Basic Journal Exercises for Ira Progoff’s Intensive Journal Process

Recently one of my readers asked if I could provide clearer instructions for Progoff’s Intensive Journal Process.  Since I was unable to reply directly, I am responding publicly by posting the instructions I distilled for myself more than three decades ago.  Around that time I presented two informal journal workshops for some of my friends. I did not do this professionally nor did I receive monetary compensation. 

Introduction & General Instructions

NOTE:  The following information and instructions are revisions of information from At a Journal Workshop:  The Basic Text and Guide for Using the Intensive Journal Process by Ira Progoff, published by Dialogue House Library, New York, NY, 1975.

            Progoff’s Intensive Journal is a way you can explore your past as it relates to the present.  This exploration involves using both the conscious, rational mind and the nonrational, intuitive mind.  The basic writing for the Intensive Journal involves preparatory work that leads to writing dialogues with persons and events/concepts.  There are many other writing exercises, but these are the basics.  According to Ira Progoff each person has his or her own, unique evolutionary process.  His Intensive Journal is a way to cooperate with this process.

Metaphors may help explain the need to begin with the with the preliminary exercises — Period Log, Period Image, Life Steppingstones and Steppingstone Period/Life History Log.  Gardening is one of them.  One must prepare a garden by breaking up the soil to make it fertile ground for new growth.  The beginning writing exercises are intended to accomplish this.  A computer is another.  A computer can store vast amounts of information, but only a portion of that is available for active use — Random Access Memory or RAM.  When RAM is increased, more information is available and more work can get done more quickly.  Our minds, like computers, contain far more information than is available in consciousness.  The basic journal exercises increase the amount of conscious information.

(Meditations for the Period Log, the Period Image, and Life Steppingstones are included in an addendum at the end of this article. The meditations are taken from Ira Progoff’s work.  I used the meditations when I gave the journal workshops for my friends.  They were able to begin writing almost immediately after the meditations.  It felt as if those words provided sufficient instruction and inner focus to engage in the process with little need for questions.)

Things to remember:

  • Label and date all your journal entries with the month, day, and year.
  • Don’t destroy what you write. It might not seem to make much sense today, but next week or next month or next year it may prove to be very valuable.  Your journal can be a charting of your experiences in the medical sense of the word.  Cumulative entries can show patterns that may help you understand yourself better or provide suggestions for writing in other sections of the journal.
  • Let your writing happen. Let it flow without criticism or censorship.  A disorganized, rambling entry is often more valuable in the insights it makes available than one that resembles a literary masterpiece.
  • File your journal entries. As you accumulate different types of journal entries, file them in the appropriate section of your journal or make notes referencing and cross referencing entries to different sections.  Where you write something is not as important as that it gets written.  Where it’s filed is less important than being able to find it when you need it.

Period Log

The Period Log allows us to discover where we are in our growth process now.  It should cover a period of time that is more than last month.  It usually covers three to six months or longer.  If you haven’t done much interior work, the Period Log may cover several years. (See Addendum for a Period Log Meditation)

To write in the Period Log:

  1. Sit in silence allowing our mind to travel back over this period in your life. Let it take shape within you. If you’re writing in a group, you’ll probably have about 45 minutes to do this entry.
  2. Focus more specifically on the contents of this recent period and write about them. Write the memories and facts of your experiences without judgment and without censorship. Record the specific contents but not the details of this period.  This is an outline picture and an overview of this recent time in your life.  Write simply and briefly.
  3. Questions to help your writing:
  • When did this period start? Is there a particular event associated with this period?
  • What memories do you have of this period?
  • Angers, arguments, physical fights?
  • Friendships: loving, spiritual, and/or physical?
  • Relationship with your family?
  • Your work?
  • Social activities?
  • Physical illness?
  • Inner experiences: spiritual, artistic, extrasensory, dreams?
  • Success or failures?
  • Good luck or misfortune?
  • Strange, uncanny events or coincidences?
  1. Begin your writing with: “This time that I’m living in began when…”
  2. Conclude your entry with: “This time that I’m living in feels like…”
  3. When you’ve finished writing the Period Log, examine your feelings about what you’ve written. Are you comfortable with it? Does it feel complete?  Record your answers to these questions at the end of the Period Log Entry.
  4. Read it aloud to yourself. Does this change your experience of what you’ve written? Record your reaction.

Period Image

The Period Log primarily used your rational mind to focus on the conscious thoughts and memories of the “now” of your life.  The Period Image uses the nonrational mind to do the same thing.

(Progoff records this journal entry in a separate log called the Twilight Imagery Log.  I find it more helpful to record this entry in the Period Log section of the journal immediately after the Period Log entry.)  

Twilight imaging allows access to the nonrational and the intuitive.  The twilight state is that place between waking and sleeping.  It happens just before you drift off to sleep.  It also happens during those times we’ve put ourselves on “automatic pilot.”  We’re performing some routine task, like driving or washing dishes or shaving and our minds are a million miles away.  We finish our task but don’t remember doing it.

While we speak of “twilight imaging,” the experience may not be an image.  It could be sound, a touch, a sensation, a fragrance, or any other type of experience.  Each of us has our own unique inner language of metaphor and symbol.  Whatever comes to you in whatever form is your “twilight imagery.”

For a workshop I would say:

“I’m going to read a guided imagery for you, and after I finish reading, I’ll allow about ten minutes for you to sit in silence.  I’ll watch the time, and I’ll bring you back gently when it’s over.  Just relax.  This is simply a time for you to be with yourself.  Allow the experience to just happen.  Let go of control of your mind, and allow whatever happens to flow without censorship or direction.  Afterward you’ll record your experiences in the Twilight Imagery Log or Period Log.”  (See Addendum for a Period Image Meditation)

For someone working alone:

  1. Reread your Period Log entry. Read it aloud if possible.
  2. Sit in silence. Relax and just be with yourself.
  3. Allow the experience to just happen without censorship, control or direction.
  4. Record your experiences when you are ready.
  5. Reread what you’ve written. Read it aloud if possible.
  6. Answer and record the following questions: How does your twilight imagery experience relate to the Period Log? Does it relate?  Is it parallel?  Opposite?  Seemingly unrelated?

 

Life Steppingstones

The purpose of the Life Steppingstones is to “loosen the soil” of our lives to give us access to life events that we may have been too pressured to truly experience at the time they were happening and to get acquainted or reacquainted with who we are and from where we’ve come.  Progoff uses a mountain climbing metaphor:  Life Steppingstones as like “markings’ that a mountain climber makes.  They outline the route that he’s taken — sometimes up, sometimes down — to get from one place to another.

Life Steppingstones are significant events that mark a period of time in our lives and set the theme for that period.  The Life Steppingstones are like chapter titles.  They are the chapter titles you would use if you were to write your autobiography now.  The next time you record Life Steppingstones will be from a different “now,” and may reflect different themes and patterns.

You should have no fewer than 8 and no more than 16 steppingstones; 10 to 12 are recommended.  The limit on the number is to encourage you to see patterns and cycles in your life rather than a series or list of significant events.  The limit helps us to see the relationships between the various events of our lives.

As you list your Life Steppingstones, specific memories of events associated with a steppingstone may come to mind.  Note them briefly under that steppingstone as if they were subheadings within that chapter.

The steppingstones may not come to mind in chronological order.  Write them down as they present themselves.  When your list of steppingstones is complete, you can number them appropriately.

Begin by sitting in silence.  I’ll get us started with a reading from At a Journal Workshop, page 104.  (This is included in the Addendum of this article as the Life Steppingstone Meditation.)  When I finish, spend some additional time in silence.  Come back to the room when you are ready and write your Life Steppingstones.  You’ll have about 10 minutes in which to complete the whole entry — time in silence and writing.

Outline of instructions for Life Steppingstones:

  1. Sit in silence passively reflecting over the course of your life.
  2. Write the steppingstones as they come to mind including specific memories associated with each as a subheading.
  3. Number the steppingstones in chronological order if they need to be.
  4. Read them to yourself in chronological order — the steppingstones only, without the subheadings. Read them aloud if possible.
  5. Record your reactions to reading the steppingstones.

 

Steppingstone Period

A Steppingstone Period is one of the Life Steppingstones expanded upon.  Writing a Steppingstone Period is like writing a Period Log except that it is about the past rather than the present.  Your opening sentence begins with:  “It was a time when…” And you can conclude the entry with a metaphor or a simile:  “That period of my life was like…”  Refer back to the Period Log section for more complete instructions.

