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The Mystery of Change: Weaving a Way Ahead

by Sue Green(more info)

listed in psychospiritual, originally published in issue 38 - March 1999

I was very touched and moved by Maggie Baker's account of her transition process, (Positive Health November 1998), both by what she experienced and her courage in 'telling it like it was'.

In my view, many people today sense that their lives need to go through some kind of 'radical questioning.' Without helpful ways to go through that process, we can become cocooned in an isolation that leaves us no way back, and not much sense of how to move forward.

Sometimes that isolation can be useful, but often it is an added burden of unnecessary suffering.

There has never in the history of man been so many people living alone. There has also never been a culture before which has had so little connection to the stories, myths and images that show us how to make sense of the mystery of our lives.

Our life's weave

Mystery? How our lives unfold, how we seek to make sense of our experience, how we deal with the big questions of our birth, life, death, in all its forms. These are some of the things that our world has no stories for, no images, no myths.

The ancient Greek culture had a tradition called The Eleusinian Mysteries, in which people would go through a sort of initiation process. It is not certain what happened, it was a closely guarded secret. However, it seems there was a vision of life, death and rebirth involved which deeply changed the lives of those who took part in this process.

Nature goes through this cycle regularly. Every winter, the ground dries up, trees become like skeletons, and it is virtually impossible to imagine that there will ever again be shoots, leaves and blossoms. But the flowers return. Every year the drama of death and rebirth is played out.

As beings of nature, we are part of this cycle too. All too often our sense of renewal is forced upon us by crisis – we are obliged to change because we cannot fit into our lives any more, or something from outside has propelled us into change. Our own inner voices of looking for renewal have been pushed aside by outer commands and demands.

Renewing ourselves

Inside, we need renewal, just as we need to wear new clothes to celebrate something which has made us feel differently about ourselves.

Maggie Baker's article referred more than once to depression – and to the frustration too when things change into the new, only to sink back into the old that we thought we had thrown away.

There is little to hang on to, once we accept that we are in the cycle of change and transformation. Some things can help, though. If our culture was more attuned to our inner rhythms, we would know that we were part of the scheme of things. We need to find things to remind us of that.

Wisdom of the ages

Fairy tales can be a pleasurable and profound way to connect and reconnect with our own inner healing. One of the major founders of twentieth century psychology and psychotherapy, CG Jung, pointed out that everything in our inner lives was an attempt to find healing. If we feed ourselves with healing things like stories, myths and images, we build a foundation or an anchor for our healing powers to 'hang on to'. This starts a stabilising process where healing can begin to emerge from pain, chaos and fragmentation.

Our world has got lost and we can see that in the fairy tale of Cinderella. In the versions of my childhood, Cinderella is a downcast, downtrodden victim figure who gets rescued by a fairy godmother so that she too can go to the ball and marry the prince.

However, in the original story collected by The Brothers Grimm, Cinderella is an emotionally alive young girl – a long way from being a victim of any kind. She plants a tree on her mother's grave and waters it daily with her tears of grief and unhappiness. In return, the birds in the tree whisper secrets to her, and provide her with what she needs to survive her life with the horrible stepmother. It is the tree that provides her with the wonderful dress that stuns the court and captivates the prince, who recognises that her beauty is more than skin deep.

In other words, in the 'original' story, it is the active depth of Cinderella's connection to nature that grants her wishes and provides for her needs – not some airy-fairy fairy godmother who just feels sorry for her.

Image of freedom

Healing body and soul

As natural medicines find a place in our world we are beginning to reconnect to the awesome power of nature and our link to that. But we also need to ensure that our psyche as well as our physical body is in connection. That way a balance and health can come that could never come just through the body or just psychologically.

Cinderella marries the prince eventually, having shed many tears before that, growing and maturing in the process.

Some people choose psychotherapy or counselling to find their own psychological way forward, others choose other ways. Ultimately, however we do it, we all have an option to become our own 'inner psychologists' so that we can steer our way through the waters of change and navigate a course of growth in what life presents to us.

Living example

Jean was in her early forties, a primary school teacher, when she became depressed. Suddenly she found being with a class of children all day very irritating. Instead of becoming bad-tempered, she spent an hour or so each evening looking into her irritation.

Sometimes she would draw it, or dance it out, or see what most irritated her and what she would like to do about it.

After quite a while, several months, she finally realised that she was really fed up with spending her life attending to others and not having any time for her own wishes.

This realisation was the beginning of a long and difficult process of change that involved Jean in deep soul-searching. She went part-time, lived on less money, and found what would make her feel more alive.

The process of change was not easy, but she was able to deal with it because she had felt from the inside what her life needed. She had got in touch with her own 'instinctual wisdom'.


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About Sue Green

Sue Green is trained in Holistic Massage and is in ongoing training in Core Process Psychotherapy with Karuna Institute. Her background has included work with meditation in various forms, and contemplative bodywork forms such as yoga and chi kung, and her interest is in pursuing increasingly integrative forms of experience which cross or transcend boundaries of culture and thought.

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