary; they are all the expression of the unresolved hopes and fears of our unconscious. These are our true motivations in life. To describe motivation another way, it is a form of internal tension. When we dream our brain is attempting to resolve tiny fragments of tension. This is the tension we feel when we fear something we can't avoid. This is also the tension we feel when we long for something we can't have. We are drawn upwards by our hopes and we feel ourselves pulled down by our fears. Do you sometimes feel yourself hanging by a thread?

What happens when we satisfy one of these desires? The thread goes slack and we feel the tension go away, at least for a while. The same release of tension happens when a perceived threat is removed or defeated. We feel triumphant, at ease and the chains pulling us down into the abyss fall away, at least for a little while. The name for this release is Dopamine. We are pulled up and down by the neurotransmitters in our brains that respond to, but do not cause, our hopes and fears. Our hopes and fears are created for us internally in our genetic inheritance before we are born and outside ourselves in the dozen or so years afterwards.

Abusers try to annihilate our hopes and implant fears where there should be none. Imagine what happens inside our little worlds. The motivation and reward system that enables us to grow is damaged. Each infantile and childhood phase of development is incomplete, leaving a proto-persona that remains with us for life, unfinished and undeveloped. This infant or child has infantile or childish hopes and fears that have never been resolved and so he or she contains unresolved tension, which develops into pain. Instead of developing as a whole person, we abandon our immature selves while their hopes and fears are still unresolved before they can grow into mature, fully formed personalities.  At each new stage of life we try to begin again, but as we are defeated in our developmental task we split off this unfinished persona and cover it with shame, moving on again, but each time with more “baggage”.

By the time we reach adulthood we have accumulated several split-off selves like old toys in the attic. The problem is that we have not replaced them with a fully formed adult personality because adults aren't formed overnight. It takes a lifetime of healthy infancy and childhood to form an adult.

Never at a loss for a strategy for self-defence we have created this shell around our split selves. The shell is a fake adult personality constructed to help us pass in the real world. Our real selves were never validated so we have built a fake self to earn the validation we need to get on in life.

The unfinished infantile proto-personas are all still inside the shell. What happens? They are still full of the tensions I mentioned earlier. It becomes hard to contain all of these unresolved needs and so we act out. We give expression to our infantile desires and fears. Adults in the world around us may find this amusing at first, but you can imagine some of the consequences.

One of the consequences might be to satisfy our Dopamine starvation by artificially raising the level. This leads to all sorts of addictions.

Some people live with long-term clinical depression. Others seek medication. Others embark on a life of crime or thrill seeking behaviour.

There is another way.

The Sinner

The Sinner has rarely heard a kind word said about her yet she can see the merest hint of goodness in others. She is truly unhappy and lonely, but she puts on an air of carelessness. She knows that to feel truly happy she must cast aside her cares and her shame. She must love herself like she would want others to love her and she must stop longing for fulfillment at the hands of Mr. Right. She’s never met him and she’s never going to.

She would love to take care of someone like a mother does. She is warm and forgiving. She is playful and sensuous. She tells you that you are lov-able and you must only choose companions who will appreciate you for your goodness and who will love you back. You must do it when it is good, not just when it feels good.

Control greed and addictions; avoid splurging on lavish meals. Cook and provide for yourself. Develop friendships instead of anonymous encounters. Work on self-esteem and self discipline. Comfort and care for yourself con-sistently rather than with luxuries. Attend to your health and fitness as part of your routine. Set realistic goals but forgive yourself when you don’t meet them as long as you resolve to try again. Reward yourself once you have achieved a goal. Remind yourself that you deserve to be happy, this will be a new feeling for you.

Alice – The Prisoner

“Alice has been misled and trapped by people who were unaware of a world outside their own. She suffers from cruelty, intolerance and ignorance. She feels overwhelmed, exhausted, isolated, lonely and most of all, confused. This is her curse,” said the Moon.

“That is so unfair!” said Aurora.

“It is more than unfair,” said the Moon, “it is a denial of her identity. She desperately needs validation. If you continue your exploration of the life of The Prisoner you will discover that whenever she comes down from the attic to join the others she manages to start an argument, which leaves her confused and full of regret. While Wonderland has many fascinating creatures, Alice can’t seem to get close to any of them for very long before they scurry away leaving her with nothing more than an enigmatic clue. She would love to meet the person who holds the key to her prison, the one who can unlock the door and release her from her punishment. However she is beginning to doubt that such a person exists in this world. Alice was too young and too badly mistreated to take control of her situation entirely. She tended to self-pity and moping.”

So Aurora asked the Moon, “If Alice cannot find a person with the key to unlock her prison how will she ever escape it?”

“She is surrounded by the bars of her prison, but she can see through them. She knows that she can’t change the world she inherited but she can try to escape it.  Her wisdom and innocence protect her and sustain her. She never loses sight of this, her touchstone. This is the golden nugget that you must not fail to pick up.”

