‘The Horizon’, Part 3, Chapter 21: about Challenge as a healing impulse, inner Beauty and the inner Beast, and an overview of the Path of Crystals
“There is only one thing that I dread: not to be worthy of my sufferings.”Fyodor Dostoyevsky
What do fairy tales and the experience of trauma have in common?
Both have a difficult, often dangerous, sometimes horrendous challenge at their core. In both of them the main character is the innocent victim of evil circumstances. And both lead — potentially — to a happy ending. The hero or heroine is rewarded and ‘lives happily ever after’.
In biosophy we are motivated by this potential outcome. We want to activate our so-called ‘dormant potential’. We imagine our fulfilled potential will enable us to become ‘who we were born to be’, and finally live the life of our truest dream.
The further we progress on our journey of inner growth the more we realise that this mysterious source of an authentic human life we call ‘personal human potential’ is connected with certain tasks.
If we want to fulfil our potential we have to meet those challenges. This is not easy because challenges are unique, so the solution has to be specific and individual, meaning, there is no guaranteed route to a ‘happy-ever-after-life’.
The focus of both, trauma and fairy tales, is on human limitations. Trauma is defined as a deeply disturbing, distressing, overwhelming experience. The disturbance breaks down existing boundaries of what the experiencer can handle. And trauma is always associated with intense fear.
In her book From the Beast to the Blonde the historian Marina Warner tells us, “Fairy tale as a form deals with limits, and limits often set by fear: one of its fundamental themes treats of a protagonist who sets out to discover the unknown and overcomes its terrors.”
We find the same themes in trauma therapy. If we manage to integrate the shock of trauma, then the experience, having washed us to the shores of the tolerable, opens up new possibilities. Like the protagonist of fairy tales, the experiencer of trauma is rewarded with a new and happier life.
By processing and understanding the personal information of the trauma the suffering gains its unique value. It helps us break through personal limitations and opens the door to the inner treasure of potential which has been hidden till then. Fyodor Dostoyevski may have been thinking of this connection when he wrote: “There is only one thing that I dread: not to be worthy of my sufferings.”
“All of our suffering comes from our self-clinging minds.”Tsultrim Allione
In one of the earliest recorded versions of the fairy tale Beauty and the Beast Jeanne-Marie LePrince de Beaumont tells us, Beauty was not only more beautiful than her sisters, she was also the most intelligent, patient, kind, and considerate one of the three.
Beauty is described as a flawless human being. Only a virgin endowed with such virtues has the power to release the Beast and restore his human form.
The Beast in this story looks ugly and scary but it is kind, generous and supportive. It has a good heart, and this is what wins the heart of the ‘immaculate virgin’ in the end.
Beauty realises that she would rather share her life with an ugly Beast who has a pure heart than marry a handsome man with a wicked nature. The moment she makes this decision the evil spell is broken and the Beast transforms itself into a charming and noble prince.
The transformation of an ugly and scary aspect of human nature into a beautiful and noble one is also found in the female Buddhist lineage of the Chöd practice, mentioned in chapter 15.
Tsultrim Allione calls it ‘Feeding your Demons’, and the exercise consists of identifying an inner ‘demon’ and nurturing it with one’s own life energy. As soon as the needs of an inner demon are fulfilled the hostile creature spontaneously turns into an ally.
The results of such a transformation are instant and the effects last ‘forever’. This is reminiscent of the endings of fairy tales: ‘and they lived happily forever after’.
“It is important to point out that Chöd is not done to ‘get what you want’.” Tsultrim Allione emphasises. “The point of Chöd is really the opposite, to let go of what you cling to.”
This is where we usually get caught out. We tend to think in terms of damage and indemnification. We try to compensate for a perceived lack by ‘fulfilling our potential’; we hope our errors, mistakes and any ‘bad stuff’ we have done in the past can be ‘undone by good deeds’. In this perception our good aspects and the bad ones appear separate from one another.
“All our suffering comes from our self-clinging minds,” says Tsultrim Allione. Our personal experience of trauma has a tendency to cling to us, but only as long as we reject it. As soon as we meet the inner Beast with a kind and open heart the process of transformation can begin.
“His unique opportunity lies in the way in which he bears his burden.”Viktor Frankl
The Beast takes residence in our Consciousness the moment we enter life. It seems inevitable. In chapter 12 we learned from Franz Renggli that parents can pass an unresolved trauma on to their children.
We all experience some degree of birth trauma because coming into this life pushes humans to the edge of what we can comfortably handle. It is intense, overwhelming, and often accompanied by fear.
When traumatic experiences cannot be integrated, they stay in our Consciousness for future processing. They don’t go away, no matter how many wonderful experiences follow to ‘compensate for the shock’.
