Eyes

 

 

 

 

I am at a take away food shop waiting for the woman to wrap my souvlaki. While she’s wrapping the food she is talking about eye disease, swelling, blindness and eyeliners. It sounds very familiar, but I can’t seem to recall what it reminds me of, instead I wonder whether the application of kohl under babies and children’s eyes in India and other cultures is safe. She gives me my small packet and as I walk out of the door it comes to me. While I was doing a Master’s degree, a friend and colleague, was in the habit of telling me similar stories during our lunch break while she corrected her eye make-up. Maybe this popped up now because my Masters Programme dynamics and events have been on my mind lately, even though I can now look back from a different place of understanding and even appreciate the gift in that unbelievable silencing assault. By enrolling in that programme at that point in my life, I was at some level, trying to bring together my interest in psychology, trauma, post traumatic suffering and adaptations, as well as, art, creativity and writing, and maybe create something out of all that. A couple of days before Xmas day of 2011 it felt like everything had been blown apart, but ironically, it eventually lead me down a different, more relevant and closer to my heart path of learning and awakening and the creation of the site that became a vessel or space where all these interests could come together again and I could slowly reclaim my voice. Anyway, after the holiday period this year, something started nagging at me to somehow pick up that thread again, which led me to buying Dr Peter Levine’s book In an Unspoken Voice. I have read the first hundred pages so far, and it is powerful. In this book he discusses the somatic experiencing approach, the physiology of trauma and post-operational traumatic stress. We are not encouraged to think of surgical experiences as traumatic. Nor are most of us aware of the need for debriefing, support and therapeutic interventions after surgery.  However, when we are held down or under anaesthesia we experience the procedure as invasive, scary, death inducing and traumatic. Surgery is a trauma, and our body remembers it even if we don’t. He also describes his working his way through a personal traumatic experience, a road accident. In one of the You Tube videos below he describes how he managed to use his somatic experiencing approach and walk himself through the process of collapse and helplessness to homeostasis and equilibrium. Apart from being so rich in valuable information the book also reads like a story and I will probably come back to it in another post.

Levine writes that ‘trauma is something that also happens in the body. We become scared stiff or, alternately, we collapse, overwhelmed and defeated with helpless dread. Either way, trauma defeats life’. He notes that this state of being scared stiff has been portrayed in various great cultural mythologies because ‘myths are also maps of our essential nature, pathways that connect us to each other, to nature and to the cosmos’ (Levine).  For instance, he refers to examples from the Old Testament and the indigenous peoples throughout South America and Mesoamerica that understand the nature of fear and the essence of trauma and know how to transform it through their healing rituals. He writes ‘after colonization by the Spanish and Portuguese, the indigenous peoples borrowed their word susto to describe what happens in trauma. Susto translates graphically as “fright paralysis” and as “soul loss.” Anyone who has suffered a trauma knows, first, paralyzing fright, followed by the bereft feeling of losing your way in the world, of being severed from your very soul. When we hear the term fright paralysis, we may think of a startled deer, stunned motionless by oncoming headlights. Humans react similarly to trauma’ (Levine). He also refers to the Iliad and Odyssey epics by Homer, where ‘trauma was portrayed as ruthlessly destructive to self and families’ (Levine) and how the ancient Greeks also identified trauma as being paralyzing and physical, and that Zeus and Pan were invoked to instill terror and paralysis in the enemy during war because they had the ability to “freeze” the body and induce “panic.” He mostly discusses the Greek ancient myth of Medusa who turned all those that happened to look directly into her eyes into stone… forever frozen, because it captures the essence of trauma and the road to healing. In the myth before setting out to kill Medusa Perseus sought the wisdom of Athena, the goddess of knowledge and strategy, who advised him to never look directly at the Gorgon. Levine writes ‘Perseus used the protective shield fastened on his arm to reflect the image of Medusa. This way he was able to cut off her head without looking directly at her, and thus avoided being turned into stone. If trauma is to be transformed, we must learn not to confront it directly. If we make the mistake of confronting trauma head on, then Medusa will, true to her nature, turn us to stone……. Out of Medusa’s wound, two mythical entities emerged: Pegasus the winged horse and the one-eyed giant Chrysaor, the warrior with the golden sword. The golden sword represents penetrating truth and clarity. The horse is a symbol of the body and instinctual knowledge; the wings symbolize transcendence. Together, they suggest transformation through the “living body.” Together, these aspects form the archetypal qualities and resources that a human being must mobilize in order to heal the Medusa (fright paralysis) called trauma…. In another version of this same myth, Perseus collects a drop of blood from Medusa’s wound in two vials. The drop from one vial has the power to kill; the drop in the other vial has the power to raise the dead and restore life. What is revealed here is the dual nature of trauma: first, its destructive ability to rob victims of their capacity to live and enjoy life. The paradox of trauma is that it has both the power to destroy and the power to transform and resurrect……Trauma is a fact of life. It does not, however, have to be a life sentence. It is possible to learn from mythology, from clinical observations, from neuroscience, from embracing the “living” experiential body, and from the behavior of animals; and then, rather than brace against our instincts, embrace them’ (Peter A. Levine PhD, (2012), In an Unspoken Voice, North Atlantic Books).

