Journal Me Mindful

Rumi quote: The wound is the place where the light enters you.

Hi Folks, welcome and apologies for the haphazard (in fact almost absent) nature of posting over the past few months. I have been on a challenging journey to do with Health and WellBeing. Yet, now that recovery is dawning (in the distant horizon but there nonetheless), I am coming to realise that it has also been a voyage of discovery, in fact a re-discovery of the amazing benefits of mindfulness meditation. The feelings of connectedness, calmness and of being back on track have given me a tremendous lift and I owe this turnaround to several sources.

Firstly, a doctor here in Belfast at the Synergy Clinic, who takes an integrative approach, has helped me in a massive way with information, reassurance and naturopathic prescribing. Taking charge of your own health is a very empowering experience.

Next, the Chopra Centre 21 day meditation series, currently ongoing, is a welcome resource and I am currently at Day 8, finding the mantras and messages meaningful and the practice greatly calming. Their journaling resource section is a welcome addition and I print out my journal entry every day. It is a useful resource and well worth reading back over for extra motivation and inspiration.  Here’s the link to the current meditation series.

https://chopracentermeditation.com/

 

Then I found the book Mindfulness by Mark Williams and Danny Penman, which is full of the most up-to-date, enlightening information and instruction and together with the CD, offers an 8 week course in mindfulness meditation. This is most promising to me and I plan to build it into my new found daily practice after I complete the Chopra Centre 21 days. cover of the book Mindfulness by Mark Williams and Danny Penman

 

I would thoroughly recommend them all and wish everyone well on your journey of life.

 

 

 

Opening Image citation http://www.openhandweb.org/rumi_%20wound%20_light_enters

Archetypes and Elixirs: A Jungian Perspective on Life as We Know It.

Image of flaming red liquid in a cocktail glass

Returning with the Elixir of Knowledge and Wisdom

One of the key themes in Jungian psychology is that of individuation, which is an expansive process involving realisation and manifestation of the archetypes within. Archetypal aspects refer to many different facets of the self’s potential, such as the Shadow, the Animus or Anima, the Wise Elder or the Trickster / Magician. Many of these inner selves are unconscious or undeveloped and only emerge when we are able to unearth their existence through various channels such as encounters, dreams and active imagination.

All cultures have notions of human personality and self, made up of multiple aspects, many of which are oppositional or paradoxical and often these various traits are personified into panthea of gods and goddesses or other equally varied groups of characters. Take, for instance, the ways in which each of the Graeco-Roman deities encapsulates a set of particular human strengths and weaknesses. For instance Athena is wise and just but also warlike and ruthless in certain circumstances. Apollo likewise brings illness but also healing in the form of the arts and muses.

 

Individuation – Incorporating the Archetypes

At the start of every human life there is a diffusion of experience, expression and personality. That complex cloud of embodied sensations in the world gradually becomes organised into patterns of thought, feeling and memory and infused into a sense of the individual self. While all these phenomena are shaped and informed by the physical and social environments around us, variously named and operationalised through culture, certain broad categories of experience and expression can be identified across humanity and according to Jungian thought, these constitute the archetypes. Archetypes are universal potentials for broad human drives, yet as potentials for patterning, they are manifest in ways unique to individuals and cultures, rather like the ways in which each snowflake is structured through certain rules of construction, yet no two snowflakes are the same.

Jung stressed that this individuation was not a materialistic ‘individualism’ but a spiritual quest, a journey, and one which required a certain amount of courage and determination to overcome fear and resistance within the self. It also involves the withdrawal of projections, in other words the taking of responsibility for our own lives and recognising the fact that our own growth is in our own hands. To incorporate the archetypes successively through the sequence of Shadow first, then Anima/Animus and beyond, entails as well a kind of accumulated knowledge or insight – the elixir of life, the wisdom of the ages. And that wisdom and insight is most beneficially directed at ourselves, as The Oracle reminded Neo in the very archetypal movie ‘The Matrix’.

We have helpers along the way, though, such as family, friends, inspirational leaders and authors, as well as examples to follow in the guise of totems, god-like and saintly figures and characters from myth and legend. We also have negative influences, sometimes within the established society and canons of accepted ideas and practices around us, sometimes within our circle of relationships, and sometimes within ourselves as internalised negative attitudes and inner critical voices.

The Hero’s Journey

Archetypes and Elixirs form the raw material of the hero’s journey, our journey. Our internal responses to events, characters and relationships in the world around us shape the person we become. Whether that is contracted, frozen and bitter or expanded, empathic and wise, is largely up to us.  The Archetypes are always there, waiting for us to awaken them, the Elixirs are ever-present and calling to be consumed. Taking the plunge can be the most difficult first move but also the most exhilarating. Starting with some dream delving is one way in, creative journaling another. Both of these techniques helped to jump-start my own journey, informed and motivated by reading the works of Dr Carl Jung and inspirational blogs such as Jean Raffa’s here on wordpress. Individuation is an act of self-creation and the creative potential is inherent in all humans. Any creative activity can get your individuating juices flowing, indeed creativity has been identified as a significant booster of mental health promotion and recovery.

