I don’t even know how my mind survives getting blown over and over again and still functions. Today saw me frantically produce a record number of penciled margin notes, arrows and exclamation marks. And links. I wish I could show this intricate maze of connections and insights to the world. I will, I’ll find a way.
Marion Woodman’s writing on mothers, witches, goddesses, holy virgins, and bodies, BODIES, rings so shockingly true and offers such relief that I want to dance. In “Addiction to Perfection,” analyzing and reconstructing archetypes, she calls God’s wisdom, or his feminine side, “Sophia” – the Great Mother. Focusing mostly on women dealing with eating disorders (fighting against their own bodies, bodies fighting back – something most women in Northern societies have experienced to some degree), Woodman explains their desperate attempts at self-improvement:
“The fear of receiving resonates in the deepest levels of the psyche. To receive is to allow life to happen, to open oneself to love and delight, grief and loss. Sophia is the bridge, the love that opens the body to receive the spirit. There is a huge problem, however, where a person is not rooted in the body. . . . On that weak foundation is constructed a rigid superstructure based on collective values – discipline, efficiency, duty. The energy that wants to flow into creating, living, playing, is forced to find its outlet in blind compulsions.” (85)
In much more down-to-earth terms, in “The Power of Full Engagement”, Loehr and Schwartz make a similar point about the difficulty of facing the truth about ourselves and taking responsibility for our choices:
“Denial is effectively a form of disengagement: It means shutting down a part of ourselves. When we fear the truth, we become more defensive, rigid and constricted. Like an anesthetic, avoiding the truth numbs us from pain, but it also cuts us off from freely and fully engaging in the world. In addition, denial and self-deception require energy, which is then no longer available for more productive activities. Opening to the truth about ourselves creates freedom. ‘Whatever is flexible and flowing will tend to grow,’ says the Tao Te Ching.” (149)
They also write about somatizing or intellectualizing psychological unease and mention addictions as coping mechanisms:
“Intellectualizing is a means of acknowledging a truth cognitively without experiencing its impact emotionally.” (151)
“The head recognizes; the body experiences” (88)
– states Woodman, explaining the need for body work in therapy.
While Loehr and Schwartz go on to affirm the necessity of clearly identifying and embodying one’s values in order to tap into the most powerful source of energy, Woodman focuses on the more insidious self-destructive tendencies, those that cannot be easily reasoned with and cause the afflicted person to not want to get better. The “compulsively dying” anorexic (98), the bulimic, the alcoholic, the drug addict, have to dig through layers of guilt, shame, pain, and anger that have a long family history, before getting access to that sacred spring of energy. It is heartbreaking to learn and relearn how children pick up their parents’ unresolved problems, traumas, and anxieties, and how, under a pretense of invulnerability, secrets and lies are perpetuated as the family burden grows heavier and heavier.
The two books combined stopped me in my tracks today. Bringing myself to account, I felt exposed, like a fraud, angry at my easy way with words, making it so tempting to gloss over my shortcomings and pay lip service to values I profess to hold dear. On the other hand, realizing – and truly feeling – that it was ok, even necessary, to cut myself off from my “loved ones,” because no real individuation would be possible without it, brought me enormous relief. Understanding comes in waves, but the body still sleeps. Or, rather, hurts from the crazy training program I am putting myself through. I am really curious about those body work workshops. I will write more about it soon, in connection with the hysterics’ body maps.
I guess I am reading so much because I am in dire need of a mentor /mother figure, and not finding them in real life, I look wherever I can. Thank Gods for books and the Internet! And for Labrador tea in a café with church pews.
Tomorrow I am participating in a mystery art happening in which my job is to write. The invitation came seemingly out of nowhere – and I am very grateful that it did.