It’s not necessary to write a Steppingstone Period for each Life Steppingstone unless you want to.  It’s enough to write about one or two that seem to be particularly meaningful to you now.  If none seem especially meaningful, write on the first one that comes to mind.  The Steppingstone Section provides leads for other writing.

 

Life History Log

This section contains what it says, life history.  This entry resembles a Steppingstone Period, but it’s longer and more complete.  (In practice, I don’t do Steppingstone Period entries.  I use a Life Steppingstone as a chapter title and write that chapter of my life in the Life History Log.)

 

Dialogue with Persons

In the Intensive Journal you can dialogue with anyone.  You can dialogue with people living or dead, people known to you or historical figures from the distant past.  You can even dialogue with different parts of yourself or with yourself at another age.

To dialogue with a person:

Note:  Steps 1 through 4 are optional.

  1. Sit in silence reflecting on your relationship with this person.
  2. In two or three paragraphs write a brief description of that relationship.
  3. Read the statement back to yourself. Make whatever changes you feel are important, BUT write the as additions.
  4. Record your feelings as you wrote the description and also as you read it to yourself.

You may begin here.

  1. Write the steppingstones for this person’s life. Sit in silence. Allow the steppingstones to come to mind.  Record them in the first person — i.e., “I was born.”  List as many steppingstones as you can or want to.  There is no limit on the number of steppingstones here.  If the person is someone you don’t know very well, the number of steppingstones may be very few.  The purpose of these steppingstones is to place us in the actuality of the person’s life as though we were participating in it from within.
  2. Read the steppingstone list to yourself when it is completed. Then sit in silence focusing on the person and the relationship. Record whatever comes to you in twilight imagery after the person’s steppingstones.
  3. Return to the silence and allow the person to become present to you.
  4. Allow the dialogue to begin. Record it as it unfolds within you. Don’t try to direct it.  Let it happen.  The dialogue writes itself.
  5. After writing the dialogue, return to stillness. Become aware of the emotions you had while writing it and record them.
  6. Read the dialogue to yourself. Record your responses to the reading. Is it different from the writing?  Read it aloud if you wish.
  7. Allow time to pass and read it again. In a few days, when enough time has passed to give you some distance from the dialogue script, read it again. If the dialogue wants to continue allow it to do so.  You can even allow monologues to happen, but if it is complete, let it be.  Record the date and your reactions.

 

Dialogue with Events

Events can be anything that aren’t persons.  They can be actual events like a party, an accident, an achievement, or a failure.  Events can be abstract concepts, too, like emotions or truth or justice.  Circumstances that exert a real influence on us are no longer fixed and opaque.  They become accessible to us as persons with whom we can communicate.

To dialogue with events:

  1. Write a focusing statement. This could be a brief description of an event or situation, or it could be a working definition. (Often I use a dictionary definition as a starting point and add my own parts to it to complete what I mean by the word or event.)
  2. Do steppingstones of its life. If it is a real situation, record the events leading to its occurrence. If it’s an abstract concept, record your experiences of this concept as the event’s steppingstones.
  3. Sit in silence. When the steppingstones are finished, sit in silence drifting to the level of twilight imagery. Let the images come and record them.
  4. Read the steppingstones again allowing them to present the event to you as a person.
  5. In stillness feel the presence of the person and speak to that person.
  6. Sit in silence again. When the dialogue is finished, sit in silence becoming calm again.
  7. Reread the script. Compare feelings while rereading it to feelings while writing. Record both.
  8. Let the dialogue sit. Then come back to it several days later to reread it and extend it if necessary. Record your reactions to this rereading along with the date.

 

Daily Log

Keeping a daily log is recommended, but it’s not essential.  It’s similar to a diary but with the emphasis on feelings and inner experiences rather than external events.

To write in the Daily Log:

  1. Sit in silence first and let your mind gently go back over your day. Spend a minute or two or maybe even five or more in silence.
  2. Record briefly the events of your day to provide a context for your feelings and inner experiences.
  3. Write about your feelings and inner experiences. (It’s encouraged that you write about the experiences as they happen. Some people carry a notebook with them and write in it from time to time during the day.  For most people this is not possible but writing about inner experiences as they occur happens more often than you would expect.  Usually new experiences occur while you’re writing, and because you’re writing, they can be recorded as they happen.)
  4. Record dreams here. This is a brief account to fix it in your memory so that later it can be recorded in full in your Dream Log.
  5. Write whatever and whenever you can. Often daily entries are impossible because our lives are too busy. Summarize the intervening days — the outer events and the inner experiences associated with them.

 

Dreams

Dreams can be recorded in the Daily Log or in the Dream Log or both.  If a dream is recorded in only one log, it should be cross referenced in the other.  Dreams can be worked with in Dream Enlargement and/or Dream Leads.

Dream Enlargement:

  1. Put yourself back into the movement of the dream. Reread it two or three times. Then sit in silence and allow the dream to continue.
  2. Record your experiences. The recording can be done in brief, half-legible scrawls during the process. Sometimes it’s too difficult to break away to do this and much must be held in memory.  You can speak aloud the experiences as they happen to help hold them in memory or use a tape recorder.  (Progoff suggests a separate section of the journal for this entry.  I prefer to place this entry after the dream itself in the Dream Log.)
  3. Reread the Dream Enlargement. Notice the feelings and emotions that arise — those generated by the original experience and those generated by the rereading — and record them.

Dream Leads:

  1. Free associate with the dream and dream enlargement line by line and record the associations. (Progoff says to record each in the appropriate journal section, but I think it’s sufficient to put them all in one place to begin with, and in rereading you can find and record where each belongs or just follow up with the appropriate dialogue. Be sure to cross reference.)
  2. Reread the free-associated material. See what “speaks” to you. Where else in the journal does the dream suggest that you work?  Is there a person or event to dialogue with?
  3. Sit in silence for a while after rereading. Record your experiences and do any follow-up writing that feels appropriate.

 

Correlating your dream to your waking life:

You can do this instead of — as well as in addition to — the Dream Enlargement and the Dream Leads.

  1. Sit in silence. Feel the process of your life as it moves within you. Let it present itself.
  2. Draw yourself back to the dream or series of dreams. Feel the emotional tone and the movement and rhythm of the dream. These are more important than the details.
  3. Add to the dream the twilight dreaming. Draw dream and twilight dreams together and feel them as a single continuity.
  4. When the experience of the single continuity is full within you, hold it. Stop the movement.  Hold it as if you’re holding it in your hand.  Using this inner experience as a base, draw together the equivalent movement that has taken place on the outer level of your life as a whole.  This is sort of like introducing your dream life to the corresponding part of your waking life.

            With eyes closed go back over the sequences of your life.  Reflect on the Life Steppingstones, the rhythms of change, the flow and combination of circumstances that carried you into the recent period of your life.  Mainly try to feel the larger outline of the movement of your life.

  1. Let the movement of your life take on a symbolic image. Whatever form it takes, hold it in your right hand. Symbolically this is as though you are placing your waking life on the right side of your mind.
  2. Take the sleep dreams and twilight dreams into your left hand. These are the unified movement of your inner nonconscious life.
  3. Balance one against the other as though there is a scale within your mind. Let them equalize themselves.
  4. When they come to balance, ask what the two sides have to say to each other. And ask what they say to you when you set them side by side.
  5. As you do this, let yourself be especially open to additional images, feelings, thoughts, insights, recognitions, ideas, perceptions, emotions, new inspirations and plans that take shape in you.
  6. Record all of the above either in the Dream Enlargement section (or after the dream in the Dream Log as I do). Return to them later, after a few hours or a few days, and see what additional material is generated. There may be feedback leads to follow up in another section of the journal.

 

Intersections:  Roads Taken and Not Taken

In additions to exploring crossroads of the past, this section can also be used to explore issues that require us to make decisions now.  It’s a tool for making decisions as well as for opening new/old possibilities.  It helps us to tap into our inner knowing.