“Alice’s gifts are kindness, patience with fools, intelligence, trustworthiness, clarity, wonder and curiosity. She is also generous. Curiously, in order to release herself she must give her gifts away! To escape the prison of the upside-down world of Wonderland she has to share her gifts with her captors and fellow prisoners, as much as she dislikes them. Then she will be able to make the bars of her prison dissolve before her eyes. Her captors won’t even realise that she has been freed since all their attention will be focused on the gifts she has shared with them. This will not be easy. She risks being shamed and banished all over again, so, to protect herself, she must hold onto the touch-stone of her innocence.”

Aurora thought about this. “Are you saying that I am the one who has the key to the prison? Am I the one who can release Alice?”

“Yes,” the Moon replied.

 

Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Princess and The Castle

From afar I see the high stone walls surrounding the castle. Sunlight warms the sandstone so that it glows softly golden. Approaching the base I can barely see the top of the ramparts. I am overcome by a longing to secrete myself within these walls. I run, searching for a doorway, a gate, even just a crack or a hole to crawl through. I know that somewhere behind these mighty stones lie my home and family. Yet I am still cut off, unseen and unknown. I cry though I know that I am still out of earshot. Inside, unknowingly, my new family, my new life, awaits me. Perhaps it is not yet my time, but I will keep searching for a way in. I will keep pounding and scratching these walls until something gives way and I break through. I need to be there. I have been alone on the outside for too long. Sadness drains my strength and dilutes my blood.

Friday, August 20, 2010

The Samurai Warrior

Who is Larry Ellison? He's the CEO of Oracle, the world's second largest software company. He's a samurai.

"Ellison has created Oracle in his own image. Now in his late 50s, tall and trim, he has kept himself in excellent shape. His hair is still dark, running to reddish; he has brown eyes and a short beard that helps to camouflage his long jaw. Ellison radiates enthusiasm and charm. He's animated and engaging on stage, at his best in informal Q&A sessions where he can rap with the crowd."

"A fan of, and expert on, Japanese culture, he sees himself as a samurai warrior. He also likes to quote a saying attributed to Genghis Khan: 'It is not sufficient that I succeed. Everyone else must fail.'"

The Samurai Warrior understands danger. He has been injured many times in his life, but he is stronger for it. He has developed resilience. He tells you that you can defeat evildoers by means of your power, but true power lies in fearlessness. Be willing to assess risks and to know when to strike or flee. Like a Ninja you can cloak yourself in invisibility and reappear in another guise within your enemy’s defenses. Fearlessness is not recklessness. It is born of justice and love of one’s enemies. He tells you to study, appreciate and learn from your enemies. By means of the principles of justice you will come to love them too.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Hollow Man

My shrink listens patiently. I've almost never been happy. I need to feel safe to feel happy. I like locked rooms and bright lighting. I don't like people. I'm trapped by fear. He returns to the room naked and sits opposite me again. He says nothing but I know what he means: Do not be afraid. I lay my head in his lap and hold him, looking into the log fire. I start to feel better, then he is gone. I'm alone again. Was he not real?

It's winter and it's been snowing. A large, unfinished wooden-framed house is before me; it's my house.  A voice tells me "Abandoning your fake self is like burning down a beautiful, architecturally designed house. You have spent so long designing and constructing it, you are horrified by the thought of its destruction, the waste." I walk toward the house and set fire to it. I feel the heat of the fire but I'm trembling, shivering. The flames illuminate the tracks of my tears.

Worldboy



I'm alone here, in a new city. I can see the city lights below. The room is white, fine white sheets, in a tangle; white quilt, I'm too hot, then too cold. It's quiet, except for the underground house music on my headphones. I eat a mandarin from a white porcelain plate; the smell fills the room and slowly fades. It's after two AM; should I try to sleep? I see my hands in the mirror, whose hands are they? They look old. The music pauses and I hear my breathing, slowly in, slowly out, slowly in, slowly marking time. I'm reminded of "2001", I'm Dave Bowman, an astronaut aging silently as time accelerates. I have been alive so long. I am slowly decaying at my core but this pain will not release me. A cup of tea allows me to focus on a new aroma, warm, organic, complex and subtle. Time stops while I drink the tea... and then I'm back in the room again. My eyes are heavy. Oxygen.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Annihilation Speech

The Curse – Shame

If you remember the story of Sleeping Beauty you will recall that Carabosse, the evil sorceress, offended at not being invited to the christening of the baby princess cast a spell on her. She declared that before the princess would reach her fifteenth birthday she would prick her finger on a spinning wheel and die. This is the earliest example of the annihilation speech in story form that most children ever hear. To little boys and girls the idea of an innocent baby being sentenced to death is horrifying. They know that not long ago they themselves were babies and most likely they too have not yet reached the age of fifteen. What an awful thought — to die so young before even having lived one's life.


Does it not remind you of a political or social annihilation? As adults we are aware of evil leaders throughout history who have proclaimed the annihilation of one or another person or group, and some who have even carried out their threats.  Hitler, Stalin & Mao right down to Mugabe; these are names of evil doers that readily spring to mind, but what about our own everyday lives? Would you recognise the annihilation speech from your own mother? Or a friend? A classmate? A priest or a teacher? In my life I have heard the speech from all of these people and many more. It was my mind and my heart they wanted to bury, not my body. Victims of hate crimes, abuse and neglect may be physically harmed, threatened with death and even killed. Some victims will complete the job themselves and commit suicide.

