Updated: Feb 8
Before I write another line, it seems relevant to establish what 'the psyche' is, considering the title of this trio of posts, and the myriad of uses of the word. Let's start by looking at two definitions:
I like to think of the psyche as being the 'whole of us' that makes each of us both unique and able to recognise the shared human experience. It is not only the emotive heart and the rational mind, but includes consciousness itself, that has been expressed as being beyond the body, mind and emotions. The psyche, then, is the totality of oneself, encompassing the lens of how each of us interprets the world – our individual conscious and unconscious thoughts, our feelings and beliefs – bound into the realm of spirit; the shared essence of existence we might otherwise call the soul, or Love itself.
In my first installation, movement of the psyche: i, I describe an unfolding of personal experiences that brought me closer in touch with my own psyche. Writing about these realisations, as they unfold over time, helps me to both better know myself, at the same time seeing more clearly the places where we interconnect; observing those shared spaces of commonality, of being human.
Recently I was asked of a client, "Why do you share such personal, intimate posts?" She noted it made her a little uncomfortable, but was at the same time drawn to reading; both attracted and repelled. My answer for writing so openly of my personal life is two-fold. The first comes from the history of my blog. In 2010, after the birth of my son and before my liver transplant, I experience a harrowing event.
At my brother-in-law's wedding, in typical Belgian-style we were served moules-frites (mussels and french fries) after the wedding. By picture-taking time, I was crouched, hidden only by the hedging-backdrop of the wedding photos, heaving up the entirety of the meal, baby in hand. The antics didn't stop there, though. I continued vomiting through the night and into the next day, unware my liver was unwell and I was desperately hydrated. By evening back at my in-laws's home, I was talking crazy. I asked for some toast; my husband brought me a banana, or so I thought (it was actually toast on the plate, but my mind interpreted it as a banana). My baby's mouth soother became a hair clip that I was desperately trying to attach into my hair (to no avail, it was a passifier, afterall). The family doctor was called, arriving in terror at my state, quickly calling an ambulance upon his arrival. By midnight, I was in a non-descript Brussels hospital, doctors weighing up whether I had a brain tumor, or rather, encephalopathy, a condition that implies toxic blood poisoning in the brain. After many hours in the emergency ward, the doctors deemed it the latter; I had been food poisoned, then dehydrated to a temporary state of madness.
Hours later I was taken by ambulance to the Eurostar, into a quarantined-off first-class cabin where I proceeded to vomit throughout the entire duration of the journey. An NHS ambulance was waiting for me at St. Pancreas when we arrived, with the last stop being the Royal Free Hospital, a place I have grown to consider a home away from home. After a three day stay, I was released with the mandate of hydration and rest. But something of far greater concern was on my mind.
During this momentary lapse of reason, while outsiders percieved the way I was acting to be stark-raving-mad, I was half in, half out of reality. There were moments I saw the hilarity and bizareness of my behaviour, as if I were playing a deluded joke on all whom I came into contact; other times I was lucid and attuned to my environment and people in the room. Coming out of that state, I was left confused about what was 'real'; when was I in the squewed distortion of toxic blood poisoning, and when was I back to my 'old self'? I wondered, would I be able to teach yoga again? Cook dinner for myself? Care for my ten-month old son?
As a way of discerning whether or not I was clear-headed and able to make sense of the world, I decided to start writing a blog. I thought, if other people can't understand my words, surely they will tell me; it won't just be me alone experiencing the ideas in my head. And hence, the freeliz.com blog was born.
So here I am now, some thirteen years later, still writing – sometimes about personal experiences and perceptions, sometimes not, yet always through the lens of life lessons and what it means to be human; always interested in getting to know, and go deeper into the psyche.
The second reason I share openly of my life experiences is that this has been a great source of learning and inspiration along my path of becoming more comfortable with being 'myself', and a therapist. While I do have boundaries, and certain aspects of my life are set aside as private, the reality is that my personal and professional work are deeply interconnected. If I weren't on a journey myself of doing this Work towards a deeper self-inquiry, I'm not sure how I could be of service to any of you. My personal work is in shedding the skin of old belief systems that have, for much of my life, kept me from feeling comfortable simply being myself. As I welcome and affirm the truth about who I am, my psyche is healthier and more balanced. This allows me to be more present and connected – with myself, with all of you, and with the world at large. In fact, being connected to something or someone is an in-the-present-moment experience. Writing about my experiences over the past fifty years has been cathartic. It not only brings clarity for myself, but is always written with the underlying intention that it may help you, the reader, reflect on your own life. Perhaps it might even bring you one step closer to awareness, understanding and acceptance of the gifts your life – every life, has to offer.
With that, my intention for movement of the psyche series is to share what happens when one starts to observe the constellation of the psyche, and gently shift old patterns, beliefs and imbalances...or at least, what happens to me.
I'll end this installment with this: it is possible to travel into one's own psyche, to understand it and map it out. Not unlike the Milky Way or the great universe at large, it may be so vast that the exploration is unending. The more one travels, the greater the minute, beautiful, mysterious the discovery. And just like the solar system, there are obstacles that prevent us from seeing certain aspects of it at times, such as belief systems and various aspects of our personality, that ultimately get in the way of travelling deeper. She will never reveal herself all at once, but once there is more information and acceptance gained about this deepest aspect of our Self, life becomes easier to navigate, easier to manage. And this is personal evolution. Reflecting back on my own life, at fifty years of age, I could comfortably say that every event and experience I've had up to this moment has contributed to the realisation about who I am. For myself, I don't know an effort that has brought greater comfort, clarity or connectedness in this life.
Stay tuned for movement of the psyche:iii.
A note: Compassionate Inquiry/Coaching, Rolfing and Yoga are all tools / portals that ultimately contribute to shine a light on one's totality; one's psyche. As well as these tools, psychedelic-assisted therapy (the topic of movement of the psyche:iii) can assist in shining a light on our 'inner skies', further the process of making sense of or our 'Self" by going deeper into this vast, rich realm. Integration work then guides the participant in harvesting and titrating the gems of an inward experience, which can ultimately shift or affirm how we see ourselves, and how we see the world. To be clear, non-addictive, psychedelic therapy is different than recreational use of 'drugs'. With the presence of a psychedelic therapist, a clear intention, a safe space, and time for post-experience integration, psychedelic therapy can be a transformative, life-affirming tool for better understanding, and accepting ones' Self, and the world of which we are all a part. Stay tuned.