Outline of instructions for Intersections:  Roads Taken and Not taken:

  1. Reread your Steppingstone Period (or Life History Log). Steep yourself in the atmosphere of that time. Allow other, more specific memories to surface.  As they come to mind, list them briefly in the Life History Log.  At a later time you may go back and expand on these memories recording them in greater detail.
  2. As memories come to mind, some of them may be intersections where a decision or choice was made or forced by circumstances. List these memories in Intersections as well. Good preparation in the Life History Log is important for doing this.
  3. Of the intersections you’ve listed, choose one that you want to explore more fully.
  4. Examine and write about the course you actually took and its immediate consequences.
  5. List the various other possibilities that were reasonably feasible at the time. Do this briefly.
  6. Project intuitively and imaginatively the other varieties of possibilities — even those beyond our immediate vision of practicality or the apparently impractical. List these briefly.
  7. Through twilight imagery allow yourself to explore whatever possibilities come to you.
  8. Record your experiences.

 

Dialogue with Works

(This section of my notes is not complete.  It needs a definition of works.)

Outline of instructions for Dialogue with Works:

  1. Make a list of works from the life Steppingstones.
  2. Reread the list and amplify it with other works that come to mind.
  3. Make entries in other sections of the journal as appropriate.
  4. Choose a work to dialogue with, one that “speaks” to you or that has further possibility of development.
  5. Make a statement of the situation in which we find ourselves with respect to the work.
  6. Do steppingstones for the work. Sit in stillness. Let them present themselves.
  7. Set the atmosphere for the dialogue. In stillness allow the images to come and record them.
  8. Dialogue. In stillness and feeling the presence of the work, we speak to it. Record the dialogue.
  9. Record your feelings while writing the dialogue and your feelings afterward.
  10. Go back over the dialogue and read it silently. Don’t edit, but add further thought and feelings as an afterward.
  11. If the dialogue wishes to extend itself allow it to do so. This may occur several days later.

 

 

ADDENDUM

 

Period Log Meditation:

Sit in silence.  Eyes closed.  Relaxed.  Quietly, inwardly, feel the movement of your life.  Let yourself feel the implications of the question, “where am I now in my life?”  Don’t thinkFeel.  Thoughts will come to you.  Let them come, and let them go.  They will return to you as images.

There will come to you a generalized awareness of this recent period in your life.  Let the quality of the experience of this recent period express itself to you.  It may take the form of an image, a metaphor, a simile, or some spontaneous adjective that describes it in a word.  Let this happen without censorship — neither rejecting nor affirming.

There may be more than one image, and these “images” may be visual or auditory.  They may be physical sensations or emotions.  Whatever form they take, let them come.  Be aware of them.  Take note of them.  Let them come.

(ALLOW A PAUSE HERE OF 3 TO 5 MINUTES)

          Now focus more specifically on the contents of this recent period of your life.  When did this period start?  Is there a particular event that’s associated with it?

Reconstruct the outlines of this period recalling specific details as they come to you.  Memories.  Family.  Work.  Social activities.  Accidents or physical illnesses.  Arguments, angers, physical fights.  Friendships — loving, spiritual, or physical.  Significant dreams.  Inner experiences that were artistic, spiritual, or extrasensory in nature.  Strange, uncanny events or coincidences.  Good luck or misfortune.

When you are ready, come back to the room and write the outlines of this period simply and briefly.  Your first sentence will be:

“This time that I am living in began when…”

 

Period Image Meditation:

I am sitting in a place of quietness letting the Self become still, letting the breath become slow, letting my thoughts come to rest.

Letting the Self become still, energies that were moving about can go inward now, can come to rest in the stillness of my quiet being.

Breathing becomes quiet now, not breathing by the tempo of outer things, but by an inner tempo, breathing at an inner pace, the breath moving in and out of itself, carried by its own rhythm, adjusting itself to itself.

Breathing at an inner pace my thoughts let go of my breathing.  Breathing at an inner pace the breath is free to come and go in its own timing.  The breath is slow and regular, moving in and out by its inner tempo, carried by its own rhythm, adjusting itself to itself.

Breathing at an inner pace thoughts become quiet.  Restless thoughts that have been moving about, restless thoughts dissipating their energies can come to rest now, can bring their energies together into one place resting on the steady breathing.

Excess thoughts drop away.  I become still.  Thinking becomes quiet, thoughts fitting together and settling into one place by themselves without my thinking them.  Many mixed thoughts become one whole thought contained within itself.  One whole thought in the mind at rest.

Letting the Self become still, letting my thoughts come to rest, letting my breath become slow.  Breathing becomes quiet, breathing becomes slow, and slower; breathing becomes regular, regular.  The unevenness of nonessential thoughts drops out of the breathing.  It becomes the breathing of the Self.

Breathing at an inner pace the breath moves at the center of my Self — at the center of my Self in regular rhythms.  My body is quiet, holding its place.  The breath is moving evenly — inward, outward, evenly in its own rhythm.  The breath moves evenly at the center of my body, at the center of my Self.

The breath is moving at the center of my Self in a regular rhythm.  The breath moves at the center.  The breath moves at the center breathing at an inner pace.  As the breath moves at the center, quietly, evenly, the Self becomes still like quiet water.

The Self becomes still like quiet water.  In the stillness of the Self, in the quiet of the water my inward ear hears, my inward eye sees signs and words and visions reflected in the quiet waters in the stillness of the Self, in the Silence…  In the Silence.

 

Life Steppingstones Meditation:

Close your eyes and sit in silence.  In this stillness, let your breathing become slower, softer, more relaxed.  As you are quieted, you let yourself feel the movement of your life.  You do not think about any specific aspect of your life, but you let yourself feel the movement of your life as a whole.  In your silence you let the changing circumstances and situations of your life pass before the mind’s eye.  Now you may recognize the varied events in their movement, not judging them nor commenting on them, but merely observing them as they pass before you.  You perceive them and feel them in their generalized movement without actually seeing the details of them.

As you do this, it may be that the events of your life will present themselves to you as a flowing and continuous movement, as a river moving through many changes and phases.  Or it may be that your life will present itself to you as a kaleidoscope of disconnected events.  Whatever the form in which the continuity of your life reflects itself to you now, respond to it, observe it, and let the flow continue.

If images present themselves to you on the twilight level, take note of them.  They may come as memories or visual images or inner sensations of various kinds.  Especially they may state themselves as similes or metaphors in addition to expressing the literal facts of past experience.  Let your attitude be receptive enough that the continuity of your life as a whole can present itself.

Grief: Existential & Otherwise

2018-07-01 - For Post made on this date

Yesterday I participated in a Families Belong Together demonstration in Lancaster, California.  I did it for me!  I needed to connect with others, and I didn’t have the energy to make the trip to Los Angeles to participate in the larger one.  I was grateful to find a local demonstration.

There were maybe as many as 100 of us.  Most were middle aged or older.  I suppose the younger ones were either in Los Angeles for the larger demonstration or at work.  We were a subdued group — too subdued for the intent of this event — maybe because we are older or maybe because we are becoming exhausted with the ongoing drama of Trump’s administration and the consistent level of trauma it engenders.

I’m struggling.  I am at risk of being paralyzed by a grief that threatens to become clinical depression.  Brain fog has taken over again along with fatigue and low energy.  I have to force myself to do ordinary, everyday activities of living.  I have to remind myself that ‘joy’ is a discipline that can be practiced in the midst of suffering — my own and others.

I struggle with deciding where to focus my attention.  I am tempted to discount my own, very real grief because others have bigger troubles.  And yet, if I fail to have compassion for my own suffering, I risk losing compassion for others.  I need to find some balance here, and I’ struggling with that.  I am sure that I am not alone in feeling the way I do.

Much of my grief is personal.  Where once my solitary life was welcome, — or, at least, manageable — my aging body makes it more of a problem.  Solitude too often shifts into loneliness.  I grieve my own loneliness.  I cannot fault anyone but myself for this circumstance.

I’d hoped that participating in the Families Belong Together demonstration would help me find some balance.  It didn’t.  I’m still confused.  I had other city errands to complete after the demonstration ended.  The brain fog and sadness continued.

Today I’ve made an effort to return to a regular ‘practice.’  As part of that effort I did the qigong workout that I’d discontinued while I was working on the series of articles on the medial personality.  I wept during the first part of that workout.  I suppose I needed to do that.

I’m not sure how much of what I feel is my own and how much is a resonance with the suffering in the world around me.  There is a stillness in my body that I associate with deep grief.  I don’t know why I am alive.  I suppose I don’t need to know the ‘why’ of my life.  That I am still in a body is sufficient evidence that there is some purpose for me to fulfill.

