Being Authentic Through Traumatic Times.
Perhaps we can be most fiercely hopeful and compassionate by treating this time and each other with mercy and with grounded grace built upon a foundation wise in quiet reflection, and with radical acceptance of the disorienting grief, weariness, anxiety and the mess hundreds of millions of people find themselves in right now.
And as these are the indelible marks of transformation, they are here with us, to shape and re-shape us, for some time to come.
Perhaps this is a time to speak plainly. Financial worries, isolation, and death itself have a way of knocking the adornments off of speech and emotion. Making us more down-to-earth. With the earth, listening deeply.
Perhaps this is a time, too, to be aware of not over bright-siding or re-characterizing this traumatic time as a pre-ordained, perfect moment for the evolution of consciousness, as so many of us are suffering in ways we are not yet even able to articulate.
The reality is that millions of people are utterly broken by all of this loss right now. And folks were already having a hard time. Many millions more are now in a state of post-traumatic stress. Seriously worried about going broke with no social safety net in this rudderless time in America.
People are terribly anxious about how they will take themselves and their family slowly back out into the world. If much at all. Whether their jobs or business will be there and be viable, how they will find work again having lost it, or seen it greatly diminished. And how they will feed and care for themselves and their families.
So, compassion, in Latin, means to suffer with… to be in the this of this. To be with another in the messy muck and mire of what they’re in. Not suggesting they be in a hoped-for far less anxious or griefy place because we care and we want them to feel better.
As a psychotherapist and depth psychologist, having held more than 20,000 sessions with clients in the last 17 years, I can assure you that no one has ever relaxed, felt better, less anxious, less afraid, happier, stopped crying, or become centered just because we suggested they might feel better if they did. We humans just don’t work that way, neither as children nor as adults.
To be healthy, we each need the spaciousness and the grace that comes with that, to go through what we’re feeling. All the way through. What we’re feeling — the tears, snot, sweat and all — without being subject to anyone else’s hidden or subtle need to clean us up and get us back out there.
So it really helps to have someone close to us who cares and listens to us without feeling like we are having our experience corrected, being cajoled into being more positive, or subtly feeling like we need to up-level our game/attitude to be accepted by this predominantly extroverted and happy-addicted culture of ours.
It also really helps to be aware of not spiritually or intellectually bypassing or getting out ahead of these messy and difficult feelings we naturally have right now.
I know it’s hard, but this move is important for the well-being of the depths of the psyche, individually and collectively. To be where we are at is to suffer with or be compassionate with ourselves. Rather than attempting to leap-frog over or transcend our thoughts, feelings and body so as to feel better.
To be in it just as it is. Here. Now. Chaotic as it is. Dark as it may be, makes us present. Human. To be in the heart, not the heady concepts of the head which will help us live within it and eventually get through it by leaning into it, not attempting to go around the difficult feelings. And to reach out and not go it alone if we get stuck.
It also can be very helpful to imagine holding the tension/anxiety and the hope, all at once. There is room inside us for all of it. Rather than slide into how we wish for and want it to be one day. Or what gift to humanity and the earth this virus and economic collapse might bring.
For at this moment, that would have us pretty insensitive to the suffering of millions, as well as far out ahead of ourselves, with some anticipated transformation, actually, well before the breakdown.
Staying tethered to this moment is harder than leaving it somehow, but it’s vital we stick with our Self, and all of our difficult feelings. That is, being in the thing as much as we can withstand — no matter what the thing is — is a fundament of depth-psychological health, the health of our unconscious and conscious psyche both. It helps keep us real and connected to the reality both outside and inside of ourselves.
Staying with it also aids in our overall capacity to be authentic with ourselves and with others.
After all, we are still in this thing. Therefore, we’re not yet in the full psychological impact of the aftermath of this, this dark and unprecedented phenomenon.
So, our presence in the present is vital. To be here and now in the difficulty, in what is truly heavy and the dark, in the grief, is sane. Sané, in French, means healthy. A most healing and helpful thing, individually and collectively. As elemental as washing hands, wearing a mask, and considering the well-being of others as our own.
“I’d rather be whole than good,” C.G. Jung said. And by whole, he meant real, messy, ensouled, deeply human, heart-broken open with compassion flowing first to ourselves, then to resource and prepare to let it flow widely to others. Being real — true to our Self, our soul — is gritty. And grit causes friction, makes fire to clear the way for living a revolutionary act.
This act is marked by action that the earth and the soul of the world are crying out for. And the cry has become loud, more pain-filled, and grievous. We wonder when enough souls will answer wholeheartedly the cry of the earth and her people.
Turns out, when we get real, it is actually not about us. Our individual program is only the ground from which we step. From which we step and choose whether we will make this life of ours a walk of grit and beauty, or one of accommodation to the forces that insist we do it their way — by being perky, positive, well-behaved, producing, consuming, making nice, and paying our taxes.
In contrast, being compassionate and authentic happens in the guts and bowels of our life. Being authentic is the grunt-work of the soul, of any deeply human, spiritual path.
Being half here, half there, half-hearted, faking it to look good, strategizing to make things easier for our self, that’s the common way of the unconscious clotted middle, driven by our egoic culture — a culture that is addicted to presenting as invulnerable, happy, extroverted, and worst of all, full of hubris. Hubris is deadly. We’ve always known that. And we see it writ large now.
Being authentic and compassionate, unadorned and soul-centered costs us our ticket to ride from the collective mainstream to the illusion of safe and secure. And opens the door to our bloody and glistening, broken, open heart, revealing to us the honey of this wildly messy life. Leaves us, and those we touch, feeling radically free.
Authenticity strips away all that is not real. All that is not made from love, to love and care for our self as we do others. All that is of enriched soul and in-spired Spirit remains. There is no living a soul-centered life without being authentic and compassionate, without mustering the courage to do the excavating in the dark: the Shadow work.
C. G. Jung said, “People will do anything, no matter how absurd, to avoid facing their own souls.” What will you do now?
Melissa La Flamme is a Jungian psychotherapist, sacred activist of cultural evolution, author, poet and yoga teacher. She kindles the 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 jailbreak, from the inner and outer prisons we have unknowingly built. Melissa teaches the soul’s clandestine trade to hack and free our one authentic life. 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.