 

For most children the annihilation speech leads to depression, anger and a lifetime of acting out. As adults we can still be shocked and hurt by it. The aim of the speech is simple, it is to instill deep and lasting fear and shame.

 

Fear is a natural reaction to the absence of safety or protection in the presence of danger. In the fairy story Carabosse created the danger and thus the fear, since the King and Queen were incapable of protecting their daughter.

 

Importantly, the danger would be accidental or random in nature so it's timing would be unpredictable. This is the terror principle in terrorism. Are you sensing a little of the dread that such children and adults must live with? Shame is the sense that you yourself are the source of the evil. This is a trick used by the powerful to absolve themselves. They cast blame together with their threats so as to appear blameless. Do you know someone who does this? This is the classic abuser.

 

Relax

 

Have you been abused? Are you depressed? When you are given the annihilation speech enough times you begin to believe it. You know you are destined to die without dying. Your heart and mind begin to shut down or to function in limited or immature ways. You think your software is broken or that your life is going off track. Events in your life can have unexpected consequences so you long to escape and complete your isolation. You may feel loss of control or else you may attempt to maintain control by restricting the variables and controlling to the point of total lockdown.

 

What happens next? You become numb. You lose the ability to feel, or to be able to tell one feeling from another. A permanent grey cloud descends on you so that all your decisions and choices are made in a fog. Other people seem far away and out of reach. You begin to feel invisible when you aren't being abused. You try to avoid responsibility to minimise blame. You become expert at disguising your emotions and intentions. Other people find you hard to read and hard to get close to despite mostly being likable. You read situations and people in terms of threat analysis. You are simply on a survival mission. The aim is to get through another day without being abused again.

 

Nothing to do with people is easy, so rather than cultivate friendships you begin to enjoy achievements, habits, machines, toys, addictions or obsessions, but mostly escape. Carabosse's spell is slowly weaving it's way around you. Like Sleeping Beauty, you are slowly dying inside.

 

If you are like me, there will be a moment of intense and terrifying clarity before you reach your fifteenth birthday when you realize suddenly and with crushing certainty that you are alone, absolutely and totally alone in an entire universe cut off from every form of life. You have nothing to protect you but your remoteness. You must begin to build defenses of your own to ensure your isolation from your abusers. No one will ever find you again because you have silenced the real you forever. You begin the task of building a fake self to shield your empty universe.

 

The task is too much to ask even of an adult, let alone a child, but over the next several years you manage to do it anyway. The energy and concentration that this takes is enormous. The sophistication of your fake personality would astound psychology professors.

 

Your adult life begins and you are pleased with it. It's a wonderful fake. To quote a line said about Holly Golightly from Breakfast at Tiffany's, "She's a phony but she's a real phony."

 

The only problem is you have no real feelings left and you have completely forgotten who you are. There is no you at the centre of you. There is no there there. At the centre of you is a huge hole and out of this hole comes nothing but hot fiery pain. This has to be covered up at all costs. The process of keeping this pain at bay is known as Acting Out.

 

Feel

 

One day about 35 years after my fifteenth birthday while sitting in a psychiatrists office I realized that I had been acting out my entire life. This accomplishment both amused and horrified me.

 

About this time I had determined that to go on living, I needed to find out who I was. This was a rather tall order since I had been abandoned by myself and my family at a very young age, so I had to break the task down to more manageable waypoints.

 

The first job was to learn how to feel. To feel anything other than the pain coming from the hole at the core of me was an unlearned skill. I had taught myself very expertly how not to feel. If you want to feel you have to learn how to relax first.

 

One of your tasks that you will learn in therapy is to catch yourself acting out. If you have a good friend or a truly caring partner they may help you do this by gently reminding you to pause for a moment of mindfulness, to reflect on the state of your feelings when you are about to act out again. Are you feeling angry, depressed, ashamed, rejected, abandoned, bored, alone? If you can pause your behaviour long enough you might get a chance to recognise one or more of these feelings the instant your need is strongest to act out.

 

Acting out could be having a drink, buying something you can't afford, gambling, hurting someone, having selfish or abusive sex, fighting, running away, hurting or cutting yourself, screaming at someone who loves you...

 

It's not wrong to feel like you do. It's wrong to ignore it. Monitor your breathing; try to slow down for a few minutes; look at the sky, the sea, the trees; take a bath; go for a jog; cry; lie down; laugh at yourself; most of all try to find the trigger for that feeling of shame, fear or anger.

 

Relax. Approach this trigger slowly and cautiously, it is not what it seems right now, it is really something from your past, or even your childhood masquerading as a problem in the present. It is here to taunt you, to haunt you, to defeat you. Don't allow it. You are stronger than that, you have survived all these years, take control, just this one time.