Poustinia Journal: Colors

Aside

(Poustinia Journal, 11/24/2012)

I appreciate the vividness of the Colors of the Creation and the mystical, luminous White Light.  These are the colors of completion.bright-colors-hallway-914113 - CROPPED

I am fascinated by the Gray.  It is the chaos of metamorphosis and transformation; of the disintegration prerequisite for evolution; the yet unformed and forming that will eventually emerge into the vivid Colors of Creation.  Gray is the color of becoming.

I am seduced by the awesome mysteries of the Black.  I fear that in entering its depths, I may be lost forever.  However, it promises me “incomparable light” if I willingly go there — not just for myself, but for others.  Black is the Color of Mystery.

I accept the invitation.

 


This was written in response to the first chapter of Mary K Delirgio’s, Our Journey to the Sky Trafford Publishing, 2005.

MEDIAL PERSONALITY – Part 7: Resources

I am providing information about resources for those interested in learning more about the medial personality or topics related to it.  I have read or viewed most but not all of the material I’ve listed, and I’ve made comments about some of them.  This is hardly a complete list or resources.  I may add to it from time to time.  (In case you are wondering, I am not being paid for sharing any of this information.)

This concludes the series on the Medial Personality.  I won’t rule out the possibility of future articles related to the medial, but I have — at last and at least — completed the task assigned to me three and a half years ago.  


 

Aron, Elaine.  (1997)  The Highly Sensitive Person:  How to Thrive When the World Overwhelms You.  New York: Broadway Books.

Aron also has a website:  http://hsperson.com/

Beattie, Melody.  (1987) Codependent No More.  Center City: Hazelden.

Blackstone, Judith.  (2012)  Belonging Here:  A Guide for the Spiritually Sensitive Person.  Boulder: Sounds True.

Blackstone also has a website:  http://www.judithblackstoneblog.com/2012/judiths-new-book-belonging-here-a-guide-for-the-spiritually-sensitive-person/

Corson, Roberta Bassett.  (1998).  Wounds of the Medial Woman in Contemporary Western Culture.  Santa Barbara: Pacifica Graduate Institute.

This dissertation is the very best resource for information about the medial.  ProQuest offers it as a PDF document.  Price is $38.  The website is not easy to navigate, and it is helpful to have the publication number:  9912586. 

If you are serious about understanding this topic, Corson’s work is worth the investment!  For an academic paper, it is an easy read, but feel free to skip sections that don’t seem relevant.  You may want to begin with the five portraits of medial women in Chapter 3 before diving into the background material and the conclusions.  .  It is available at:  http://ProQuest.com

Curtan, Jim.  (Blog posts published 12/2016 – 11/2017)   Finding God In All Thingsjimcurtan.com

Curtan’s essays are inspiring, informational, and entertaining.  From his website:  “Jim Curtan is a motivational speaker, spiritual director, retreat leader.  He has taught extensively with New York Times best-selling author Caroline Myss and has been a faculty member of the Caroline Myss Educational Institute since its inception in 2003.  He has taught at the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, New York, The London Centre for Spirituality, The Crossings in Austin, Texas and The Learning Annexes in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego.  He has lectured and led workshops throughout the United States, in Canada, Great Britain, the Netherlands and Indonesia.  He has led spiritual retreats and workshops for the Young Adult Ministry of the Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles, the Metropolitan Community Church of Los Angeles and the California Men’s Gathering.”

Dale, Cyndi.  (2009)  The Subtle Body:  An Encyclopedia of Your Energetic Anatomy.  Boulder: Sounds True.

Dale also writes self-help books.  I prefer her more scholarly works.  She also has a website:  https://cyndidale.com/

de Castillejo, Irene Claremont.  (1973).  Knowing Woman: A Feminine Psychology.  New York: Harper & Row.

This book was my first introduction to the medial even though the medial is covered in only one chapter.  The rest of the book is just as valuable.  Please don’t be put off by the focus on women.  In today’s culture, it applies to any and all genders.

Delattre, Pierre.  (1971).  Tales of a Dalai Lama. Boston: Houghton Mifflin

This is a collection of short stories about a fictional, child dalai lama.  It includes the story, “Ten Conversations at Once” referenced in Medial Personality: Part 4 and Part 5. The book has been reprinted by other publishers and is still available.  You can also read it for free online.  Internet Archive makes it available as a 2-week loan.  https://archive.org/details/talesofdalailama00dela

Doherty, Catherine de Hueck. (1975) Poustinia: Christian Spirituality of the East for Western Man. Notre Dame: Ave Maria Press.

This book saved my life!  I was on the verge of committing suicide when I read it.  It gave me a reason for living and provided the loose structure I needed to organize my life.  I still consider myself a poustinik even though I am no longer a practicing Catholic and my approach to the spiritual life has more in common with Taoism than with Christianity.  However, Christian values are deeply ingrained in me.

Dubois, Allison.  Allison DuBois interview with Oprah.  The real life person on which the show Medium was based.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YKNbBzz5bdI

The first season of Medium on DVD has among its special features a documentary about Dubois, her husband, and their children.  I was fascinated by how well the family has adjusted to their extraordinary gifts.  They appear to live pretty much ‘normal’ lives.  I could not find another source for that documentary.  This interview with Oprah is the closest I could get.

Eden, Donna.  (1998, 2008)  Energy Medicine:  Balancing Your Body’s Energies for Optimal Health, Joy and Vitality.  New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher.

Eden and her husband, David Feinstein, Ph.D., also give online classes.  YouTube has several videos of her demonstrations.  Her own story is fascinating.

Estes, Clarissa Pinkola.  (1995)  Women who run with the wolves:  Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype.  New York:  Ballantine Books.

There is much about the medial in this book even though it is rarely addressed specifically.  This is another book that applies to all genders even though its title suggests otherwise.  Estes also has a website:  http://www.clarissapinkolaestes.com/

Finley, James.  (1978)  Merton’s Palace of Nowhere:  A Search for God Through Awareness of the True Self.  Notre Dame: Ave Maria Press

I included this book as a way to identify the author.  It has been reprinted many times.  The 40th Anniversary Edition was published in February 2018.  I have not read this book.  However, I have been privileged to participate in one-day retreats presented by the author, and I’ve attended his meditations at St. Monica Parish.  Thomas Merton was Finley’s spiritual director when both were monks at the Abbey of Gethsemani.  Finley leads a group meditation on the first and third Thursdays of each month for his home parish in Santa Monica, California.  More information is on his website:  https://www.contemplativeway.org/

Ford, Michael.  (1999)  Wounded Prophet:  A Portrait of Henri J. M. Nouwen.  New York: Doubleday.

Internet Archive Nonprofit Library.

This Internet Archive is not an easy site to navigate, but it does provide a wealth of material — including some that are on this list.  I watch free movies there!  https://www.archive.org

Merhige, Elias.  Remote Viewing lecture by Elias at the International Remote Viewing Association (IRVA)

I was intrigued by a documentary that was included as a special feature on a DVD of the movie, Suspect Zero.  Merhige had asked for a demonstration of remote viewing, and the ‘demonstration’ was his own directed experience of remote viewing.  I could not find that documentary online.  The closest I found was the video of this lecture.  https://archive.org/details/RemoteViewing#

Myss, Caroline.  (2001)  Sacred Contracts.  New York: Harmony Books.

Myss considers this her most important work.  However, it’s not my favorite.  Her works have had significant influence in my life.  In the beginning, they just sort of presented themselves to me when I most needed them.  My introduction to her was a video I found while browsing a thrift shop.  It was from one of her workshops, “Energetics of Healing.”  I liked her down-to-earth, no nonsense approach and her sense of humor.  Sacred Contracts showed up for me in another thrift store a few years later.  Several of her books have become best sellers.  These are available on her website along with many of her workshops.  https://www.myss.com

Orloff, Judith.  (2017)  The Empath’s Survival Guide:  Life Strategies for Sensitive People.  Boulder: Sounds True.

This book focuses on helping empaths and highly sensitive people manage their sensitivities — especially the effects from others.  Orloff is an empath herself, and she teaches a course for professional health practitioners:  “Becoming an Intuitive Healer.”  Orloff is psychiatrist and a member of the psychiatric clinical faculty at UCLA.  She also has a website:  https://drjudithorloff.com/

Progoff, Ira.  (1975). At a Journal Workshop:  The Basic Text and Guide for Using the Intensive Journal Process.  New York: Dialogue House Library.

