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The Power of Caring - The Alchemy of Healing

Going against our deepest conscience or inner self can make us physically ill, which for many means then have to come to terms with moral, ethical and spiritual demands upon the way they live so they can heal psychically no less than physically.

We find that in the depths of our being the quest for meaning at times overrules even the urge for survival. Death may be recognised as the bearer of health and renewal as in the case of one of my patients Kevin who at the age of 31 created a vehicle to achieve all that he had dreamt of and on completion died from cancer a few months later.

Our problems and difficulties meet us not only because of 'wrong' attitudes but also in order to move us forward. The emergence of ever-new field patterns of energy with their conflict and illness potentials is an essential element of human existence, a precondition for maturation and growth. Life is not just a battle for survival but a dramatic process of creation, a summons to embody and exhibit ever-new forms of plays for their own sake, in motion towards a great refinement and differentiation.

The messages we receive from contemporary dreams also point the direction, particularly
those that occur close to the death of the dreamer (c.f Maria Louisa von Franz).

A woman patient about to die of cancer dreamed during her last night of an evening where
she was to shortly present herself at a fashion show and that is was important she did not spoil the occasion with nervousness. Clothes refer to what we call 'persona' namely our adaptation to the here and now existence. Thus, she is told in her dream that she is expected to bring along and 'show', indeed exhibit, in the other world the adaptation she acquired in her lifetime, to be seen by others after her death. Implicitly, she is advised not to be 'nervous' about the transition, as through the fact of death for her there is nothing to be worried about.

For the person the difficult and often painful 'nearly too difficult' assignment of becoming what ones potential 'is' includes alternating phases of physical or mental illness and healing, of experiencing guilt and redemption, egotism and sacrifice, and thereby integrating ones separatists or destructive drives into the 'formal order of life'. By virtue of including this substance body of the earth in the human transformation process of labouring through pain and illness for the sake of growth and expanding awareness humankind may indeed, as alchemy saw it, offer spiritual transformation beyond the level of material substance.

So the great malady of the 21st century is 'loss of soul' and when the soul is neglected, it doesn't just go away: it appears symptomatically in obsessions, addictions, violence and loss of meaning. Our temptation is to isolate these symptoms or try to eradicate them one by one; but the root problem is that we have lost our wisdom about the soul, even our interest in it.

Here is where the priests would have ministered to such a malady but there is no power for
the priest in everyday life for they are only consulted to marry and bury us and not to be assisting us in our everyday life. For many people they have few specialists of the soul to advise them when we have lost meaning or when as a nation we find ourselves confronting a host of threatening evils. But within our history we do have remarkable sources of insight from people who wrote explicitly about the nature and needs of the soul and it is here we can look to restoring this wisdom.

Modern psychology creates a clear tone of salvation in the sense that if you learn to be
assertive, loving, angry and expressive your troubles will be over - what a bland existence we would have and no grist for our development. How about a philosophy of soulful living and techniques for dealing with everyday problems without striving for perfection or salvation?

A spiritual life of some kind is absolutely necessary for psychological health, at the same time, excessive or ungrounded spirituality can also be dangerous, leading to all kinds of unwanted behaviour and confusion. What we are aiming for then is the interplay of spirituality and soul. All of my thinking leads to care of the soul where the soul lies between understanding and unconsciousness and its instrument is neither in the mind or the body but imagination. To work fully we need to bring imagination into our lives in areas which are devoid of such imagination and we know where they are because symptoms or behaviours and feelings will lead us right to isolating such areas. Fulfilling
work, rewarding relationships, personal power and relief from symptoms are all promptings of the soul.

The mind tends to go off on its own so that it seems to have no relevance to the physical
world. At the same time, the materialist life can be so absorbing that we get caught up in it and forget about spirituality. What we need is the soul in the middle holding together mind and body, ideas and life, spirituality and the world. In my work my aim has always been about renewing a connection and bringing the soul back into our lives. We can be curators of our souls, an idea that implies an inner priesthood and personal religion. To undertake the restoration of soul means we have to make spirituality a more serious part of our everyday life. Such ideas are not about curing, fixing, changing, adjusting or making healthy for it is not about the idea of perfection or even improvement because
psychology is a science while care of the soul is for me a scared art.

Although I have used terms at times from Christianity what I put forward is not specifically Christian, nor is it tied to any particular religious tradition. It does however imply a religious form of sensibility and recognition of our inner souls needs as we progress through the potenital richness of life.

A soulful personality is complicated, multifaceted and shaped by both pain and pleasure,
success and failure. Life lived soulfully is not without its moments of darkness and periods of foolishness. Dropping the savational fantasy frees us up to the possibility of self-knowledge and self-acceptance, which are the very foundation of the soul.

Apparently individuation - the process of restructuring our life so far from the basics of our experience or the 'norm' by discovering what we 'are' by means of living through crisis and crisis resolutions - involves a process of conscious differentiation that is not limited to our personal psyche but to us as a part of greater society.

Excerpt from 'The Power of Caring The Alchemy of Healing' by Steven Warren © Steven Warren. All rights reserved. 2009

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