 

Anxiety often accompanies depression. To begin to open up the brain pathways for feelings, you need to find a fairly safe place to reduce the anxiety and focus on the now. Stop the brain whirring and use some relaxation techniques to consciously train yourself to quiet your mind. This can take months or even years but once you can proudly say “Yes, I'm relaxed,” you may then begin to carefully and quietly listen for some feelings. I've found that feelings are formless and flighty, hard to identify and hard to pin down. They're more like a cat than a dog. They'll stay away unless you are prepared to pay them due regard. Relax, be patient, a feeling may come to you. It may surprise you but try not to push it away without becoming familiar enough with it to identify it's breed, so you won't be so surprised next time. See if you can recognize what in the world elicited or "caused" the feeling. Try to remember what that was, so you can be sensitive to it next time.

 

It is pointless to label feelings as either good or bad. There are no good feelings nor bad feelings because a feeling is just a message from another part of your brain such as your memory or your animal brain or your subconscious or your dream state.

 

The most obvious and basic feeling is pain. It conveys the message "Help!". Another obvious feeling is fear. It conveys the message "Warning." These feelings are clearly hardwired survival tools carried with us from our earliest evolutionary state to keep us alive. All the more complex and differentiated feelings similarly have a message and a purpose.

 

Your fake self will intercept and try to rationalize or explain away any feelings, as it has been created to do.  At this point take notice of your body and how it feels. Your muscles, your stomach, your heart and your head are repositories of these blocked or stored feelings. In the process of relaxing you will notice points of pain or stress in various body parts. Imagine that you are releasing the stress by concentrating on letting the tension out of that particular muscle. Don't be surprised if the muscle suddenly spasms. This quick reflex jerk releases the tension and happens automatically to some people as they are falling asleep. Different people store their tension in different parts of their body. You may find that once you have learned to relax, that the body begins to release this tension automatically without you trying or even being aware of it happening.

 

With each involuntary relaxation you should notice a thought or a feeling that is released at the same time. What is it? Take notice of these thought bubbles as they float to the surface of your consciousness. By intercepting them consciously as they surface you can become aware of them before your fake self has a chance to banish them or rationalize them away.

 

It is very important at this moment not to judge or explain or worry about the feelings that arise. Let them rise to the surface spontaneously and disappear into the air like bubbles in a glass of Champaign. It is more important to notice that you are feeling something than to understand why. This is the technique known as mindfulness that originated in Buddhist teaching and is practiced in meditation and yoga today.

 

Occasionally you may be inspired by new revelations. Your mind may achieve clarity as never before. This is good, as it is a sign that you are moving forward out of the fog of depression toward clarity.

 

Massage and meditation are both good relaxation techniques that will help in this process. It may be good for you to set aside a regular time each day when you will be undisturbed for 20 minutes so that you can more quickly and easily enter this relaxed state and allow your feelings to surface. Some people may find that they can achieve this empty state or mind when they are doing some simple repetitive physical activity such as walking or jogging. Do what works for you, but do not make the mistake of choosing an activity that is one you do when you want to escape from the world because that is acting out. You cannot achieve conscious feeling and mindfulness when you are acting out because this is what you do to avoid pain and pain is your primary emotion. If you are doing something to block it, you will also be blocking all your other feelings. Some people shed tears or shudder the first time they achieve deep relaxation and conscious feeling. Pain is to be expected, even encouraged, because releasing it will feel good afterward. You will feel lighter, literally relieved!

 

Do not expect to be able to stay open to your feelings like this all the time. Doing so would be disruptive to your life and those around you who depend on you. You have created a fake person and have built a life around that person so others have built up a set of expectations based on your past behavior. If you destroy these assumptions all at once, you will need to have a plan ready so that you can support yourself if these people were to abandon you. You may need to practice being the real you in limited safe contexts with people you can trust.

 

Many people in reevaluating themselves may find that they have no safe place and nobody they can really trust with their true feelings. This may come as a shock and a disappointment. I would suggest that such people should engage a mental health professional to accompany them on their journey to clear the path ahead and provide a safe place to do the emotional work required.

 

An important part of psychotherapy is the setting up of a regular schedule of sessions. Even if you don't engage a therapist you should be disciplined about continuing the work required to reawaken the real you, to achieve authenticity. A schedule, a project or a series of tasks is a good way to maintain the discipline required to do this work. It is work because it is a hard road to travel.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Resiliance

Pain is a part of life. More so for some people than others of course. It seems that some people have the resources or strength or luck or skills to work through their pain and come out the other side unscathed, almost as if they hardly felt a thing.

We comfort ourselves with the thought that such people are thick skinned or stupid or less sensitive than we who feel every slight, every sting to our wounded pride, every curse, every slur, every failure more deeply. For we secretly know ourselves to be failures; useless, hopeless and helpless in the face of defeat.

At such moments we reward ourselves to numb the pain. We act out with our favourite addiction, indulgence or fantasy. We sharpen our tongues and go on the attack at the least sign of a threat to our false pride. We let others know that they have no idea how much we have had to put up with and it’s about time they shared in some of the hurt. We laugh at their uncomprehending stares as we spin on our heels and march off wrapping ourselves in our own self-pity.

Are you really a loser? This kind of behaviour is the expression of damage, it is associated with depression. It is conducive to further failure in our relations with others and reduces the chances of our achieving our goals.

Who are those successful people who can turn defeat into triumph? Who can turn an obvious flaw into a source of pride? Who seem to have everything worked out without having worked very hard for it? Winners.