The ‘Intensive Journal’ changed my life!  However, Progoff’s book is not the easiest way to learn the process.  His writing is stream-of-consciousness and sometimes circular so that figuring out the sequence of steps in the journal exercises is a challenge.  I spent many hours converting his circular language into linear steps.  It was worth the effort, but I wouldn’t have attempted it if I hadn’t already been introduced to the process through a workshop taught by a therapist who had studied with Progoff.  Sometimes I give informal classes using those linear steps.  However, formal workshops are available.  A schedule of official workshops is posted on the website:  http://intensivejournal.org/index.php

Psychology Today:  “Are You a Highly Sensitive Person? Should You Change? A sensitive person’s brain is different: Research points to some advantages.”  Posted Jul 27, 2017:  https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/neuroscience-in-everyday-life/201707/are-you-highly-sensitive-person-should-you-change

Simon, Tami.  (2009)  Kundalini Rising:  Exploring the Energy of Awakening.  Boulder: Sounds True.

This book is a wonderful resource!  It is a collection of articles written by a variety of authors.  Some are ordinary people who have had extraordinary experiences.  Some are spiritual teachers (Lawrence Edwards, Gurmukh Kaur Khalsa, Sivananda Radha).  Some are transpersonal psychologists (Ken Wilber, David Lukoff, Bonnie Greenwell).  And some are scientific researchers (Andrew Newberg, John Selby, Bruce Greyson).  Simon is the founder of Sounds True. 

Sounds True Publishinghttps://www.soundstrue.com

The Sounds True website has a wealth of publications — print, audio, and video — on spirituality, self-help, psychology, and probably other topics as well.  There is also a lot of free content.  In addition, many of their programs provide CEU’s for mental health professionals through R. Cassidy Seminars .

 

MEDIAL PERSONALITY – Part 6:  The Subtle Medial & the Borderline Personality

- Meme - I live in another dimension - 17760863_1500269446696862_8484280091939456806_o

 

Borderline personality disorder carries more stigma than any other  — especially among mental health professionals.  In graduate school we were taught to pay attention to our initial reactions to clients.  Immediately wanting to go out of your way to take care of a client or feeling unaccountably irritable, resentful, and rejecting were indications that we had a borderline client.

Most literature about borderline personality disorder (BPD) tends to blame the BPD client’s behavior, attitude, and emotional reactivity for causing these initial reactions in others.  However, ‘initial reactions’ occur long before behavior, attitude, and emotional reactivity can be demonstrated.

‘Initial reactions’ occur long before behavior, attitude, and emotional reactivity can be demonstrated.

Initial reactions are not about behavior.  This suggests that a BPD diagnosis based on the therapist’s initial, subjective experience is either:  1) an excuse for the therapist’s countertransference or; 2) there is something about the client’s ‘being’ or physical presence that causes the uncharacteristic reaction in the therapist.

If therapists — who are trained to cope calmly with extreme emotions — have exaggerated reactions to BPD clients, what happens to untrained, ordinary people?  And a more important question, one that is rarely if ever asked is:  What happens to someone who consistently experiences exaggerated reactions from others? 

What happens to someone who consistently experiences exaggerated reactions from others? 

Such people could easily:

  • Have stormy, conflictual relationships
  • Find it difficult to trust
  • Feel misunderstood
  • Experience the help given to them as not what they need
  • Feel isolated, alienated, and abandoned
  • Feel hopeless
  • Initially value someone who appears to understand them, and then reject the person when there is evidence that the understanding is an illusion
  • Fear intimacy as a precursor to rejection (and provoke the rejection to end the fear)
  • Feel intense shame and self-doubt
  • Have difficulty trusting their own judgment and making decisions
  • Develop physical illnesses
  • Become emotionally reactive, frustrated, and rageful
  • Act out to express the rage
  • Use manipulation to get what they want/need
  • Come to believe that there is something wrong with what they are rather than what they do.

The causes of BPD have usually been attributed to perceived wounds from early childhood that were experienced as abandonment and/or double bind messages from a parent/caregiver.  The wounds may have been the result of living in a dysfunctional family; the reaction to a major trauma; or long term physical and/or sexual abuse.

What if there is another cause?  At least for some with BPD.  What if there is the sort of physical component that I described in the section, Fish Scales & Hummingbird Wings (MEDIAL PERSONALITY – Part 5:  Metaphors & Strategies for a Subtle Medial)?  What if those with BPD and those with medial personalities have that same component?

What if there is something about the physical being of a person that from birth sets up some kind of interference in the perceptions or subjective experiences of others?  Others could be drawn to or rejecting of such a person based more on illusion than on reality.  This ‘something’ could be brain waves; aura; pheromones; oscillations in molecular and atomic structures that are out of sync with the world, or something else currently unknown to us.

Perhaps this ‘physical component’ causes the person to be like a mirror or a movie screen that reflects the projections of others — either positive or negative.  Others would treat the projections as if they are real and become frustrated, resentful, and rejecting when the person did not react in accordance with the projection.

There are examples of the reflection of illusion in nature.  The beauty of rainbow trout and hummingbird wings is due to the way the scales and the feathers influence light.  The feathers and scales are themselves colorless.  What if a person has similar properties reflecting something that is illusion rather than reality — or a truth about the observer rather than the observed?

There is precedent for a change in the attribution of a cause for a mental illness.  In earlier times, schizophrenia was attributed to overprotective mothering which led to the development of family therapy.  Since then, we have learned that schizophrenia is a biologically based mental illness with a genetic component.  The disorder may be triggered by stress — which may or may not have to do with parenting style.  A parent whose child shows symptoms of schizophrenia could reasonably be expected to be protective of that child.

Another mental health professional has used Jungian archetypes in regard to borderline personality disorder.  Lorena Williams, LCSW, addressed this in her workshop, “Of Vampires and Goddesses:  Archetypal Considerations in Borderline Personality Disorder.” 

At the workshop, Ms. Williams told of working with a clinic that specialized in treating clients with BPD.  She was feeling hopeless about treatment for BPD until she began questioning what was happening.  Her questioning led her to explore archetypes and symbolic language and to view BPD in terms of “the journey of the soul of the client” and “the accompanying journey of their practitioners.”  Ms. Williams used the archetypes of ‘vampires’ and ‘goddesses’ to explain the experiences of those diagnosed with BPD and the people involved in treating them. 

(Note:  The quotes attributed to Ms. Williams are from my own transcription of a DVD of her presentation.  One of the participants gave me the DVD because of my interest in alternative theories of borderline personality disorder.  I am responsible for any errors in transcription.)

According to Ms. Williams, the symbolic language of archetypes: 

“…moves us into the collective unconscious in that place where all things are known, and with that we enter the language of the soul.  That goes beyond personality.  It is an entrée to mysticism and the sacred.  And it is very much alive.”

Ms. Williams’ description of ‘vampires’ is very much like the ‘brownouts’ I wrote about in Medial Personality – Part 5.  She suggests that these clients draw forth the therapist’s own shadow so that the therapist experiences his or her own inner darkness — not just that of the client.  The therapist is unaware of this and is under a ‘spell.’

“Our (the therapists’) first spell is that we don’t have a shadow — or much of one.  And our second spell is that the patient is the problem — not me.  And it is only after we have rigorously done the work in spell breaking for ourselves that we are in a position to do spell breaking with these patients.”

She goes to talk about the BPD client’s spell:

“…And here is their spell.  Their spell is that fulfillment is found externally.” 

Then Ms. Williams goes into a lengthy discussion of ‘goddesses’ — especially the dark feminine.

“…The Dark Feminine, the Black Madonna, and Kali, these are goddess energies that speak to us of the very qualities that we are taught to repress and suppress.  These are the very aspects of ourselves that we push aside, hide, deny and bury.  Whatever; just get them out of the way!  Since they are bursting through our collective psyche, it’s time to get them out and parade them around.  And in taking a good look at them, what I have seen is that they are the constellation of qualities attributed to borderlines.

“…Now all of these dark goddesses are also goddesses of primordial gardens.  This is about the ultimate mystery.  This is about things that are forever knowable and that there’s something about going into the darkness that lets us see secrets of the soul that we just cannot see in the light.  It is said that if one of these goddesses is visiting you, that you are truly blessed.  And that when you are in the company of the divine feminine, she represents currents of living that we must have in order to thrive and continue as a species. 

