Following on from the post I wrote yesterday and having read a comment made by Ursula I am prompted to write this blog.
Yesterday, partly as a response to reading Therese Borchard’s blog : Dear Friend, This Is Depression, and partly as an instinctive response to sadness bubbling up from deep inside, I wrote a blog that mentioned my own death thoughts and the feelings I struggle with in a family and culture where it has been hard to find acceptance of deeper, darker feelings.
The Jungian therapist, James Hillman, has spoken about what he sees as our culture’s manic defence against depression. It helped me to understand this many years ago when I began to face my own grief swallowed down following years of addiction.
A lot of people just don’t want to be faced with the idea of death, of loss, of endings, with things that confront them with their powerlessness (even if only for a time). Maybe they have endured these and found the pain a little too hard to face.
I can also understand that in facing death, depression, illness and loss some people make a commitment to enter more fully into life, others can wallow around in the muck and get some kind of negative pleasure from it. And it can be very difficult to judge, especially when you meet someone who is defended against deep feeling, they may judge you for wallowing when in fact you are just deep in process and it may be a process that does not suit their timing. At other times we may be faced with a martyr energy that is deriving some kind of negative pleasure from the dark.
Sadness can have a gravitational pull. Maybe those of us with a strong Saturn Pluto energy are more subject to this pull. Having the door shut on you, because you are too angry or sad for someone hurts a lot. Often we just need acceptance and validation for our feelings. Often its a reality that we just cannot hope for it from certain people.
In my own experience is its miraculous and amazing to watch darker feelings transform when they are bathed in the calm light of acceptance. This is the practice of mindfulness but sometimes mindfulness practiced alone does not heal as much as the calm and open acceptance of someone who is willing to just be with us and sit with us in our darkness, sadness and depression until it transforms.
I used to find it very interesting when I would visit my sister in the care home and when she was crying or raging a lot of the staff would look for something to put down her throat. I would just rub her back or hold her hand. There were really no words to say that met her in the place she needed to be met. Often if you used words with her in this situation she would just go silent or scream even louder. She was screaming in anguish at not being met, at not finding presence.
I’m remembering this now as I face the first Christmas without her. I must be honest, many of those visits were very painful, often I left crying but following the shedding of my tears a lightness would come. I guess each time I met my sister there I entered a little into death, it was a brief visitation that then made appreciation of life and light so much more precious. And I understood her dark feelings a lot more after two relationships ended and that pain triggered earlier pain.
Today when I listened to a song that reminds me so much of her and the burden of pain she carried I felt the conflicting pull of sadness of death/past and life/present vying with my soul. I know both have their place are maybe hidden in each other.
For me, I am grateful for those who are willing to allow a place for the dark, for deep feelings of sadness, who give me permission through their calm acceptance of what is, rather than a rigid, manic defensiveness, rejection or leave taking. I will and have survived being left alone with pain, but it is comfort to receive, understanding, affirmation, support.
The other day I came across a beautiful piece of writing from Henri Nouwen. Henri was no stranger to breakdown, depression and suffering so he wrote this from his own experience.
The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing, and face with us the reality of our own powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.
Sometimes we need to die and go through periods of facing death in order that we can, through this deep alchemical process shed the skin that has grown too tight, or transform the dark matter of suffering into something new. This is a process that can take years and whose schedule is not really under our conscious control, though we are able to assist it by surrendering. In her blog the other day Therese used the metaphor of depression as a firing process whereby clay was transformed into porcelain. That was a powerful alchemical image that spoke to me.
With strong Saturn I relate to the nigredo which is the dark depression that is one phase along a spiritual path through which suffering is transformed into gold. Its fucking hard and painful, we do not enter it willingly, in a way it is a tearing away of all that was comfortable, stable, predictable and known. We are being subjected to forces acting on us that we must endure while we hold still. We need trust, which is hard when we have been betrayed but I guess even trust isn’t essential.
We do the best we can even when it feels like the very worst. Sometimes we just have to wait, not knowing, not hoping even, until the darkness becomes light and the stillness, the dancing. Then and only then is our dark black star transformed into one of burnished light or tarnished gold.