Yes, as obvious as it sounds, it also remains quite shocking to me that life is made up of winners and losers! How grossly simplistic! How Darwinian! How crude! Most of all, how cruel!

That is not to say that fate has determined the outcome for us. Winners can still become losers. A winner who is only ever seriously tested once in his or her life can lose his faith, his will to live, his hold on reality or his love for those around him, simply because he had not faced many tough challenges up to that point.

Likewise a loser can become a winner by sheer force of will, determined to learn what it takes to overcome life’s challenges and persevering long enough, working hard enough to change the outcome.

Resilience is what separates winners and losers. Good parenting, a secure childhood home, caring teachers and faithful friends nurture in a child the resilience to work beyond initial failure to eventual mastery.

Resilience is not the same as success. Success or excellence depends not only on mastery but opportunity and intentionality. One must have the firm intention to take advantage of every opportunity presented and one must have the knowledge and perception to identify when an opportunity is presented. In other words, successful people have goals, take risks, are persistent and work hard at what they wish to achieve. Why? Most say because they love it! Life becomes its own reward, a virtuous circle.

The unspoken gift shared by successful people is resilience. It is on this trait that their success depends; not on luck or good fortune, not on opportunity alone, or talent or greed. There is no long lasting success without risk, and since risk implies the threat of pain and failure, a winner knows that he can rebound, even from the worst case scenario. He possesses the secret of resilience, his key to mastery and eventual success. We commonly refer to this trait as confidence, although resilience has a deeper and more specific meaning.

The phrase “Failure is not an option” is untrue. Failure is always a possibility and therefore an option. It is perhaps more familiar to very successful people because they take more risks and with sometimes higher stakes. However for winners, “Not rebounding after a failure is not an option.”

Depressed people are damaged. The actual nature of the damage can vary from person to person, but one of the most significant results of the damage is a lack of resilience. This deficit is what keeps us in a downward spiral, a vicious circle. Without resilience our failures play back for us on a continuous loop. Nothing seems to work. We can’t break the cycle. We get exhausted. We lose optimism and confidence. We lack “drive” and are fearful of taking risks.

I believe that this serious damage usually takes place in childhood or early childhood making the person vulnerable to depression and “failure” later in life. That is not to blame the parents for every episode of depression, because the wider world can be a cruel and destructive place too, but those closest to us when we are in our formative stages have the most power to bestow or deprive us of our resilience.

The task of re-parenting ourselves is the task of developing our own resilience. To be aware of this is to be aware of the enormous responsibility the task entails and the huge amount of work it demands.

I said earlier that our progress through life is a series of challenges. Resilience is what allows us to attempt these challenges and to accept the next one when we have mastered each in turn.

Resilience is our fuel, our hidden resource, our suit of armor, our magic spell. It exists even in tiny doses inside each one of us. We have now to summon it and put it to good use. It is important to understand the honesty required of us in order not to confuse true resilience with self-deception or delusion. Resilience is not just wishful thinking. It requires a rigorous self assessment and admission of our weaknesses as well as our strengths. This is the quest I spoke of earlier. We must enter into a period of preparation that will help us map out the challenges ahead and the risks we face as well as the goals we hope to achieve.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Emotional Sensitivity

Some of the writing about Borderline Personality Disorder by therapists and health care professionals seems to almost disparage the emotional sensitivity of sufferers who are characterized as experiencing widely varying emotional responses that can swing from anger to delight in a moment. Some portray BPD sufferers a having multiple personalities. This is not strictly true.

We do not imagine ourselves to be multiple personalities in the way schizophrenics were once perceived in the popular imagination. I believe BPD sufferers have multiple emotional responses, at the same time, to the same stimulus. We only appear to be shifting rapidly from one emotion to another. A wide range of conflicting emotions are probably present to a greater or lesser degree all at once. One is either paralysed by the opposing forces and appears emotionally blocked or one bounces rapidly between the expression of each of them.

In fear of the resulting confusion and rejection, some people mask this turmoil by behaving with a false air of equanimity. Such people are anxious to be liked, but may appear distant or insincere. They may appear calm but they are exerting great strength of will to manage their internal tensions. Feelings come to be associated with pain. Perhaps you don't know what to feel because you feel different things at once. I don't so much feel ambivalence, I feel like a pinball, rebounding from one thought to another, bouncing through the flashing, vibrating pinball machine in my head until I slip past the bumpers and, my run spent, roll down into the hole at the bottom of the machine.

I don't know anyone with whom I can share this disordered emotional chaos, except my therapist, so I have dissociated from it. I have created splits. These are not so much fully formed split personalities, but containers for the split-off emotions; it is my way to manage the chaos. By linking these splits to certain people and places, I can appear consistent and emotionally concordant (literally: being of one mind), to outside observers, so long as I maintain the role continuously in their presence. This is difficult to maintain over long periods or in painful or emotionally demanding situations. That is why people like me, despite our hunger for intimacy, feel more comfortable with either superficial attachments to others, or short-term intimacies with virtual strangers.