So as such, these borderlines — as representatives of the dark feminine — are agents for our own refinement.  These patients are reflecting back to us the darkness of the collective that we refuse to acknowledge.  And I want to say that again.  These patients are reflecting back to us the darkness of the collective that we refuse to acknowledge.” 

 

These patients are reflecting back to us the darkness of the collective that we refuse to acknowledge.” 

- Meme - Dark Feminine - 18447169_1918375928385044_3451318042121416903_n

I agree with Ms. Williams that a spiritual approach to borderline personality disorder is necessary, and I agree with her assertion that the therapist’s own shadow contributes to the problems involved in treating BPD clients.  I suspect the success of Marsha Linehan’s dialectical behavior therapy is due as much to its spiritual practice of mindfulness as to any of the other interventions involved.  Dialectical behavior therapy has become the standard of treatment for borderline personality disorder.

Many years ago I qualified for the diagnostic label of borderline personality disorder.  I have been careful not to disclose that until now.  The label has such a powerful stigma! When I’ve told others that the label had once applied to me, I’ve seen a veil of suspicion cover their faces while mental wheels reinterpreted every experience they ever had with me.  They no longer trusted their experiences, and I was discredited.

I prefer the medial archetype and the medial personality as explanations for my experiences in life.  I consider the medial archetype as a meta-archetype that incorporates all the other archetypes that are associated with nonordinary reality.  ‘Vampires’ and ‘goddesses’ fit well within the umbrella of the medial archetype.

The medial archetype:  A meta-archetype that incorporates all the other archetypes that are associated with nonordinary reality. 

‘Vampires’ and ‘goddesses’ fit well within the umbrella of the medial archetype.

______________________________________________________

References

Beattie, Melody.  (1987) Codependent No More.  Center City:  Hazelden

Corson, Roberta Bassett.  (1998).  Wounds of the Medial Woman in Contemporary Western Culture.  Santa Barbara:  Pacifica Graduate Institute

de Castillejo, Irene Claremont.  (1973).  Knowing Woman: A Feminine Psychology.  New York: Harper & Row.

Progoff, Ira.  (1975).  At a Journal Workshop:  The Basic Text and Guide for Using the Intensive Journal Process.  New York:  Dialogue House Library.

Williams, Lorena. (July 30 – August 3. 2007)  Of Vampires and Goddesses:  Archetypal Considerations in Borderline Personality Disorder.  Creativity & Madness Workshop, Santa Fe, New Mexico.

MEDIAL PERSONALITY – Part 5:  Metaphors & Strategies for a Subtle Medial

Mirrors & Projection Screens; Fish Scales & Hummingbird Wings; Power Surges & Brownouts; Automatic Faucetsthese are metaphors I’ve used to explain my own experiences as a subtle medial. 

 

Embed from Getty Images

 

Mirrors & Projection Screens

When we look at a mirror we see a reflection.  We don’t ‘see’ the mirror.  When I think of a mirror, I usually associate it with my own reflection and checking on my appearance.  But looking into a mirror could just as easily show a reflection of someone or something else.  It depends on where one is standing in relation to the mirror — one’s perspective.  The rear-view mirrors in our cars show us what is behind us while we are driving — both in space and time. 

In our everyday lives we are often ‘mirrors’ for each other.  Our interactions reflect our perceptions of each other.  We generally trust that what we ‘see’ is ‘real’, and we adjust our behavior accordingly.

But what happens if the mirror gives distorted reflections or sometimes operates like a two-way mirror and sometimes becomes a window?  What if what is ‘seen’ is not a true reflection of the other?  What if the mirror becomes a projection screen?

In recent years I’ve described myself as a mirror that is more ‘reflective’ than most — a mirror so reflective that it is almost impossible to ‘see’.  Most of the time this is not a problem.  When I am centered; when I am grounded in my own identity; when I feel the support of Inner Resources, I am able to be authentically myself regardless of how others ‘see’ me.  Like Delattre’s Great Hum, I can usually manage to “wear the mask the world places upon” me. 

“…Assume any mask the world places upon you and wear it with ease. Only then will your own divine countenance shine through…”

I long ago stopped trying to explain myself to others.  It’s more important that others know who they are.  Sometimes I return a mask to the person who ‘placed’ it on me.  I do this when it feels as if the person has given away too much their power to me.  I try to be gentle in my refusal.  I want them to feel empowered not rejected.

Not being ‘seen’ only becomes a problem for me when I am in the role of one being helped.  Casual interactions with store clerks are usually uneventful.  It becomes more troublesome when I need help with home repairs or car problems.  The real difficulty is when I — the real person — need help. 

When I really need help, my helper is rarely able to see me well enough to give me what I need.  The help offered goes to a reflection.  I thank my helper for his effort and explain that it’s not what I need.  I ask again making my request clearer and more specific — at least from my point of view.  My helper tries again from a different perspective but still doesn’t see me, and again the help goes to a reflection.  The cycle repeats until my helper becomes frustrated and gives up:  “I’ve done everything I can for you and it’s not enough!”  Both of us are wounded by the experience. 

Most of the time this kind of mismatch doesn’t progress to the point of frustration.  I don’t let it get that far.  I have learned to accept the caring intent of the help that goes to the reflection.  When I am spiritually and emotionally needy, I go inward and receive what I need from Inner Resources.  I can reach out afterward for validation from flesh and blood humans, and that is extremely valuable. 

As I grow older and my body progresses in the slow decline of aging, being ‘seen’ becomes more of an issue.  Eventually I will need to rely on others for what I can no longer do for myself.  I am concerned about the quality of the medical treatment that will be offered to me, and I am concerned about becoming so much of a burden for my caregivers that they feel intense resentment toward me.


Fish Scales & Hummingbird Wings

I haven’t always interpreted the misperceptions from others in terms of Jungian concepts.  More than fifteen years ago, I wrote about a ‘physical component’. 

What if there is something about the physical being of a person that from birth sets up some kind of interference in the perceptions or subjective experiences of others?  Others could be drawn to or rejecting of such a person based more on illusion than on reality.  This ‘something’ could be brain waves; aura; pheromones; oscillations in molecular and atomic structures that are out of sync with the world, or something else currently unknown to us.

Perhaps this ‘physical component’; causes the person to be like a mirror or a movie screen that reflects the projections of others — either positive or negative.  Others would treat the projections as if they are real and become frustrated, resentful, and rejecting when the person does not react in accordance with the projection.

There are examples of the reflection of illusion in nature.  The beauty of rainbow trout and hummingbird wings is due to the way the scales and the feathers influence light.  The feathers and scales are themselves colorless.  What if a person has similar properties reflecting something that is illusion rather than reality — or a truth about the observer rather than the observed?

The beauty of rainbow trout and hummingbird wings is due to the way the scales and the feathers influence light.  The feathers and scales are themselves colorless. 

Embed from Getty Images

 

This theory of a physical component does not contradict the Jungian concept of the medial personality.  Both could be different approaches to understanding the same thing.


Brownouts & Power Surges

These same differences of physical constitution and/or medial personality may be responsible for other problems in relationships.  I have found that the quality of my presence influences how others perceive me and how they react to me — especially when I am experiencing intense emotions. 

Maybe I operate on a different type of subtle energy system.  We are all aware of what happens with electricity in our homes.  Some electrical appliances draw more current than others.  Household lights dim when those are turned on.  Overloaded circuits blow fuses and trip breakers.  On the rare occasions when too much electricity flows through power lines, lights initially become brighter and then burn out — along with our computers — unless we have them plugged into surge protectors.  What if some of us have subtle energy systems that affect others in this way? 

Brownouts:  I have noticed that if I go to someone for help when I am emotionally and/or spiritually needy, I draw from that person more than he or she is prepared to give — even if I am careful about personal and professional boundaries and clear in my communications.  This is what I call a brownout’, aka, ‘burnout’.

Power Surges:  Something similar happens when I am euphoric.  My euphoria is contagious and infects the other causing him or her to react in uncharacteristic ways:  making exaggerated compliments; disclosing too much personal information; blurring boundaries; offering intimacy.  When the influence of my euphoria wears off, the other experiences embarrassment and regret.  I call this a ‘power surge.’ 


Automatic Faucets

All of us at one time or another have had the experience of another’s need drawing a response from us when we didn’t feel that we had anything to give.  Well, maybe we didn’t.  The other’s need drew a response through us the way putting hands beneath an automatic faucet draws forth water.  Subtle medials have an enhanced ability to perform this function.  Others draw through us what they need — even to the extent that our personalities may change in response to that need. 

