This blog will cover the west, the final direction to discuss in the four directions healing process. Read the blog “The Defeat Story and the Transcending True Self,” and the following direction blogs before reading this one, if you haven’t already.
The west is the heart. Here we heal through connection. The attachment wounds live here and are healed here. In the west we also dive into the deep sea of the psyche to discover and awaken the true self, archetypes, wounds, gifts and all aspects hidden from ego that are asking for acknowledgment. The west is where psychological depth work is helpful to integrate the aspects of self through differentiating them. Uncovering, acknowledging, and expressing all that wants out from the unconscious happens here. This is the direction of the heart. Honoring feelings. Going with the flow of inner wisdom. Being in relationship of all kinds, romantic, therapist, healer, friend, mother, father, sibling, pet, teacher, co-worker, etc. Through being in relationship with others outside the self and aspects within the self, we heal. The heart is purified in the west which is connected to water. Water cleanses and renews. Forgiveness, acceptance, letting go and surrender all happen in the west.
In the therapy world we know that 90% of healing happens through the relationship of therapist and client, not from the skills learned or the narrative developed. True, it is vital to have physiological healing from trauma, anxiety, and stress as the foundation of all healing. After that, different narratives and skills work for different people to initiate healing. Yet healing through connection is the most powerful form of healing, for everybody.
It’s hard to talk about this using logic because it is mysterious as to why outside of the scientific understanding of mirror neurons and other brain development factors understood through the attachment theory lens. Science may show us the physiological foundation of how connection keeps the psyche healthy or corrupts the psyche. Beyond science, you could say that love makes the world go round or that connection is what we are all after and why we are here, underneath it all.
What gets broken in relationship can only be healed in relationship. This is not to say we cannot heal tremendously by healing ourselves in solitude or within. I have healed drastically through connection with self and I believe this is a vital relationship to nourish. At the same time, attachment wounds begin during the early brain development years of childhood and set the psyche up for adulthood. The attachment with the parents, siblings, family and peers is most important for developing into a healthy adult in terms of being able to experience secure attachment.
Secure attachment means that you can experience intimacy and connection with another that feels safe and nourishing. Most people have an attachment wound because most of us were born with some level of dysfunction in childhood. Addiction, abuse, neglect, personality disorders and mental illness, poverty, harshness, and ignorance from family and culture show up on a spectrum for every child.
What you experience as a child is much more intense than how you would experience the same thing as an adult. It’s best not to compare and say things like, “others had it much worse,” even if you are a privileged white male or other form of privilege. Abuse, neglect, addiction, harshness, personality disorders, mental illness, death, physical illness, ignorance, and loss can show up in every category of human. It’s important to take care of yourself without judgement.
Insecure attachment can show up as ambivalent, avoidant, or disorganized. If your parents or care takers, one or more, did not attune to your emotions and show affection and love but gave you structure you could depend on (meals, bedtime, clothing, schooling, shelter, etc) than you are likely to experience avoidant attachment.
If your parents or care takers, one or more, attuned to your emotions and showed affection and love but you had little or uncertain structure to rely upon, you are likely to experience ambivalent attachment.
If your parents or caretakers, one or more, lacked in providing both structure and emotional attunement or if there was abuse, you are likely to experience disorganized attachment.
An instructor of mine used the metaphor of a cup of liquid. The cup is the structure. The liquid is emotional attuning and expression of love an affection. If you had the cup and no liquid you may avoid intimacy and feel uncomfortable around it. If you had the liquid in a cracked cup, you may constantly doubt that you are loved and feel ambivalence all the time, needing constant reassurance and filled with anxiety. If you were abused or received no liquid in a cracked cup, you may avoid intimacy sometimes and other times enter connection with high anxiety and insecurity, doubting and spinning in your mind.
These are tendencies and you may not experience what I am describing here but what I share is based upon scientific research you can look up if you are interested. Attachment theory is what you would want to research to understand more.
Attachment wounds tend to show up mostly in romantic unions because they most mirror the parent child relationship. In a romantic relationship you have the opportunity to heal the attachment wounds of the past. This is done through recognizing how you are projecting mom, dad, brother, sister, uncle, grandfather etc, onto the partner and then pulling back your projection. Once you own your reaction instead of blaming and accusing, you can work through the issues in therapy or with your partner through dialogue and connecting.
Romantic relationships are not meant to be walks into sunsets. That’s all a bunch of brainwash. In fact, real love with a partner only first begins once the projections start falling and you can see the other for who they truly are.
In the beginning, we project our ideal mate onto the partner. This ideal mate lives inside of us as our inner counterpart to the conscious self. Our unconscious self is the ideal mate to our conscious self. In a sense, we all look for ourselves in a partner when we are unable to love past projection. Projection is not bad, it just is and it is how we fall in love. It is how we get into relationships. It’s the honey moon stage. But once the honey moon is over you see your ideal beautiful mate is not the person you believed them to be. Do you still want to love them. Do they still want to love you?
If you both still want to love each other and are willing to own up to your projections and take responsibility for healing through the intimacy, then you move on to the next stage of intimacy.
