“We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.”
― Joseph Campbell, Mythologist
“M, nothing is going my way.
Its been 3 years and nothing I thought would work has worked.
I don’t know if I am going forwards or back, nor what I should do next.
Nothing makes sense anymore- nothing is clear”
This is how the long overdue catchup lunch with NK began. We talked about what he has hoped and what happened, about where he is and where he wants to be, about wishes and opportunities and the big crazy mystery behind how life unfolds.
MY JUNGIAN FRIEND CALLS THESE ‘LIMINAL PHASES’- TIMES THAT ARE RICH IN TRANSFORMATIVE POTENTIAL WHICH CAN BE EXCITING AS WELL AS OVERWHELMING. THE MYTHOLOGISTS SIMPLY CALL THESE PHASES THE BEGINNINGS OF THE STORY: WHEN LIFE-AS-USUAL GETS SHAKEN UP AND THINGS GET INTERESTING!
It spurred for us a series of lunches and coffees and emails and phone calls (excerpts of which I am sharing here)- just field notes on the journey from fellow travellers…like a travelogue with no photos. 🙂
“I don’t know what’s changed specifically but life seems suddenly incomprehensible-
I can’t make sense of what’s right or important for me to do and where the heck I’m supposed to go next.
This is my Dark Night if ever there was one!”
ZOOLOGY (in an insect or amphibian): the process of transformation from an immature form to an adult form in two or more distinct stages.
a change of the form or nature of a thing or person into a completely different one.
Sometimes, external events kickstart the metamorphosis; other times its simply inner movements that hanker for growth.
One fine day, the caterpillar stops eating,
hangs upside down from a twig or leaf
and spins itself a silky cocoon.
Within this protective casing, it begins to disintegrate
-physically digesting and dissolving itself
until an unrecognizable but potential-rich soup is all that’s left of it.
Out of this complete breakdown comes one of the most spectacular transformations in nature
-4 to 30 days later, a new creature emerges
complete with compound eyes, colourful wings and brand new feeding habits.
What we call ‘the cocoon phase’ in the life of a butterfly might well be what you are calling your ‘dark night’- a time when all things you ‘knew’ (identity, relationship, ambition, career) have become shaky and uncertain.
TO ME DARKNESS IS ABOUT ALL THE THINGS THAT ARE MYSTERIOUS IN LIFE (SEEDS IN THE SOIL, A DISSOLVING CATERPILLAR IN ITS COCOON, THE INNERMOST CAVITIES OF THE HEART)- NOT SO MUCH PAINFUL AS UNKNOWN.
We who are used to a sense of direction and certainty about our lives grope uncomfortably, often panicked, in the darkness of a cocoon where things get unmade and remade in ways beyond our control.
FIRST, A BREAKDOWN
“I’m overwhelmed by the intensity of my inner life right now-
everything seems so intense- crazy hard, confusing, frustrating”
Perhaps your old ways of seeing and being in the world are disintegrating and coming together in new ways.
THE SUDDEN APPEARANCE OF WHAT I CALL OUR INNER HORMONAL TEENAGER – DRAMATIC, OVERLY SENSITIVE, EASILY OUTRAGED, PRONE TO OUTBURSTS AND OVERWHELM- HINTS AT A CATERPILLAR IN VARIOUS STAGES OF DISINTEGRATION TURNING YOUR INSIDES INTO A SOUPY MESS IN PREPARATION FOR SOMETHING MAGNIFICENT TO COME. NECESSARILY, THIS INVOLVES DISCOMFORT- THE TRANSITION FROM A HAIRY CRAWLING THING TO A LEGLESS FLYING ONE IS NOT WITHOUT SOME DISCOMFORT AND POTENTIAL FOR IT ALL GOING HORRIBLY WRONG.
For us this means everything we consider stable in our lives- identity, relationships, career aspirations, parenting competence…suddenly looks shaky. As a general rule, this kind of thing makes us humans freak out.
The breakdown phase is not without reason. For me its often been a signal that old ways of navigating and seeing life have become outdated and are in desperate need of upgrades.
The goal: a full unfolding of your potential into a thriving human life.
Think of what’s happening inside you as an argument between you and someone 5 generations older: they are insisting that 47 rupees is too extravagant for your lunch budget, that indoor plumbing is really a nuisance and that horse cart is the best way to get a man to the hospital.
And you are trying to say to them “LOOK AROUND- THE WORLD HAS MOVED ON!”
That’s a bit like what’s happening inside you at the moment- something younger, more dynamic and adapted to your current reality is taking shape inside you and saying “HEY, THE WORLD HAS CHANGED! Time to update your worldview in light of new information!”
And your current ‘normal you’ is insisting horsecart will do.