Exploring my soul's
Exploring my soul's cellar
In a therapy, one is asked to tell one's associations, that what spontaneously comes into one's mind. This was the figure of my father, a man I have never liked, an angry man of whom I was afraid. I fled away from him - just as I did in my dream, away from the elephant.
Mother's little prince
There was more in the cellar of my soul: I dreamed of a little prince happily sleeping in a princely bed in a beautiful small room. My therapist said this referred to the womb and the wish to return to that safe place. As usual in a therapy, he asked for my associations. So, we came to speak about my mother. This was easier than speaking about my father, against which I had strong resistance. In contrast, I could speak easily about my mother as a nice, cordial and careful woman, an angel on earth.
Clearly, my inner view of my parents was drawn in black and-white: my mother was an angel, my father was a creep. This tells us nothing about what they were in reality, it only tells us about my feelings about them, about the inner views I had created and stored in my soul.
Quite quickly, recollections concerning my mother came up associatively:
Doing and feeling so, I ended up in an Oedipal rumble: adoring my mother and avoiding my father. But the story is not as simple as has been told up to now. It appeared that not only an erotic longing for the mother figure was present in my soul, but also a deep fear of female sexuality. This is a difficult combination for such a young child, because both feelings are conflicting. For the time being, it appeared that I had resolved this by adoring my mother as an angel - but she had also to keep being an angel: an exalted spiritual being without a body and sexuality, not a female flesh-and-blood creature but one without female sexuality.
I avoided my father as much as possible. Associatively, but only vaguely and with difficulty, I could catch sight of an old desire: the longing for a friendly, present and involved father as I had known him once upon a time. However, still as a very young child, I had banished this desire to my soul's cellar. On the conscious level there was no such desire.
Such types of repressed desires are typically creepy, and repression makes theme even creepier. Thus, they stayed in the cellar.
Here are some quotes from my diary during this therapy
The therapist said: "Troublesome figures, those inner fathers and mothers... Every human has them; they are archetypes. Ultimately, fathers and mothers represent one divine ancient being, and we are the ancient child - in your case, with an ancient stew..." That stew contains the nasty feelings from my earliest childhood. I continued in my diary:
A dream: moving an aquarium
interpretation was the birth. My wife who drains the water is the mother who
bears. The newborn child has to get breath of air. There is no way back to
the water (the womb). The water tap and the snake refer to sexuality,
connected as it is with creating new life and childbearing. The rabbits refer to
the newborn's feeling of vulnerability.
The therapist viewed trauma in the earliest period of my childhood: severe illness, the incubator, the hospital, being critically ill, and a very early depression. These trauma must have hindered my development, my individuation and my growing from boy to man. He saw that a process of recovery and repair was working and he saw that it had healed, not disintegrated me.
For me, it was difficult to form an overview of this process because I was in the midst of it. For the time being, I saw confirmed only a negative Oedipus complex - not a pretty discovery if it concerns oneself. I had no notion how to overcome this, even no idea if overcoming it were possible. After all, the Oedipal phase manifests itself at the age of 4 or 5, and I was quite older.
The struggle with my father
The first therapist retired. He arranged another therapist for me. This took several months, at least before the real therapy started. However, the process in myself went on nearly automatically. I could not stop it. Clearly, a self-recovery program had started and was working. So, I continued thinking about the inner figure of my father.
Indeed, I have had struggles with him all my life; I could not always avoid him, I had also to combat him.
Oedipus struggled with his father, albeit unconsciously. Well, I have also struggled, but consciously.
As a baby, I had to fight against death. Supposedly, I have not only passively been crying. No, my whole body and mind must have fought to survive.
Back home, I landed in a war situation. The Germans had conquered The Netherlands. "The Germans" or "The Huns" - words that were familiar in daily life, - they explained and ruled all. Avoiding the German soldiers was a daily routine. The motto was: You must use your brain if you can't use your brawn. There was a lack of food; it was the "hunger winter". However, if there was a bit of food, I refused it according my memory and my mother. This is a sign of an early-childhood depression.
In September 1944 I went, three years of age, with my parents to a city, Nijmegen, to visit my brother. On the way there, there was a railway station. On the way back, it was bombed. Thus, I saw: so mighty was the enemy and he was everywhere - even in the street in which we lived in and in the village to which we fled. I did not cry, no, I walked silently and with a stiff upper-lip the long way along the rail until we reached a train. The tears did come, but many years later, when those bombs were mentioned in a newspaper article.
When the war was
over, it was even more apparent how mighty the enemy had been. I saw large
parts of my city completely bombed. In my attitude to life, there was a big
supreme enemy who made us powerless and anxious, so we had to use our brain. Combating
is not only fighting, but also flying, avoiding, using your brain, and quiet diplomacy.