Relevant You Tube videos by Dr Peter Levine

1 Dr Peter Levine on the development of the Somatic Experiencing Approach and the concept of titration at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AFUZHz6_0XE

2 Dr Peter Levine describes working his way through a personal traumatic experience at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9hP2KJ3UgDI

 3 Dr Peter Levine underscores the impact of infant attachment on our society, including the increase in childhood bullying, suicide at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hvbQ9sr2Ols

 4 Dr Peter Levine gives an example of the Somatic Experiencing Approach in a group setting in Greece after a big earthquake at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GMq12CJLjik

 5 Peter Levine talks about his first client and how a tonsillectomy with ether she had undergone when she was 4 years old, plagued her with debilitating symptoms decades later at:https://www.psychalive.org/video-dr-peter-levine-discusses-first-trauma-patient/

My internet connection has been on and off this week; hopefully, it won’t disappear again.  For the time being…….

On art and animals

‘Our psyche communicates in the language of symbols and metaphors through dreams and artistic expression. It is natural that creatures appear in our art and dreams because animals often symbolize qualities we seek or are already present in us. The power of animal imagery and metaphor is universally agreed and animals and other creatures like dragons and unicorns have appeared in myths, folklore tales, stories and films since antiquity where they protect, guide and assist the heroes or heroines on their journeys. Their life cycles, behaviours, mating procedures, mothering habits, powers and defensive adaptations can bring insight into our own human experience. Working with animal imagery and archetypes is one mode of exploration into the depth of our psyche. For instance, birds are a frequent theme in my drawings and have become a positive motif of hope and tenderness. These beautiful and diverse little creatures can symbolize vulnerability and helplessness and a sense of being caged in, but their ability to soar in the limitless sky also evokes a sense of resilience, swiftness and freedom. There is a part in all of us that desires to be whole and free. As a child, their capacity to fly encapsulated my own desire to run towards an unlived, but instinctively known freedom….. When the idea of incorporating a parrot on the cover image of Let me be emerged I wondered why it had come up. Did it reflect factual material from memories and past events, was it my subconscious speaking through symbols and metaphor or both? My inquiry unearthed the memory of a parrot in the backyard of my childhood and the crimson rosella in my third grade natural science book, Mary Poppin’s talking umbrella and the summer I had done some pet-sitting for one of my teacher employees, who had left her parrot and other exotic birds with me when she had gone back to her husband’s hometown to get married. The parrot was very vocal and picked up words; the dog’s bark and even the sound of piano notes. Unfortunately, by the end of our fortnight together he had also picked up the higher pitched sound of my voice. Although he spent the first few days desperately calling his owner’s name, who happened to have my father’s name, he had soon got accustomed to my taking care of him and had actually refused to eat the first few days of his return back home. They had warned me to mind his vicious bites when handling him, but he had soon got accustomed to my caressing his head, and even returned the affection by holding my finger between his beak…. Then, I may also do some research on the symbols or metaphors that come up in dreams or creative projects, and of course, meditating on themes and images may birth deeper and broader insights. Parrots, for instance, have a strong sense of belonging and can also be metaphors for daring to fly high and express all the colours of one’s essence and soul. Apparently, they could represent the throat area and our need to find our voice since their vocalizations are impressive and loud, and they can mimic the voices of others….,..’ (Tonya Alexandri, 2017)

More recently, I came across this passage by Sarah Bamford Seidelmann from her book, The Book of Beasties, where she explores the idea that animals may have messages to share with us.

