Psychological Complexes and Soul’s Agenda

Leaning Valley Oak next to vineyard

Psychological Complexes and Soul’s Agenda

The thick, old valley oak in the cemetery by the vineyard is leaning, the one that has witnessed a hundred burials in the ground beside it these last 150 years. The ancient valley oak beside the little pioneer house fell last May, and then, on the other side of the house, we had to cut the old Monterey pine, diseased and dangerous. The drought-weary forest of the western reaches of the ranch is populated with dying coastal oaks and madrone, some from insects that have moved in on thirsty trees, some from the pathogens of Sudden oak death. In the 21 years that I have lived on this ranch, I am beginning to realize that I have witnessed a decided lessening of the vitality of the forest. Is this the result of excluding fire from these forests? Of not maintaining them, as the natives before Western Europeans did? Or are we in a death cycle, perpetuated by drought and climate change?

I am aware of how grief can separate me from this land which is so dear to my heart. Grief can automatically shrink-wrap me. I see everything, and yet, emotionally, I stand apart.  It is hard to allow an openness to the beauty of that which is changing so drastically—even the valley oak savanna south of our kitchen with its native grasses and ancient trees and ceremonial sites that a new neighbor wants to plant in vines.

I wonder if we are born into circumstances that create the psychological ground upon which our souls have incarnated to evolve. I grew up with a sick mother, whose survival I worried for every day of my life— until she died at aged 80! This worry shaped my relationship with her: I held myself a little apart, thinking I could rely only on myself. I am sure that it influenced my entry into a healing profession. Years of my own personal analysis helped this wounding, and yet, the sick-mother psychological complex created a kind of processing organ within my psyche. I feel it now: The threat to Mother Earth, and her vitality, reflexively makes me want to shrink, hold myself apart so I feel less pain. And yet, as I know from experience, if I stay open-hearted, even to the potentiality of loss, I am expanded into an intimacy with the Other. Grief experienced, paradoxically opens our hearts.

As a Jungian psychoanalyst, I often see this larger function of what we call “complexes”. Too often these patterns of behavior are seen as maladaptive and needing to be healed so they do not overcome us. Yet, does the integration of the consciousness gained around this analytical, psychological work of these patterns, offer a larger spiritual function, preparing us on a personal level with tools to process issues that have both spiritual and collective significance? Is this some of Soul’s agenda?

For me, at least, the years of work with my fear for my mother’s survival has helped enormously in staying present through witnessing Mother Earth’s changes.  In so doing, it even allows (hopeful?) ground for action.