The trauma information remains in the memory of the individual, and it can even be passed on to the next generation. This observation suggests that traumatic experiences play an important role in the development of human Consciousness.
In contemporary psychology trauma is a relatively new field of research, but it has always been a central topic of human interest.
Traumatic experiences are a serious injury to the human psyche. They have damaging effects on the physical organism and the whole life of the individual. Some people never recover from a trauma.
It is not surprising that therapists initially focussed on damage limitation and relieving the effects of the trauma. At the same time, however, trauma specialists couldn’t help but notice that the experience of trauma can — under certain circumstances and in some people — lead to spontaneous positive changes.
The trauma experiencer emerges from the event as a stronger, wiser, happier person than before. This phenomenon is now called ‘posttraumatic growth’.
Posttraumatic growth is defined as a greater resilience, contentment, and appreciation of life which people develop as a result of experiencing and processing trauma. We have seen examples of this phenomenon in many stories in earlier chapters of this book, including Anita Moorjani, Dan Caro, Kris Carr, and Dominic Polonski.
Contemporary trauma therapists have re-discovered this central theme, which is described in many fairy tales, myths and legends. It is the ancient story of how heroic humans are born.
Viktor Frankl, a psychologist who experienced severe trauma himself, wrote in his book Man’s Search for Meaning: “When a man finds that it is his destiny to suffer, he will have to accept his suffering as his task; his single and unique task. He will have to acknowledge the fact that even in suffering he is unique and alone in the universe. No one can relieve him of his suffering or suffer in his place. His unique opportunity lies in the way in which he bears his burden.”
“Trauma is about loss of connection—to ourselves, to our bodies, to our families, to others, and to the world around us.”Peter Levine
There is also something like ‘posttraumatic oversensitivity’. The experience of trauma seems to cling to us like a bad smell. Whenever we are faced with a challenging event — an experience slightly overwhelming, pushing us to the edge of what we can comfortably handle — it triggers the memory of the original wound.
This makes perfect sense when we remember that a negative experience often signals the potential birth of a new aspect of ourselves. The old wound breaks open, and we have an opportunity to dive into the birth channel again.
It feels as if a sleeping Beast raises its ugly and scary head. If you have spent some time and effort trying to kill the monster, it may look as if a ‘many headed Hydra’ shows up again, relentless and hostile.
But it is only your personal inner Beast hoping to be released from its spell. It doesn’t want to be scary or ugly. It is waiting to be transformed, and your inner Beauty is the only one who can do it.
Trauma is not only notoriously difficult to deal with, it also is not always easy to recognise. In his book Healing Trauma Peter Levine writes: “People often ask me to define trauma. After thirty years, this is still a challenge. What I do know is that we become traumatized when our ability to respond to a perceived threat is in some way overwhelmed. This inability to adequately respond can impact us in obvious ways, as well as ways that are subtle.”
Because our trauma experiences, our personal dormant potential, and our suffering are unique, we have to spend some quality time and effort to trace these issues in our own life. This is one of our greatest challenges.
“Many, if not most of us, who have been overwhelmed by a series of less dramatic events have responses that are not so obvious,” says Peter Levine. Here he offers the best summary of the effects of trauma I have found:
“Trauma is about loss of connection—to ourselves, to our bodies, to our families, to others, and to the world around us. …These are the hidden effects of trauma, the ones most of us keep to ourselves. We may simply sense that we do not feel quite right, without ever becoming fully aware of what is taking place; that is, the gradual undermining of our self-esteem, self-confidence, feelings of well-being, and connection to life. Our choices become limited as we avoid certain feelings, people, situations, and places. The result of this gradual constriction of freedom is the loss of vitality and potential for the fulfilment of our dreams.”
“Oh but my darling, what if you fly?”Erin Hanson
Whenever we are confronted with an inner Beast we feel overwhelmed, we may fall into a state of panic, and collapse in a heap of trembling terrified helplessness. In this state it is easy to forget our inner Beauty.
The ‘immaculate virgin’ portrayed by the character of Beauty in the fairy tale has the quality of wholeheartedness we came across in the previous chapter. Here we can practice promoting this quality, keeping in mind that it seems to be easier to develop this desirable quality — paradoxically — in the face of danger and difficulties.
The Path of Crystals is designed for the biosophical practice of handling everyday challenges. These are related to the ‘hidden effects of trauma’ mentioned by Peter Levine.
The Path of Crystals is an invitation to face an experience which is scary and overwhelming. As we approach the ‘Beast’ in small, safe steps, we can identify the story we make up about it in our own heads. This is invariably connected with the narrative of the old trauma.
Through kindness, patience, understanding, and finally the commitment to ‘marry the Beast’ we can release it, and ourselves, from the spell. In return we gain increased courage, contentment, confidence and inner peace as new companions for life.