One has to wage a life-and-death
This happened when, after the war was over, all children came home from where they had fled, and the family suddenly became very large. This must have asked all of my father's attention. Moreover, he had to earn the money to feed all those mouths.
I remember sitting, as a very young child, on his lap, and walking behind him with a 'pipe' (a quite Oedipal symbol) in my mouth, and walking to a small park to feed the ducks.
However, this suddenly ended. Suddenly, my dad had 'gone away', and when he was present, he was anxious, scary, dangerous, creepy and capricious. He did awful things like scolding my mother, grumbling, hitting my sister, threatening, thumping - and especially being silent. My dad became inaccessible - maybe only accessible in his anger, but in those moods of his I, in turn, was not accessible.
Thus, I had my next problem: my need for passive dependence in an intimate and loving atmosphere, my need for confirmation, was suddenly not fulfilled - at least not by my father. This must have been a frustration on a deep level.
Apparently, I had made a decision, which I remember vaguely: 'OK, dad, spare me your love, intimacy and confirmation, I don't need them. Now, you're my enemy; I'm going to combat you.' At the age of four or five, just in the Oedipal phase, I chose fighting as a solution. After all, fighting was known to me, I'm born and grown that way, I knew how to fight.
I realized that loving the mother and combating the father is "an Oedipal situation optima forma", as the diagnosis said. My way of combating was that I did away with my father, just like Oedipus did. Come on, down with that man!
About the age of ten, there was a second split. Some children were playing soccer in our street and the ball hit the window. My father called the police. At that moment, something broke within myself and I kept him at a distance. Only for a short while, I felt hate, but quickly I became chilly again.
In our family, it was unusual to play on the street "with those anti-socials, protestants and pagans", as my father used to say. Nevertheless, I did the forbidden soccer playing and I revived because of the contact with vital children. By rejecting the children playing on the street, my father rejected me as a vital boy. He accepted me only as a quiet weak grey mouse. As my brothers and sisters confirmed later, we were supposed to be only quiet and tidy. Noise, emotional expression and other signs of vitality were not allowed in the large family in the relatively small house. My brother added: "We didn't care a bit of dad, but apparently you did." As we see here, every child makes his or her own inner decisions.
Remarkably enough, my mother made the same choice: she gave the children tea and chocolate milk. I kept working in the club house on the sly.
There was an
Oedipal snake in the grass: by caring for those vital street urchins, I imitated
my mother as a careful woman. Against my father's wishes, I chose childcare
as my profession.
By caring for children, I could mirror that situation: now I was the painkiller for the children - and so for my inner child.
To pick up the Oedipal thread, I kept refusing to accept my dad as a father. So I refused any financial support, apart from the family allowance he got from the state. I earned my own living and scholarship as a working student: the young childcare worker - with vitality around me.
Bad luck for my mind
My mind had
thought it was clever by choosing, at the age of five, for a fight as a 'solution'
the problem of deep frustration concerning my father. My mind may have
hoped that, while fighting, I could cope with repressed feelings stemming from
my first and second ancient fights.
In the beginning of that ancient fight, I felt, for a while, feelings of hate and revenge, or powerlessness, anger or frustration. But I could exile those feelings quite quickly to the cellar and become chilly, cool, sturdy and resolute. The more my feelings were hushed up, the more creepy they became, the better the lid could be kept on the kettle. This is a vicious circle.
The fight was not one with harsh words, expressions of anger or aggression. The fight was quiet and cunning, with opportunities for escape and silent diplomacy.
Further exploring the cellar
In the meantime, the second therapist restarted the therapy. With the first therapist, the interviews were mostly about the mother-son relationship. Now the father-son relationship came up and also the phase of my puberty.
Well before puberty, I had already made a choice to 'abandon' my father. Mostly, a boy imitates his father to win his mother's love. I identified with my mother and imitated her. As explained earlier, this is termed "the negative solution of the Oedipus complex".
This raises no great problems during childhood, but does so in puberty. The boy becomes distant from the mother as he grows to be a man. For this, he needs masculinity, a male identity.
From one or another cause, I had obviously not reached that stage of development. At least, I chose not to go out for any sport, but rather for more 'soft' interests such as science, culture and art. During some years, I worked on a musical composition about the Greek hero Perseus. He killed a dangerous woman, whose look had been able to petrify people. Perseus used a mirror, so he could come close to her without meeting her look. This myth expresses the process of staying distant from the mother figure. As usual in myths, the hero freed his bride by doing so, and then started living as a man.