 

 

 

 

‘When Monkey comes swinging into your life, it’s a reminder that, although you might want to believe that everyone is on equal footing and equally blessed, there are many who struggle mightily. With monkeys, as with humans, some are born with silver spoons in their mouths, and others must work extremely hard to gain just the bare necessities. Monkeys born to more dominant parents get certain protections and assurances that others don’t. Monkey reminds you that no matter where you are on that hierarchical ladder, you have great potential. Monkey knows that even the lowest-ranking members of a troop of monkeys have one of the richest benefits of all: they are not alone. You belong, too. And, with a willingness to be helpful, there is always opportunity for advancement. If, in contrast, you are feeling blessed with both abundance and power, then it’s time for you to act with responsibility to do everything you can to ensure others who are more vulnerable will be provided for. Get involved in your community in whatever area excites you most, and lend your status and connections to help. Whatever station you find yourself in, with Monkey at your side, you can find the strength to serve selflessly and, in turn, be blessed’.

‘The magnetic power of your HEART is 5,000 times more impactful than that of your brain……. Science from the Institute of HeartMath has shown that when we connect our heart and brain in harmony, this aligns our energy field in a way that immediately begins healing the body and everything around us’ (Dr Kim D’Eramo)

Gratitude

Gratitude for this new day and the fact that all my senses are intact, helping me register the morning sky, first thing I see when I open my eyes, through the ‘curtainless’ window

Gratitude for the sleep that gave me respite from Saturday’s almost surreal events and all the other recent events and narratives of potential mishaps that put my body in survival mode every so often

This time it was insufficient electricity supply

A total breakdown of all our electronic devices

Smoke coming out of devices, as if on fire

Gratitude for the power cut that finally put an end to the damage and the popping sounds

Stress rises as I assess the damage: the desk computer, the laptop, the internet modem, the phone, the printer and fax machine, the microwave oven; the cost of replacement and the possibility of compensation from the Electricity Company

Fear rises as I consider the possibility of files and work and programmes lost, and also, the realization that I cannot read e-mails, send a fax, scan images, access my website or kindle device

My current life depends so much on my electronic devices

My electronic devices give me a voice and increase my sense of safety

Isolation is transformed through technology

Isolation is made more viable

Isolation is made less isolation

Gratitude for the containment of my current fear of total disconnection

Gratitude for all the near losses, near deaths, and many moments of grace

Gratitude that the house was not set on fire; things could have been worse

An accident or a fire; death instead of a near death experience; a cardiac arrest instead of a panic attack

Gratitude for the time when my swollen leg, left untreated and un-medicated, eventually returned to normal through my body and mind’s capacity to heal; the damage and the varicose veins reminders of the risk, the heart scare and the grace

It is always some context or within some context or structure that the damage has been orchestrated, has occurred, but it is also through and within some context that the salvage takes place

As if generated by some kind of mass trance and destructive dysfunction, murdering mentality, disconnection from empathy and heart and reason, fueled by ignorance, outdated beliefs and unhealed conditioning and wounds

Gratitude for all that is well and still standing and the life force breathing me

Gratitude for all the love from and to me

Gratitude for the many, too many to mention here, who are love most of the day, most days of the week

Gratitude for the clarity and change that this moment could bring

Gratitude for the resilience that walking this path has brought and the scars that may become others’ hope

Gratitude for the walk in the sun where my morning gratitude takes the form of this passage in my mind

Gratitude for the old computer, waiting patiently to be recycled in the store room down stairs and the parcel from my son with the second hand modem, screen and phone that arrived with the boat last night

Gratitude for the little candle burning in the delicate Chinese bowl while I am typing this; the hot crocus tea in my cup and the strong sent from the lilies in the yellow enamel jug brought back from some old trip to Thessaloniki         (Monday morning, January 28th, 2019)