I woke up this morning with a vision of the diffuse nature of our physiology. We are full of holes. Full of possibility. I thought of oxygen diffusion through our capillary systems and alveoli, nutrient diffusion through the cilia systems of our guts, neurotransmitter exocytosis across synaptic clefts, continuous negotiation across cellular membranes of calcium and potassium…the alchemy of exchange in our bodies can be found everywhere, at every level of examination. The closer the examination, for example from cellular to molecular to atomic, the more porous our boundaries appear. Matter, upon inquiry, is not so solid.
Ironically, our psychic composition may find itself to be stuck, and its bodily dressing, in all its pliability, would be bound to appear stuck as well. But isn’t Pysche supposed to be fluid, and the body a lumbering, thunking, solid thing? It’s been interesting for me to imagine that the opposite can take form, especially in cases of trauma; where Psyche chases her own tail into a tight ball, or many tight balls, and the Body flexes to accommodate its energetic skeleton, knotted and twisted as it may be. This brings to mind Spinoza’s expression that “whatever increases, decreases, limits or extends the body’s power of action, also increases, decreases limits or extends the mind’s power of action. And whatever increases, decreases, limits or extends the mind’s power of action, also increases, decreases limits or extends the body’s power of action.”
Streaks of warpaint
Fleshy colored and faint
blush her face.
Wild hair carried by the air
flies atop long, strong legs.
Swords ninja flip fast making songs of defiance.
Unfuckablewith, this bitch
and she blows a kiss
before jumping up, stretching out and landing already at full speed.
Cheetah spine ripples with the ease of ocean waves.
My muscles were made for this
Fluid pounding paws hitting the dirt
grow feathers now
And deep black Falcon eyes
Look at you.
Hearing Psyche’s voice, through image, through art and symbol, through the body, is one task. The difficult task of weaving her messages into a clear expression is another matter. Currently, perspectives on trauma in psychology include the neurocentric or intrapersonal perspectives of authors like Peter Levine and Stephen Porges, the relational or interpersonal perspectives like that of Stephen Johnson, and the transpersonal dimension described by Donald Kalsched in his book Trauma and the Soul (2013). In layering these perspectives, one common quality emerges and stands out for me. Namely, we are, on all of these levels, systems that can flex into a more or less porous state, and trauma has the paradoxical effect of dissociative opening (becoming more porous) on the transpersonal level, while simultaneously closing down (becoming less porous) on other levels in a shielding or protective effort.
For me, the concept of dissociation is the psychological counterpart to the physical dynamic of diffusion. The open space in between, the interstitial, becomes the central actor in such processes. Molecules cannot diffuse without room to move, or sufficient inviting space. And might this be similar in the case of dissociation? In Revisioning Psychology James Hillman speaks of the importance of psychic space and pathology as functions of creating more psychic space (1975). Dissociation, in this sense, seems not only to be useful in terms of escaping the intense terror and pain involved in traumatic situations, as Levine describes, but also as a pathway of making room for movement, for change, for the Gods, or mytho-poetic “mediators” as Kalsched refers to them (2013, p.51), to enter.
It’s like when you let your eyes cross, ever so slightly, and things blur
into a patchy, soft veil.
And you are somewhere in the egg of not knowing
pulled in like an anemone.
You’re body becomes a heavy bag of meat and bones.
Packed solid like concrete, and functional, but hard to move
without the infusion of magic light --the infusion of fairy dust
that makes those massive ships float,
so you can fly, you can fly, you can fly.
My being creates a force field 2 feet around me
soft and easy. Like smoke. Like mist.
When water is just too much, when your whole being is bruised
and a lighter touch is just necessary.
The web is expanded –stretched out like lungs letting in air.
And I realize now: the medicine, the oxygen, is coming in then;
Before I am drawn back into center, to solid, to sensate.
Can I be present in that expanded state as well?
Considering our “holey” natures, and the function of space as a place for exchange and movement to occur, if I consider ‘fiction’ to mean imaginary, I suppose it is the literary counterpart to the loose veins of open space that allow for movement in the Body. When we are relating to fiction, our imagination gets the green light to believe. We are open to possibility. In psychotherapeutic work, I’ve noticed people are fairly willing to open themselves to “fiction”, to possibility, in working with Psyche and her cast. This openness is key to creating movement and enough play (room) to begin untangling old or painful knotty narratives and relationships. Character styles (Johnson, 1994) and other profiling tools are largely fictitious, or fluid, as well; useful patterns that can offer a frame of reference. But as reliable as these profiles may be, my sense is that each organic being, especially when healthy, is dynamic. Perhaps a static or rigid character strategy is in itself a clue that a knot in the system has taken hold.
It seems that people are more or less open to “fiction” in terms of Psyche and relational dynamics, but when it comes to Body, it’s easy to get much more rigid in our understanding; an arm is an arm and a broken heart is just a metaphor. When in fact, when you look closely, there is just as much holey, holy, room for possibility in the Body as anywhere else. The physical body can be seen as a fantastic, perhaps the most fantastic, work of fiction; a dynamic quantum field of the most diverse treasures. And it’s also the treasure map. Kalsched explains that “past trauma and its defenses will be encoded in present physiological states such as breath, gestures, muscular tension, averted gaze, etc. and not in higher cortical regions where they could be recovered as explicit memories” (2013, p.115). If only we knew, in our hearts and in our bones: We are our own trail of bread crumbs leading back home, everywhere we go.
Coppin, J., & Nelson, E. (2005). The art of inquiry: A depth psychological perspective. Putnam, CT: Spring.
Hillman, J. (1975). Revisioning psychology. New York, NY: Harper and Row.
Johnson, S. (1994). Character styles. New York, NY: Norton.
Kalsched, D. (2013). Trauma and the soul. New York, NY: Routledge.
Levine, P. A. (2010). In an unspoken voice: How the body releases trauma and restores goodness. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books.
1. "Ayahuasca", Alex Grey, Retrieved at https://www.pinterest.com/pin/459085755750845680/
2. “Vision Out of Ground”, Shara Brun, 1996
3. artist unknown. Retrieved at https://www.pinterest.com/pin/450571137695024719