None of us are tempted to glamorize the function of the automatic faucets we find in public restrooms, but it is not the same when people function that way.  Rather than recognizing the human automatic faucet as just an instrument, we tend to attribute the help received to the human being.  We focus our gratitude, admiration and respect on an instrument and not on its Source.  

When those of us who operate as human automatic faucets are unaware of our function, our egos will accept all of this as our due.  We own what flows through us as our identity rather than our function.  When no one activates the flow, we feel empty — because we are. 

The traditional label for finding one’s identity and validation in helping others is ‘codependence.’  The concept grew out of addiction treatment.  Beginning with Alcoholics Anonymous the term applied to those who ‘enabled’ the alcoholic’s addiction.  Eventually the term was applied to those who sought validation in helping others because their dysfunctional family system did not provide this for them when they were children.

I suspect there are different types of codependence.  Sometimes codependent behavior is caused by growing up in a dysfunctional family — with or without addiction as a contributing factor.  Sometimes it is due to the value a culture places on care giving — especially for women.  Sometimes it is the inherent function of a subtle medial personality.  And sometimes it is from some combination of these sources.

It is important for subtle medials to understand that we have identities separate from and more than what flows through us in response to others’ needs, expectations, and projections.  Otherwise we become possessed by the medial archetype and lose ourselves to our medial functions.

Subtle medials have identities separate from and more than what flows through us in response to others’ needs, expectations, and projections. 


Strategies for Managing My Own Medial Nature

Those of us with subtle medial personalities have a different way of ‘being.’  We need to understand this well enough to function in the world around us.  While medials are defined by the traits we have in common, we are sufficiently different from each other that we each need to develop our own ways of functioning in the world. 

What follows is a strategy I developed for myself.  Again I advise you to listen for the echo of your own lives in what I’ve written.”


Clare’s Strategy for Dealing with the External World of the Consensual Reality

1. I accept that what I am affects my relationships with others as much as — if nor more than — what I do.

2. I assume responsibility in relationships.  I accept that others will not ‘see’ me, and I make an effort to respond to misperceptions with tact and compassion.  I am careful to establish and maintain clear boundaries.  I set limits on other’s efforts to help me because they may not know when they have reached theirs.

3. I work at compensating for my effect on others.  I attempt to use good communication skills and to evaluate what is appropriate behavior for various situations.

4. The misperceptions I attract cause difficulties in conflict resolution.  To compensate, I try to contain my emotional reactions.  If possible, I leave a volatile situation to calm and to evaluate what happened.  I may write about it in a letter to the person before discussing it with them.  This gives the other time to reflect before responding.  It also removes the influence of my physical presence.  Sometimes I just write the letter to process what happened and never deliver it.  If I feel that more is needed, I will follow the letter — delivered or not — with a face-to-face discussion.  I may invite a neutral witness to assist with this.

5. Because I, too, misperceive others, I need to do reality checks with people whose judgment I can trust.

6. I need frequent time alone without outside influences to be myself and think my own thoughts.

7. I attend to my inner life and rely on Inner Sources for support and guidance. When I experience intense emotions, I go there for help. I wait until the intensity has dissipated before reaching out for validation from flesh and blood humans.


Clare’s Strategy or Dealing with the Inner World of the Other Consciousness

1. I practice maintaining a moment-to-moment awareness of this inner world.  I pay attention to thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations.  I have inner conversations with the concepts that have become my companions and guides.

2. I evaluate those inner experiences using both intellect and intuition to discern if, when, and how to translate those to the external world.  I’ve learned that I need to question whether the intense emotions I feel are mine or some else’s or both. When it’s ‘both,’ separating mine from another’s is more difficult.  I also question impulses to action.  Is this genuine intuitional guidance or some totally personal response?  How could my actions affect others?  Would they be harmed if I acted on the impulse?  Can I cope with the consequences if things don’t go well? 

3. I manage boundaries in the inner world.  I ask for guidance within and from that place. How do I help this person or this situation?  Is it necessary that I take action in the external world?  Do I reach out from my interior place to theirs?  Do I boundary myself in my own depths and ‘hold space’ for the other in doing so?  Most often I’m directed to boundary myself.  My boundaried presence there facilitates others’ access to the depths within themselves.  Reaching out from my space to theirs could interfere with their process.

4. I pay attention to my body.  My body is an instrument for discernment.  Are muscles relaxed or tense?  Butterflies in my stomach?  Tightness in my throat?  Dryness in my mouth?  Tunneled vision or panoramic view?  Sometimes my body signals a shift in my state of consciousness.  I may feel subtle energy flowing through me.  My body may convulse around my abdomen.  This often occurs when I’m directed to ‘go deep’ or told to ‘loosen the connections.’  ‘Going deep’ is entering my own depths and being boundaried there.  ‘Loosening the connections’ is making my inner boundaries permeable so that material from the depths flows through me.  I experience ‘going deep’ and ‘loosening the connections’ as slightly differing states of inner consciousness that I also feel in my physical body.

5. I continue to learn from and about this inner world and how I operate there.

 


Resources

Corson, Roberta Bassett. (1998). Wounds of the Medial Woman in Contemporary Western Culture. Santa Barbara: Pacifica Graduate Institute

de Castillejo, Irene Claremont. (1973). Knowing Woman: A Feminine Psychology. New York: Harper & Row.

Delattre, Pierre. (1971). Tales of a Dalai Lama. Boston: Houghton Mifflin

Progoff, Ira. (1975). At a Journal Workshop: The Basic Text and Guide for Using the Intensive Journal Process. New York: Dialogue House Library.

A Conversation with Suicide

Preface

This post is in response to news stories about suicide.  The following quote is from an article posted by Medscape, June 7, 2018.  (The article, U.S.  Suicides Increasing at ‘Alarming Rate,’ Says CDC, was written by Deborah Brauser.)  

“Suicide rates continue to rise dramatically for adults in the United States, according to a report by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released today.

Between 1999 and 2016, the time of the latest estimates, half of the states saw at least a 30% increase in suicide rates. And all states except Nevada increased by at least 6%. Overall, there were almost 45,000 total deaths by suicide in 2016 alone.

“And, unfortunately, our data show that the problem is getting worse,” Anne Schuchat, MD, principal deputy director of the CDC, said at a press briefing.

Suicide rates from 1999 to 2016 increased in all age groups younger that 75 years, with the greatest increase shown in “middle-aged adults” aged 45 to 64 years.  (Link to article, https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/897804?nlid=123049_3901)

Various news sources reported on the suicide of fashion designer, Kate Spade, earlier this week.  On Tuesday, June 5, 2018, Ms. Spade was found dead in her Manhattan apartment.  Her death was ruled a suicide by hanging.  She was age 55.

I know several people who have lost family members to suicide.  Each of them had some understanding of the difficulties that drove their loved ones to end their lives.  Even so death by suicide wounded them more than death by some other cause.  Second-guessing about what they should have done or not done intensified their grief. This is different from the suicides of those facing terminal illnesses and choosing to die with dignity.

When life is difficult, anticipation of a long, restful sleep makes death seductive.  I have felt the pull of that seduction nearly every day of my life.  I made three serious suicide attempts.  The first was at age 12; the last was at age 23 — almost 50 years ago.  I have vowed not to end my life with suicide.  I’m an old woman, and I’m no longer anyone’s priority.  My death by natural causes would cause only momentary sadness in those who know me.  My suicide, however, would wound many.  I choose not to do that.

Many years ago, I explored the concept of suicide using the Intensive Journal.  It turned out to be a valuable experience.  I’m sharing the results of that exploration in story form.


 

A Conversation with Suicide

(This story is a revision of entries in my Poustinia Journal for July 1988.)

Once upon a time, I asked Suicide to talk with me.  Suicide had long been a seductive presence in my life, and I wanted to confront this.  The conversation did not go as I expected.  Mr. Suicide introduced himself with words before he showed himself as an image.  Here is his introduction:

Mr. Suicide Introduces Himself

I began with your distant ancestors.

I was passed on to you by your grandparents and parents.

I had my beginnings for you in the accident of your conception.

I grew in each rejection you experienced no matter how subtle.

I grew also in each of your successes and the jealousies and rejections they caused.

I grew in your confusion about life and its meaning or lack of it.

I grew in your misbelief that you were ‘different’ and a ‘misfit.’