It seems too simplistic to characterize these symptoms as emotional sensitivity, but it is clear that such a syndrome would impact upon one's ability to form significant attachments with others. This is ironic, because I believe the emotional chaos is a result of pain experienced in infancy, the pain of an insecure, unstable or disorganized attachment to the mother or primary carer.

John Bowlby was the first researcher to develop a major study of human attachment and loss in his work "Attachment and Loss", a trilogy, the first volume of which, "Attachment" was published in 1969, and revized in 1982 incorporating newer research. The Trilogy was re-printed in a new edition in 1997 by which time his attachment theory had attained much wider acceptance.

 

Infants become attached to adults who are sensitive and responsive in social interactions with the infant, and who remain as consistent caregivers for some months during the period from about 6 months to two years of age. Parental responses lead to the development of patterns of attachment which in turn lead to 'internal working models' which will guide the individual's feelings, thoughts, and expectations in later relationships. In Bowlby's approach, the human infant is considered to have a need for a secure relationship with adult caregivers, without which normal social and emotional development will not occur.

 

Quoting from the entry for John Bowlby in Wikipedia.

I propose that in some people the particular emotional sensitivity we are discussing is a result of an insecure or "disorganized" attachment to the mother or primary carer as an infant, privation or the loss of the mother at this time or the experience of trauma or abuse whereby the mother or carer failed in her protective duty toward the child.

Some years ago BPD was not accepted as a diagnosis since some in the mental health profession described it as a manifestation of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I've been given this diagnosis myself, but I don't think it is accurate. A young person or adult with BPD is experiencing a transaction or interaction between an abusive or invalidating environment and his or her own emotional sensitivity. The symptoms such as splitting and other primitive defenses, lack of identity (identity diffusion), fears of abandonment, and a sense of unreality (lapses in reality testing) are adaptations to a toxic environment and/or a toxic history.

Many BPD sufferers exhibit impulsivity (spending, promiscuity), anger, suicidal tendencies, intense, discomforting feelings and close relationships in which the other person is either idealized or despised, though it hardly seems fair to characterize these as faults. Rather they are expressions of alarm, though probably much delayed, that have evolved to protect human offspring. Evolutionary psychology has influenced attachment theory so that it is commonly believed that the formation of attachments between infant and carer has the evolutionary benefit of protecting the immature young. This alarm system is built in to us to alert the carer and to protect the child.

Unfortunately, as grown children or adults, not enough has been done to help us in response to these alarm bells. The individual consequences and social costs are serious and they manifest in unacceptable rates of crime, suicide, depression, drug abuse, addiction, relationship breakdown and violence; all the social costs of a poorly functioning mental health system.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Sin, Virtue and Society

The seven deadly sins were the seven cardinal sins enumerated by Saint Thomas Aquinas in the 13th century – pride or vanity, envy, gluttony, greed or avarice, lust, sloth, and wrath or anger. These seven certainly are the cause of much human misery and may even be among those faults that condemn us and those around us most certainly to a life of pain, a future of failure and the loss of our most significant emotional attachments with those closest to us. Unfortunately, as a catalogue of human weaknesses, this list of seven is not nearly exhaustive. It is a starting point in examining one’s conscience.

Most of us will have been guilty of at least these seven at one or more times in our lives, but most of us are not trapped in a cycle of failure, repeating the same mistakes endlessly. Those of us who are hurt so severely that we bear the psychological scars of abuse are among the unfortunate mortals whose lives are dominated by patterns of thought and behaviour that result in slavish, predictable, habitual acquiescence to our imperfections. For such people these seven sins, and so many others, are controlling, driving, compelling imperatives.

The Christian tradition teaches that to sin is a choice and therefore is deserving of blame and punishment. If only that were true for all of us. For some innocents the punishment comes first. The resulting damage that one bears can be lifelong and it drives us on a downward spiral, unknowingly digging our own premature graves. Does this deserve to be called sin? The word loses its meaning when one becomes enslaved by pain, misery and confusion. Choice seems like a remote ideal, a luxury, for someone who is truly desperate, whose feelings are numbed and whose thoughts, driven by a powerful current, rush and tumble like a cold whitewater river hurtling over rocks and swirling down into deep eddies. The disordered individual may, without intervention, never become aware of his entrapment, his curse, the fulfillment of a cycle. He might wander aimlessly, endlessly up and down the paths through his own particular forest of pain, failure and confusion; or with love, help, commitment and perseverance he can heal; he can change the pattens in his head and in his life.

From the tradition of monotheistic religion to the western medical tradition the focus on sin, weakness, fault and illness has the goal of correcting, civilizing, and socializing the individual to satisfy the expectations and exigencies of the family, the church, the state or the society.  Take, for example, the seven cardinal virtues. These are the sacred counterparts of the seven deadly sins: chastity, temperance, generosity, diligence, patience, kindness and modesty. They may be good and noble virtues, even among those gifts that will be bestowed upon you  in the course of your progress along the paths mapped out in this book, but they are not the most important goals for us to achieve as people recovering from abuse, from pain. This book is not about religion; I feel that there are enough books written from that perspective, from Thomas Aquinas on. In this book I am not approaching the subject from the point of view of the group, the church or the gods. I am approaching it from your point of view, as an individual who has suffered and who hopes to end the suffering. My purpose is not to build better citizens for the state, or more productive workers for the society. Rather I come to the problem from the point of view of the individual suffering unnecessarily.