As a young adult, I wrote some novels about the street urchins I had met at the clubhouse when I gave them guitar lessons. Now, I re-read these novels. Not until now, forty years later, I suddenly realized I have described my own soul. I may suppose I have described those children's feelings correctly, but now I saw those feelings were also mine. The boys described had troubles with their parents, especially their fathers. The boys in the novels sneaked through their home like silent grey mice - just as I did.
In doing so, I explored the cellar of my soul, the shadow side of the mind where the suppressed feelings are stored. Remarkably, I found there more identification with my father than I consciously knew: the ability to work hard and systematically.
In this phase of therapy, my soul changed. The change expressed itself in my dreams. For example, many neglected pets got better cages and more food. Surprisingly, I also had pure homosexual dreams, including scenes with a former boss, clearly representing my father figure.
I was not glad with those dreams. One starts a therapy in order to have less, not more, problems. What to do with those homosexual dreams - even with a father-like figure? Strange rumble there in my soul's cellar. Why must all this come to light? Whatever the reason was, I clearly could not stop it. The fat was in the fire. The Dutch proverb says: 'the bear is loose' - I my case, it was the elephant.
The Oedipal triangle
Such a triangle maintains itself: the mother and the boy against my father. This is the Oedipal triangle. The boy has to escape from it by imitating his father. [*] I did not, at least not consciously.
Supposedly, this unconscious but crucial step has made room for the next steps. I still was not at the end of my quest. One crucial dream was not enough; far more dreams followed.
Roles and relations changed
What happened, happened in dreams, but there was a clear line. To begin with, I kept a distance from my mother - more and more distance. Now I felt her as standoffish, even inaccessible. In fact, this was the real situation in the large family, but as a child, I dared not emotionally accept this reality. In one of the dreams, my mother died and I carried her out as a package. In another crucial dream, I went away from her and I went to the father figure.
Both parents disappeared: they died in turn several times. Now I was alone - and I apparently wanted to be so.
Then, the parental figures returned, but the roles and relations differed. I viewed my mother with a more critical look. I saw her standoffishness and inaccessibility. In contrast, my father appeared in a far more positive role. Now, he was a capable man who achieved a lot, an example for me that gave me a feeling of perspective. Repeatedly in my repeated dreams, he gave me tools.
To the bottom of the shaft
Some of the visions that appeared in my dreams:
would your elephant think if he sees his image in a mirror?"
I dreamed about my mother in a quite negative way. First, as an unpleasant, severe and hard woman. Then she appeared as a snappy bitch who was accompanied by a ghost. Last but not least, she murdered my father and she told only me what she had done - an optima forma Oedipal story.
The latter interfered in my caring work. I was inclined to create symbiotic relationships. This may be healing, but you have to be conscious of it and you must know how to end them. The latter was difficult for me.
That ghost - was that my father? Or a hidden side of my mother - or of myself?
All those rabbits in my dreams: peaceful vegetarian animals, but also symbols of fertility, thus of procreativity and sexuality...
I had to go this route through the dark depths, just like Odysseus had to
go via Hades to come home. The blind
Oedipus had to take a laborious route..
The therapist remarked that, in spite of the large family, I was lonesome, left to my own devices concerning my feelings. For a child, this provokes deep feelings of fear and unsafety. Then, defense is necessary. Now that those deeper feeling, that ancient stew, had been coped with, defence was no longer necessary and could crumble away.
In the meantime, the therapist thought I was changed enough, and on a fundamental level, so I should be able to find my way. He was looking forward his pension and wanted to cut back his working hours. I went on my own resources.
When reading books that gave self-workshops for the soul, I had always been blocked at the chapter about the father. Some of these books ask you to write a letter to your father. I never had been able to do this. Now I cut the knot and I wrote that letter. The letter started with critical questions and reproaches, just as I wrote in my diary in 1959, but now the letter ends with forgiveness.
The dreams went on, fewer in amount but not in intensity - I sometimes had horrible visions concerning life and death. Being in therapy, these dreams had always been interpreted on the level of the psyche. Now I had the freedom to interpret them on the more spiritual level, the level of lifes and deaths (plural, because of reincarnations).
In some cases I came to new interpretations of probing experiences or dreams. I also understand that the thread through the dreams was more to survive than to live.
To understand this, I had not to look at the vital children around me, but at the vital child within myself, and give room to that child. I had to re-integrate the archetypes of the child and the wise old man to reach a new whole on a higher level - a level on which I did not need projection anymore.
A lot of animals have
passed in my dreams since the first one, the angry caged elephant,
especially a lot of rabbits. Mostly, those rabbits were neglected nearly
to death. Nevertheless, they survived. At the end, vitality appeared to be
strong enough to survive.