Week nine of our respective isolations and aloneness is bringing with it a phenomenon I am observing in many of us.
This iceberg is a classic metaphor. The part seen above the water line is what we are conscious of knowing, experiencing and remembering, and the mass below water represents material that lives in our unconscious. What is beginning to happen is that as the waters of life have been quieted by our slowing down and staying still, we can see what is below more clearly and more unconscious material is making itself known. It is fascinating to watch this in myself and in those with whom I work. Here is how things were revealed in some dreams.
I dream I am in the hospital with the virus and I feel its desperate grip on me. I can feel the moment of choice — will I fight to live or will I succumb? It is a desperate moment and I am all alone. I choose life and wake up realizing that I have often made a different choice — one of living with depression and contemplating suicide. I are now affirming life!
In another dream I am in a terrible car accident, a 600-car pile up. The devastation is unimaginable, yet I am taken by ambulance to the hospital and told by the medical staff that it is a miracle that I survived. On waking I realize that I have survived the tremendous car wreck which was my family breaking apart when I was young. I am walking away, into my life — a true miracle.
In a third dream I am able to bring someone back to life who is a mother figure to me. She has stopped breathing and no medical intervention helps. I lay my head on her chest and a magical healing power of love starts her breathing. In real life I was not able to bring my mother back — it is the most impotent, grief-filled experience of my life. In my dream I get to complete this story with a new ending where I have the power to heal and life is restored.
Through these dreams, much is being worked out in the hearts of the dreamers. I sit in awe of how hard our unconscious material is working to surface and heal, uniquely during this time.
Trauma that has not been given enough attention is also surfacing. Painful past experiences with friends and loved ones are coming back to life to be fully experienced and healed. The protective strategies we used instead are being questioned and loosening. In one example, a woman lost her best friend to suicide. She was young and helpless as she saw her friend degenerate into depression and madness. Soon afterward she got her first professional job. She has since had terrible work anxiety. At work she is always afraid that something horrible is going to happen, she will make some unforgivable mistake and get fired. As we slowly, with lots of time and love, revisit the moments leading up to her friends’ death and the shock of her death itself and fully experience all the feelings, we can finally feel that it is over. The trauma can now retreat into the past and not be just about to happen, re-lived in her feelings about her workplace. We hope this will lessen her work anxiety.
Finally another person I work with has found a dissociated part of herself who emerged out of extreme trauma with the belief “I can withstand anything and look fine and heal the rest of the world.” This part of her has been very successful but has been completely cut off from her real needs. She is beginning to come into her needs, preferences — truly herself. It is astounding how she has found this while having the time to be at home, to really come to grips with what happened to her and step into the real person — the beautiful person she fully is.
For myself I notice for the first time an anxiety before bedtime. I often find a small symptom that seems to flair up at night, a foot throb, an ear ache, or some other unexplained symptom. In the past week a voice has surfaced to accompany the symptom. In a desperate tone it says. “this will hurt and you will be alone and not be able to sleep all night.” I am curious about this and wonder if it’s origins come from a time when I was six. I am driving home in a car with my parents and feel like I have to throw up. I ask my parents to pull over and I try retching at the side of the road but nothing comes up. This may happen a few more times before we reach home until my parents are exasperated. They put me to bed (alone) with a pot and tell to be sure to use it if I need to throw up. The next morning I am still in distress and am taken to the doctor who admits me to the hospital. I have acute appendicitis. As I am meditating this morning and listening to the voice in it’s full desperation say, “I will be alone all night.” I whisper back, “not now, I am with you , I am right here and will stay right here.”
It is obvious to me that this time has been given to us to investigate more closely our relationship with ourselves. Ann Lamott once said (and I paraphrase), “my mind is like a bad neighborhood I would not like to go into after dark.” When we are isolated we have ourselves. It may turn out, if we listen carefully and uncover that which has been unconscious and hidden, that there is constantly new territory for us to discover. We may find out we are one of the most interesting people we know.