The Path of Crystals is ruled by the Faculty of the Inspiration, and it stimulates Self-Discovery. When we meet a challenge in the spirit of heroic adventure it is easier to keep the involuntary overwhelming trauma response at bay and approach the inner ‘Beast’ in a new manner.
The Path of Crystals is suitable for dealing any challenge in everyday life — within a manageable range. It is indicated in particular when you feel an urge to develop a new skill, explore something new, take a bold step into the unknown, but are too scared to make the commitment. You are held back by fear, or you may recognise old trauma patterns being triggered and closing you down even before you started.
The Path of Crystals helps to reveal the aspects that are ready to be born, related to the challenge. It encourages us to identify the narrative of personal trauma, listen to the fear, and develop a new strategy for handling unknown situations. All these steps lead towards releasing yourself from the spell.
Overview of the Path of Crystals
The Path of Crystals is suitable for any kind of CHALLENGE. Before stepping onto this Path you have to identify the difficulty you are ready to meet. Write it down.
This process is based on the sequence of the mythical Heroic Journey, and the challenge is your personal ‘Call to Adventure’.
1st Crystal — Inspiration — Qualities
To begin the Path of Crystals look at the role you need to step into in order to handle this challenge. Explore the qualities a person would have, who can handle this kind of challenge easily. The challenge is calling you to give birth to those qualities within yourself.
Who do I need to become to meet this challenge and deal with it comfortably?
What are the qualities of a person who can handle this challenge with ease?
2nd Crystal — Intuition — Doubts
Having not yet developed those qualities you will have doubts that you are able to handle this challenge.
What are my doubts?
3rd Crystal — Imagination — Narrative
Every challenge invites us to enter new and unknown territory, and everybody has a personal story that gets triggered every time we step into the unknown. The narrative of this story is related to the birth trauma. It comes up whenever an aspect of ourselves is ready to be born.
What is the narrative of my story?
What do I imagine could happen?
4th Crystal — Instinct — Fears
Stepping into the unknown always triggers fears involuntarily. This is an example of the ‘preliminary passions’ of the Stoics (see chapter 20).
What are my fears?
5th Crystal — Intellect — Strategies
We all have survival strategies which kick into action when we feel threatened. At the 5th step on the Path of Crystals you have an opportunity to look at the options of strategies you have for meeting a challenge.
A — What is my habitual strategy for meeting a challenge?
An alternative strategy would be to focus on developing the qualities you identified at the 1st step.
B — In what situations do I already have the qualities I need to handle this challenge with ease?
How can I develop these qualities further?
6th Crystal — Body — Tests
The Challenge that lead you onto the Path of Crystals is a test. By engaging with this process you agree to meet your challenge in a constructive way.
When you choose a new strategy (strategy B) you agree to develop the qualities you need to activate your potential and live life more fully. In response to this decision life will present you with new tests.
Look out for the next challenge!
(Remember that the steps on this Path are Healing Impulses. By meeting this challenge you signal that you are willing to grow and take the next test.)
7th Crystal — Will — Treasures
The inner Beast is the guardian of the inner treasure. The treasure hidden in this challenge may be an insight, a deeper understanding, a new realisation, a fresh way of seeing yourself and your life.
What treasures am I receiving through this challenge and on this Path?
8th Crystal — Soul — Celebration
The Path of Crystals is a ‘mini Heroic Journey’. At the final step you must bring your gifts home. The treasures want to be honoured and appreciated. In other words, now you have to give some attention to your inner Beauty and nurture her.
The final step on this Path is a celebration of your life, your ability to meet a personal challenge in a creative and constructive way.
What can I do today to celebrate the treasures I have received?
When meeting a challenge, initially we can only see an overwhelming task standing in our way. The memory of an old trauma gets triggered, and from that perspective we feel weak and small. But a challenge is only as big and scary as our perceived smallness and weakness in relation to it.
On the Path of Crystals you are prompted to step back from the challenge and view it from a new angle. You will discover, beyond the assumed limitations placed in your way, there is a new freedom waiting for you.
There is freedom waiting for you,
On the breezes of the sky,
And you ask “What if I fall?”
Oh but my darling,
What if you fly?
Poem by Erin Hanson
Like all processes of the Solo System the Path of Crystals is designed for the practice of biosophical principles. A challenge will not ‘go away’ simply by practicing this sequence once. This Path gives essential healing impulses for the growth of specific qualities that need to develop in order to handle unique personal challenges.
© Veronika Bond, 2017
This article is a draft of chapter 21 of The Horizon, volume 2 of The Solo System.
It is complemented by an e-letter, containing additional background information about the progress of the book and the creative process.
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