The journey we shall take commences at the point when one’s inner life begins, as a child, but not a living child, an inner-child, locked in time, forever orbiting in the universe within one’s head. Each of these cursed children that is set free, each triumphant release, will advance the sufferer toward his new authentic self; toward a life free of the urgent imperatives and compulsions of his pain and imperfection.

 

A Journey to a New Life

Personal growth and recovery from abuse is a journey. The journey we shall take commences at the point when one’s inner life begins, as a child, but not a living child, an inner-child, locked in time, forever orbiting in the universe within one’s head, and there is likely more than one such personality inside us. Each of these cursed children that is set free, each triumphant release, will advance the sufferer toward his new authentic self; toward a life free of the urgent imperatives and compulsions of his pain and imperfection.

Personality disorders exist within a spectrum and are often associated with depression. Physical and emotional abuse can also be classified within a spectrum, from common and mild to exceptional and severe. In this work I am using a broad definition of abuse that is not restricted to physical, sexual or emotional harm. Harm can come from an invalidating environment, one that demeans or denies the intrinsic value of the person, a failure to treat the person with attention, respect, and understanding. This environment may be a family, a relationship, a person or a status, such as poverty or persecution. The nexus of abuse exists in a transaction between an invalidating environment and the emotional sensitivity of the person. Milder, or short term, psychological pain is a normal condition, a part of life. Psychological pain caused by abuse is a common contributor shared by the majority of sufferers of depression and those with personality disorders. Though not all sufferers of depression or personality disorders report having experienced abuse and not all those reporting abuse have depression or personality disorders. Both the environment and the emotional, or pain, sensitivity of the person bear on their long term mental health. This is not to rule out genetic, biological and other physical causes of psychological distress and dysfunction but our focus is on the invalidating transaction and, using the techniques of mindfulness, pre-visualization, myth and fantasy, mapping a pathway on which one can progress from pain and acting out to fulfilment and satisfaction.

The morning sky might be a brilliant, cloudless expanse of blue; the sun’s brilliance enough to sting your tired eyes, yet the beauty of this overture to your new day mocks you, insults the memory of your nightmare from the night just passed when, awash in anxiety, you dreamed that someone was trying to kill you. The sounds of the day beginning are like tinny music from a distant radio station distorted by loud static. Your head aches mildly, for no particular reason that you care to discern. Movement, even lifting a limb, is an effort that demands more than strength; it requires a force of will that you have long been incapable of rousing. “Face the day,” you tell yourself, and the question rebounds immediately: “Why?” Bluebirds may alight upon your window sill; the gay chatter of children may summon your attention; a partner may reach tenderly to touch you, and yet you recoil, mentally pulling the heavy covers over your head to hide in the darkness, to sleep forever.

Angrily you curse the advance of time that forces yet another twenty-four hours upon you. Around and around the hands spin on that impassive dial, advancing, but going nowhere; it feels like still another merciless lap of the marathon track that is your cursed life. Bitterly, you regard joy, beauty, respect, kindness, love & happiness as expensive jewels that you could never afford. Instead, you wrap yourself in the threadbare cloaks of cynicism, jealousy, false modesty, or vanity, and isolation; cold comfort indeed.

In moments of reflection you feel anxious, lost and confused. Though you are unhappy with your life at present, and unsure of its purpose you are unwilling to take action to change it. To outside observers this might seem irrational or phobic. If it were true, they would be right, but it is not quite true: you may be willing to take action but you are unable to choose what action to take. In your current state you are struck by a paralysing fear of unknown consequences, which becomes a fear of change. Without committing to change you cling to your present painful circumstances, you cling to certainty, and it rewards you with predictable pain. Your fear of change is a fear of uncertainty. Strangely, it is this path into the unknown, this state of uncertainty, that will lead us out of our pain and toward progress. You need to destabilise your repetitive, cyclical patterns of maladaptive thought and behaviour to develop new, more mature behaviours, to reduce the pain and to stop acting out.

Some people exist for many years in this fearful paralysis, until one day, a calamity befalls them that forces them to change. A positively transformative life-changing event may also force changes upon such a person who otherwise might have existed in stasis for the rest of their lives. To spend one’s life waiting for this to happen is like expecting to be struck by lightening and knocked off one’s horse like Saint Paul on the road to Damascus. It’s like waiting for “Mr. Right”. It’s like hoping to win the lottery. It happens, but not nearly often enough to make a difference to most people’s lives. So what is one to do?

Suffering, feeling numb, or feeling bad and being unable to identify the feeling, provided me with the impetus to search for the part of me that existed before the damage. Reading and therapy sessions raised the idea of the inner-child. Visualisation and exploration of my inner-child was instructive and illuminating, revealing pain and other emotions that had been almost forgotten, but this information alone opened up no paths to progress. Many people with personality disorders are high functioning individuals with well developed life skills. However it is common for sufferers to use dissociation to achieve high level functioning in adverse life situations. An individual may “dissociate”, or split off, from his or her actual present self into another functional persona, such as an “inner child” or a character that is a projection of his inner-child’s imagined maturity, a wish fulfilment state. These personas are often called splits.