I was the attempt to make real the illusion that you should never have been.

I was to have been done in secret, sparing others’ feelings as much as possible.

I was an attempt to undo the wrong of your existence.

Frustration:  I was the solution of ‘last resort.’

I am a lie.

I have always failed.

 

 

Ghost of Christmas Future - enlargedAt first Suicide was only a presence:  cool, silent, empty, seductive.  This was death with control — the ultimate control of life.  When Suicide eventually materialized, it appeared as the Ghost of Christmas Future from the Alistair Sims’ version of A Christmas Carol.

Suicide sat in an overstuffed armchair across from mine. We were in a living room where the lights had been dimmed so that we were only visible to each other.  The rest of the room was in shadow.

I began, “Suicide, I want to speak with you.”

The response was a sibilant, “Yeeesss?”

Slightly exasperated and trying not to let it show, I continued, “You’ve been a part of my life on several occasions.  Actually, in a mild form you are always present.  The depression is a nonlethal form of self-murder — like living in a coma.  Not quite as final as physical death, but often as effective.  You’ve whispered your seductions like a siren.  You’ve spoken aloud only seldom.  Will you speak with me out loud — now?”

Continuing with the sibilant whisper, the speech slow and languid, “If I must.  I’m quiet by nature.  What would you have me say?  What can I tell you that you do not already know about me?”

I went on, “I only want you to come out of hiding, to reveal yourself as something more solid so that I can understand you better, and therefore understand part of my life.  Who are you?”

Suicide answered, “I’m the ultimate in control over your life.  I am the final solution.  A solution of last resort.”  

“I’m the ultimate in control over your life.  I am the final solution.  A solution of last resort.”  

At this point the conversation was interrupted.


When we met again several hours later, I felt a lot of resistance in my body:  convulsive movements around my abdomen, head arching back, mouth opening to form a silent scream.  Then Suicide appeared as a robed and hooded figure, a dark shadow instead of a face.  Only hands were showing, no indication of male or female, the voice a sibilant whisper.  We were again sitting in armchairs in the darkened living room.

I began, “Suicide, I want to try talking with you again.  I seem to have more things to say to you about you than questions to ask.  I’m afraid this will become a monologue, and I really want you to speak, too.  Why have you been such a large part of my life?  You’ve been seductive and compelling at times.  Most often you’ve been a constantly repeated litany or mantra of ‘I want to die’.

Suicide began in the familiar sibilant voice which almost imperceptibly shifted to normal, masculine speech.  (He had become ‘Mr. Suicide.’)  “I’m your way of gaining control over your life when all else has failed.  When you can do nothing more, you can always choose to die.  But if you’re successful, it’s a choice you can make only once.  I can be a final triumph of control.  Remember how pleased you were when you finally dived from that runaway horse so you’d have an excuse to freeze to death.  ‘I did it!  I did it!’ you said.”

I responded, “Yes, I remember.  But I didn’t die.  Twenty degree temperature was too warm to freeze to death quickly enough.  I was afraid I’d only be crippled.  I wanted to be either wholly alive or wholly dead — nothing in between.  But I remember chuckling to myself when the doctor said my skull might be cracked.  Thinking maybe I’d succeeded after all, and hoping I had.”

Mr. Suicide replied, “But you’ve always failed, you know.  I don’t think you’ve really wanted me.  You’ve only wanted to stop hurting and to take control of your life by choosing when and how to die.  It really wasn’t much of a choice, you know.  Death was as much of an unknown to you as were the solutions to your problems.  It’s an unknown that you are required to experience.  It’s the unknown involved in resolving your problems that’s a real choice.  There are lots more alternatives there even though it may not feel like it.  There are always options.  But you may need help to see them.

“You’ve only wanted to stop hurting and to take control of your life by choosing when and how to die.”

“…Death was as much of an unknown to you as were the solutions to your problems.  It’s an unknown that you are required to experience.”

“…It’s the unknown involved in resolving your problems that’s a real choice.”

I agreed, “You’re right, of course.  I know what you’re saying is true.  It’s the pain and frustration I feel that makes death attractive.  I get so tired of fighting.  Sometimes I’m absolutely exhausted and want so much just to rest, to be free from the struggle.”

“There are times when you should rest,” Mr. Suicide advised.  “But you should not try to find it through me.  Rest in God instead.  Give Him your struggles for a while.  Rest in other people if they are available.  Know that the final rest will come eventually.  It’s not in death, but through it.  New life is on the other side.”

“There are times when you should rest, but you should not try to find it through me.

Rest in God instead.  Give Him your struggles for a while.  Rest in other people if they are available.”

Know that the final rest will come eventually. 

It’s not in death, but through it. 

New life is on the other side.”

I’m surprised at what I’m hearing, “Why are you being so pro life?  I expected you to seduce me to use you.”

Mr. Suicide explained, “I am in the image of the Ghost of Christmas Future because like it, I am a prophet and a signpost of things that can be changed.  It is only your ego, your small self that makes me appear seductive.  It is what longs for control.  I represent your true Self — what you can become.  If you must explore the unknown, examine the unknowns of your life.  You will experience the unknown of death all too soon as it is.”

I am in the image of the Ghost of Christmas Future because like it, I am a prophet and a signpost of things that can be changed. 

…I represent your true Self — what you can become.  If you must explore the unknown, examine the unknowns of your life.  You will experience the unknown of death all too soon as it is.”

Somewhat in awe at this I reply, “Thank you for your advice.  Perhaps we’ll talk again another time.”


 

Five days later we spoke again.  Mr. Suicide was again a robed and hooded figure, a dark shadow instead of a face with only his hands showing.  Once again we were in the darkened living room.

I began, “Mr. Suicide, I have another question to ask you.”

“Yeeesss?” the usual sibilant whisper.

“Please don’t whisper at me!” I demand crossly.  “I need you to speak out loud again!”

He responds in a calm, normal voice, “Well, all right.  What do you want to know?”

I’m indignant with his behavior, “I think that you’re a ham and that you enjoy high drama!  But that’s not what I had in mind to talk about.”

Slouching in his armchair with one leg hooked over the armrest, an obvious overreaction to my comment about high drama, but still hamming it up, “Okay.  Shoot.”

Still exasperated, I exclaim, “From one extreme to the other!  Will you please just be real!  You gave me good answers the last time we talked and a lot of positive advice.  That’s what I want of you now, too.  Will you help me?”

Mr. Suicide now sitting straight but relaxed in the chair, “Yes, of course I will.  But you were being a bit heavy yourself, you know.  Your mood needed to be lightened.  Don’t you feel a bit lighter now?”

Smiling in response, “You’re right.  I do feel better.  I’ve been depressed about being depressed.  I want to feel better all the time, or at least enough of the time that I can trust myself to complete the projects I start.  You’re quite a character, you know.  Despite your morbid name and your ominous appearance, you’re a pretty good person to talk to.”

Lightly and with a touch of humor, he replies, “Well, thanks for the compliment.  What do you have on your mind?”

Turning serious I say, “I’ve been wondering about sleep.  Is the way I use sleep a form of suicide?”

Mr. Suicide answers, “Yes and no.  Sometimes it’s been a safe substitute for me.  At other times, it’s been for the genuinely needed rest from the struggles that you spoke of last time we talked.  It can also be a way of solving problems.  You dream a lot and sometimes you find answers there.  More often your dreams prod you with questions and indications of problems to work on while you are awake.”

I ask a related question, “Should I try not to sleep so much?”

Mr. Suicide answers, “Right now I wouldn’t worry about that.  You’re fighting hard to grow, and you do need a lot of rest.  But there should be a balance between rest and exercise.  You’re not really getting enough of either.  More exercise would improve the quality of your rest.”

It’s not the answer I want so I complain, “But it’s so hot I don’t feel like doing anything!”

Mr. Suicide doesn’t relent, “Try to get some exercise anyway.  Go for a walk at sunset.  It’s cooler then.  I know how you hate to get up in the morning.”

I give in, “I don’t really want to, but I’ll try.  Thanks.”

He responds with a casual, “Anytime.”


The formal, written conversations with Mr. Suicide ended here.  But we still talk!  Mr. Suicide has become one of my most trusted companions and inner guides. 

Eventually I understood that Mr. Suicide was more about Self-Preservation than Death.  However, I’d gotten so used to his name as ‘Mr. Suicide’ that I still address him that way.