Many life long couples never do this. Instead, they may always live with not feeling close to their partner and fall into the same roles their parents fell into, repeating history. This work is only for the brave and for those who want to heal, experience deeper intimacy, and true love. By true love, I mean love that is true and not the sunset walk. I mean love that is based upon a commitment to love one another through the storms and once the projections fall for who each other really is. This should not feel like a life sentence in jail. You should enjoy being with your mate. If you don’t, you are not with the right person. If you enjoy each other but hard issues get in the way, you can heal the issues if both are willing.
Some couples have it easier too and just get along or mutually don’t make a big deal out of the conflicts and are not on the path of healing and evolving in a therapeutic way. Other couples love and enjoy each other so much that they are willing to work on their issues that show up intensely in romantic union due to both people being really intense. Sometimes one partner is willing and the other is not. The spectrum always exists and we each have our own relationship karma to experience.
I don’t want this entire blog to be on romantic attachment. I am somebody who has spent very little time in romantic relationships and I have healed my attachment wounds without it because the few times I was in a romantic union, the mate was not willing to work on his stuff or we were not in love or timing was off. I have healed largely through friendships and family relationships.
I know that when the right man is by side, I will experience attachment healing as well but I don’t want to make it the only way. Our culture over-values romantic relationships as the be-all end-all. But for many, they don’t want that form of relationship. Or they want a different version of it. Point being, however you connect with others is valuable and healing in the west happens through connection.
As far as healing through the self goes, this is done through depth work. Discovering you. Within the psyche many aspects of self dwell. Individual aspects and archetypes such as the wounded self, inner child, the protector, the mother, father, shadow, trickster, on and on. If you take the time and effort in therapy or on your own to discover and integrate these inner aspects you will experience deep healing from the attachment wounds of childhood. You will become more whole, balanced, and blossom into your true self.
This work can be done through Jungian and archetypal psychology and you can use astrology, tarot and other maps of the psyche to understand your inner landscape. This work is my favorite and I would place myself in the west, if I had to pick a direction. The work of each direction is equally needed to heal but the west is where I love to play.
The spiritual lessons dwell in the west too. Forgiveness, acceptance, compassion, acceptance, redemption, and tolerance all stem from attachment wound healing and we can also surrender to spirit to heal and learn these soul deep lessons.
Relationship with spirit, in my opinion, is as vital as the parent child attachment. You can translate this transpersonal relationship to meet any belief. If you are atheist, spirit is nature or the larger cosmos. If you are religious, spirit is god or the gods and goddesses. If you are spiritual but not religious spirit may be the universe or the divine, source creation or whatever word works best. This relationship is not metaphorical. We are a small part of a larger force.
There is a ton of proof for how healing occurs when surrendering to a higher power. People in AA know this well. I know this well, as surrendering to the transpersonal has healed me via miracle and also healed alongside me, carrying much of the burden of my human life, helping me out in ways more powerful than any human could provide.
I am probably on the far end of the spectrum and in a smaller category of people who have healed attachment wounds through connection with self and spirit more than with human beings. This being said, you can heal through connection with pets just as much as people. And with nature too. Let’s not box ourselves in. Connection is expansive.
The spiritual lessons are simple to understand in the mind but hard to achieve. Can you accept the injustices that have happened to you? Can you forgive your abuser? Can you have compassion for the short comings of others? Can you have tolerance for those more ignorant than you? I have found in my own life that focusing on soul lessons has brought me the most inner peace and well being.
We cannot control what happens outside of ourselves. Safety is largely an illusion. Back in the day, nature was the attacker. Today, the attackers have grown due to systemic illness in humanity and also, well, nature has a dark side that just is. We are constantly faced with being treated badly, being abused, neglected, becoming ill, getting into accidents, on and on. Life is filled with tension, injustice, power struggles and pain.
Healing in the west from the suffering of the psyche in response to the pain of life is about healing the heart. Forgiveness sets the heart free from karma and rage. Acceptance allows the heart to metabolize and release trauma. Compassion allows the heart to connect with others, as does tolerance. The spiritual lessons are pragmatic in nature, for they allow us to experience more peace, self love, love for others and the big U.
Unconditional love, the lesson of all lessons.
These lessons are tall orders and perhaps why we have spiritual practices, religions, and mystical tools to help us heal, transcend, transform, and grow. Spiritual bypassing is a thing too to be wary of too. For instance, true forgiveness comes from experiencing suffering, anger, sorrow and working your way through empowerment and into acceptance before forgiveness is genuinely felt.
Spiritual bypassing would be mentally saying you forgive while stuffing all of your painful feelings into the shadow because you judge your own feelings and glom onto spiritual morality to keep you feeling good and safe. This is common and the reason why societies scapegoat groups of people and demonize corrupt leaders. Unless we process our own feelings stuffed into the shadow we will project our feelings onto the other. This is the collective level of connection that needs healing.
I would say healing in the west is the most complex of the directions. I could write on and on about it but feel this blog is already too long. I will end it with mentioning water. Water flows. Water cleanses. Water drowns. Water purifies, Water is our feelings. Our feelings form connection. Connection is why we are all here. Being an individual within the collective, connected to self and the other in harmony, is the healing of the west. This occurs from healing the past and being able to show up with loving awareness in the present. May it be so for us all.