The Mythopoetics of Sacrifice and Transformation: Breaking Free, Jungian Style.
“There is no transformation without sacrifice,” she said to me.
25 years ago, I had no idea what my first Jungian psychotherapist was talking about. Sounded profound though. Captured my attention. Stirred my lust for awe, while it scared the shit out of me. But I was full of it then. So off we went!
Turned out, the mythopoetics of sacrifice and transformation were encoded in my particular soul, just as they are for many of us. There was no way around it as I slowly chipped away at what were then unconsciously built prison walls, alienating me from my true nature.
My psyche, in the aftermath of trauma and loss, was seduced, programmed and addicted to believe that I’d be safe and loved if I just conformed, did what was expected and approved of by my parents, my lovers, my culture — I bought that horseshit for decades.
In my early 30s, I began to see into my soul’s sacred wounds, finding a sort of destiny, or telos, as my soul began to outline its true shape. Little did I know that this would require upending every aspect of my life, several times over. Making one sacrifice after another. But I was guided by Mystery. I rode the wild winds of forces that owned me by that time, and I kept the faith with my own soul.
As I made sacrifices, severances of old patterns, my wounds began to reveal their gold. They showed me authentic and unheralded glimpses of what I’d long forgotten or abandoned, what my soul longed for without end, and thus, what I needed to courageously retrieve from the Dark, archetypal recesses of my unconscious — to approach being whole. Being real. Being fully human.
For each of us, embodying more and more of who we are, our mythopoetic identity — the image we were born with — is to do with unearthing from unseen depths, as well as from our biographical past, pieces of our soul we lost track of, left behind (often due to trauma, whether overt or nuanced). These pieces of our soul come for us with numinous ferocity — in both repelling and alluring ways — and most reliably in the life and loves we long for; in what seems to stalk us in night-dreams, daydreams; in symptoms of anxiety, depression, bodily aches and pains; in joy; in relationships that reveal themselves to be toxic; in the reflection of resonant and bonded love; in work that leaves us drained; in fights for our life that seem to have a volition and telos of their own; in flashbacks of memories (that adults too often dismiss as trivial) to childhood, to something as mundane as sitting on the grass and watching apples fall, listening to a particular album of music, feeling our heart lift, our body move, with an equally met sense of boundless potentiality.
From there, our move is a courageous step into crystal, into what depth psychologist and author James Hillman called psychological faith: a radical faith in the deep psyche’s capacity to produce and deliver to us — up from the dream-time — these images of soul to guide us down and into our depths where the truth of who we are and what we are for still pulses, glows in decades-old embers, and awaits our courageous reclamation.
These pieces of our soul call to us in myriad ways, to carry them home. To invite them into the circle of our belonging, dialogue with them, feed them, let them inhabit us again, re-anima-te us, re-vivify us. Make love with us. Dream with us. To re-member us to our authentic Self.
That is what these wounds are for.
These wounds are Initiators.
Some say, Troublemakers.
I say, same thing.
In the midst of this beauty, we are also asked to fiercely face directly the patterns of our being and behaving that are often autonomic and unconsciously operating, driving our lives beyond our awareness, and thus usually not aligned with our soul and our authentic nature… and to then downright sever those egoic patterns (which may be addictive ways of being) that perhaps long ago served to help us survive under enormous psychological stress, even abuse, but now show signs of taking us further off the course of a soul-centered way of being.
We do this sort of heavy-lifting, soul-level excavating, deep-diving inner work to consciously disassemble, sever, re-member, and over time, integrate long-lost but reclaimed pieces of who we are — to fully ensoul our self/Self. To open ourselves wide to consciously and productively suffer so that we can come to cultivate our broken-open heart’s capacity to give away empathy, fierce compassion, and solid, uncomplicated love.
Only then can we come fully alive and serve others in today’s world, that has all but forgotten how to.
But make no mistake, even as we undergo transformation, we are all at once the vehicles for transformation. We are both the artist and the artistry of our soul’s true nature.
We are being used.
By forces beyond our sight.
To serve others somehow.
To go beyond ourselves.
To fully inhabit
this throbbing animal body,
come to give away
a fragrant sacrifice
for the blood of tomorrow.
Melissa La Flamme is a visionary artisan of cultural evolution. As an author, poet, Jungian & shamanic psychotherapist and troublemaker, she kindles soul’s smoldering longing for everything real. She helps hack and track the smell of our longing to fully inhabit our life. She shows us how to enact our own prison break, from the inner and outer lockdowns we have unknowingly built. Melissa teaches the soul’s clandestine trade. The trade of the code-breaker of our one authentic life. The way of the Holy Hacker of our soul. The one writhing alive in our glistening, raving heart, vulnerable, ravished, undone and messy in a world where anything but is the safe way to belong. Visit her at her website, and on Facebook.