Some therapies, including regression therapy, make the mistake of indulging the inner-child; they treat the discovery and appreciation of the inner-child and his needs as the ultimate goal of therapy. It is not. The inner child is searching for new parents; the challenge is to re-parent oneself, a seemingly impossible task.

Research and further therapy revealed to me the exact nature of the seven challenges that constitute this re-parenting task. The map of the seven paths is illustrated here. The key component of the seven challenges is the commitment to change. Progress is not possible without change and change will not take place without acknowledgement of the pain and abuse, including radical acceptance of one's present situation, feelings, faults and limitations (the symptoms), followed by a deliberate and committed intention to take action to effect change and to adopt the products and imperatives of change. This will result in changed behaviors. Recent psychological research into the condition known as Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) has developed these ideas as a therapy called Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT). An adaptation of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, it has been found to provide consistently significant benefits to the majority of subjects presenting with BPD.

Taking my cue from DBT I view progress and maturation through change as dialectical in nature. First one must discover, examine and accept one's particular emotional sensitivity, one's pain, and then develop a true understanding of, and a coming to terms with, the invalidating environment; this is radical, nonjudgmental acceptance. The damage you have suffered is bad, your sensitivity to the pain is neither good nor bad. This acceptance must be accompanied by an unwavering commitment to overcome your challenges by monitoring your thoughts and feelings, adopting strategies and behaviours that are situationally appropriate to better outcomes and by incorporating this new self knowledge into a new self-concept. This is the process of re-parenting oneself toward the goal of authenticity with integrity, honesty, and resilience. Authenticity does not mean self-pity or self-indulgence. It means speaking your own truth and living by it.

Achieving the goal of a new life requires that one completes the seven steps. The last of the seven commitments is to have faith. Faith draws one forward, like the light at the end of the tunnel. It is the opposite of despair. I am not talking about religious faith, though that is a type of faith that helps some people. Having faith, one can reenter a childlike state wherein one can experience the dreams and emotions of the inner-child and so, discovering a real person there, commit robustly with love and faith to re-parenting that vulnerable child.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Aurora's Dreams Begin

The story of the sleeping Princess Aurora dates from the Middle Ages. Known as "La Belle Au Bois Dormant", The Sleeping Beauty of the Wood, the classic fairy tale published in 1697 by Charles Perrault has been a favourite with children for hundreds of years. Her royal birth and her tragic curse are well known, and like all fairy stories she and her prince meet and live happily ever after, or so we think.

What is not known is the story of Aurora's dreams. She was a young girl of fifteen at the time of her curse. Her body was preserved through her one hundred year sleep, so her mind must have been preserved, vital and youthful, as well. While we don't understand the reasons, we do know that dreams are essential to maintaining mental and physical health.

The untold story of her hundred years dreaming is the story of her inner life and her as yet unrealised potential. One hundred years is a very long time, so we might presume that the story of her dreams would be a very long story if we were to follow it from beginning to end.

It would be hard to make sense of such a lengthy volume and dreams rarely make sense on their own without an understanding of the dreamer's inner life, so we will need a map; not a map of a territory, but a map of her mental terrain. Tracing the course of her inner life will be a journey of the mind. As we begin exploring her dreams we might begin to know her by first preparing ourselves for the journey. We ought to study the map.

Aurora herself, being a young girl, had no idea what sort of journey she might be undertaking in her dream state. She knew no more when she fell into unconsciousness than any of us know about what dreams might await us once our heads hit the pillow and our eyes shut out the world. What hopes and fears will arise within us on the other side of the door that leads beyond, into the unconscious? We do not know.

For Aurora, the gentle messenger of all knowledge from the other world was The Moon. Each lesson, each glimpse of hope, each hint of understanding helped build a great plan, a map, so to speak, of the world beyond the door, the world of dreams. Beyond the arms of any earthly mother, The Princess took as her spiritual mother that shining heavenly body that glided overhead each night. The map she needed was created by her moonlight with The Moon's wise and patient guidance. As The Moon would teach her, "There are many paths..." She, who is so pale and quiet has yet the power to move the oceans, so how could she not move the troubled water of a young girl's soul?

While she was cursed to sleep one hundred years, she was, however, blessed, to spend so long in this non-temporal world, watched over by her spiritual mother. Her dreams would reveal her character, her true identity and the potential which she would claim upon awakening to her new life. Some might say it was her destiny, yet so many grave threats would she face that for many years such a thing was more elusive than the tiny phosphorescent sprites that trail dolphins in dark ocean waters at night as they swim and play in the moonlight.

I have created a map for you based on The Moon's Guidance. Study it slowly, it is a map of may paths, but none of them can be read from start to finish. It is more like a trail of breadcrumbs, a series of hints and lessons, than a roadmap. There are signposts and waypoints, but you will need to construct your own journey. The map you will need is a series of slides that can be found here.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Coming Soon

You have found the blog for Aurora's Dreams. All will be revealed in time so please come back again soon when Aurora and her seven spirits will begin to share The Moon's guidance with you.