 

Thanks for dropping by,

Enjoy the Journey 🙂

 

Flaming Elixir Image source Guest of a Guest website, New York  http://guestofaguest.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/red-snapper-210×300.jpg

Buried by the Shadow: Lessons from Baudelaire

Having just read a piece of historical fiction called Black Venus by James MacManus, I have been left at once saddened, uplifted, more informed about the French poet Charles Baudelaire and perhaps also a little wiser on the work of shadow energies in our lives. In the midst of public horror and ridicule, this gifted but tormented artist had the courage to face and describe the human shadow through its many manifestations in his personal life (much like James Joyce would do a century later). It is this window of identification and therefore the sense that we are not alone in our experiences that is, I believe, one of the massive attributes of literature, indeed all forms of expression. These ideas are also tied in with my current interests in creativity and mental health recovery and promotion, as well as with previous musings on the role of the shadow within a Jungian approach to personal maturation.

That literature and Jungian ideas overlap is inevitable. Jung emphasised the symbolic nature of human thought and imagination, as did Baudelaire and Manet. A muse was often a source of both inspiration and projection for the artist, a dynamic that may well be present in all our lives – who hasn’t ever had a hero or a guru or some other personified source of inspiration and motivation?

 

But to truly move onwards in  the hero’s journey of our life course, it is essential to incorporate and balance all the archetypal energies, of which the dark shadow is only one. The self-acceptance required remains elusive and unthinkable still for many of us and therefore while we might take the necessary step of acknowledging the shadow’s terrifying existence in ourselves, we must also avoid disowning and projecting it, or conversely, allowing it to swallow and destroy us. I fear that Baudelaire may have been devoured by his own shadow, a force he projected into his muses and possibly detected in himself but was unable to fully accept with compassion and therefore was ultimately unable to constructively channel it.

Like many before and since, Baudelaire went relatively unappreciated in his own time but is now recognised for his visionary genius and his initiation (with the painter Manet) of a whole new world of symbolism, modernist literature and the impressionist artistic oeuvre. T. S. Eliot, who wrote the groundbreaking modernist work The Wastelandcited Baudelaire as having paved the way for him and as the inspiration behind his poetry.

While the nihilism of these writers might be something of a blind alley if taken alone, and for many an all-too-shocking description of human nature, they did at least move towards a more authentic insight into that nature, if ultimately a too-pessimistic and destructive one. From  more recent work on the shadow as being both dark and light, we can embrace the shadow as having something to teach us, as gifting us with the potential for liberation and motivation, while living alongside the inherent potential danger.

It is unclear whether or not Baudelaire reached a level of self acceptance and accommodation. Certainly by all accounts he struggled and suffered but also experienced episodes of joy and happiness  in his life. I suspect we are all dancing a similar dance and can only hope that through literature, compassion, empathy and all the many forms of self-expression we can find, we can each give and take encouragement with our fellow journey-makers. Whether or not we manage to face, own and constructively channel our own shadow aspect is possibly the chief deciding factor of our mental health and well-being, perhaps even one of the  core tasks of our lives.

The novel Black Venus  by James MacManus is and excellent read by the way (follow the link at the start of this post).

My book is available now in the UK, USA and on Palgrave and Amazon sites:

Creativity and Social Support in Mental Health: Service Users’ Perspectives (Palgrave 2014)

 

images: Top: Charles Baudelaire by Emile Deroy

and Second image is T.S.Eliot photo by Lady Ottoline Morrell

 

 

Creative Mental Health: Scotland and UK

wordle of mental health and recovery terms

The Scottish Recovery Network recently called for a complete rethink on mental health care and in particular with regard to legislation. They have argued that,

To date, Scotland’s mental health laws have been recognised as progressively rights-based compared to many others around the world. However SRN believes this respected position is threatened unless we take the opportunity to engage in a much wider review of how our national laws reflect and respond to the changing legal and policy landscape.

Scotland is becoming an increasingly rights-based, recovery oriented nation….The law needs to better reflect and progress person-centred, strengths-based policy and practice that is already taking shape in Scotland and beyond.

Recovery seeks to achieve the best personal outcomes for all – people with lived experience and practitioners – and our laws can play a guiding role in achieving this.”  [SRN 2014]

 

Creativity and Mental Health

With the emphasis shifting away from illness and diagnosis and towards a focus on positive health, strength building and recovery of well-being, it is time to push for a complete overhaul of the whole idea of mental health  ‘treatment’ and ‘care’. A more refreshing picture would entail integrated services that recognise a central role for creative activity and social support in the lives of all humans, most especially when we are stressed, alienated, cognitively overwhelmed or in an otherwise vulnerable state. Those two factors emerge clearly from many qualitative and quantitative studies of service users’ perspectives and, furthermore, are even more effective when a dedicated place or site is available in which to gather on a regular basis.

It has, in fact, been demonstrated that given enough information, support and appropriate cultural conditions, people in the throes of extreme experience can and do navigate a course towards re-instating their well-being, indeed this could be thought of as creative recovery, a form of self-actualisation. No longer is it acceptable to write off people with severe mental health issues as ‘unsuitable’ for psychotherapeutic approaches. One UK study demonstrated that Cognitive Behaviour Therapy helped fifty percent of unmedicated participants to significantly reduce their psychotic experiences.

I recently reflected here on new developments in mental health in Ireland, much of which resonates with the work and approaches taken by the Scottish Recovery Network cited here, as well as with many commentators and activists in the UK such as Dr Joanna Moncrieff and in the US through informative and radical bloggers at Beyond Meds and Mad in America.

 

Rethinking Mental Health

An upcoming book by Professor Peter Kinderman at the University of Liverpool looks and sounds very exciting and resonates with my own current publication. Keep an eye out for A Prescription for Psychiatry coming soon.

 

citation for image and info: SRN, 15th April 2014, scottishrecovery.net @ Scottish Recovery Network and @SRN_Tweet

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