from BARDO

The stars are in our belly; the Milky Way our umbilicus.

Is it a consolation that the stuff of which we’re made

is star-stuff too?

– That wherever you go you can never fully disappear –

dispersal only: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen.

Tree, rain, coal, glow-worm, horse, gnat, rock.

Roselle Angwin

Monday, 10 March 2014

there is the wound & there is the healing

A recent article of mine, 'The Inward Healing', is lead article in the Spring issue of MsLexia, the women's writing journal. Here's the opening (a version of the whole piece will eventually come out in a book of essays I'm writing, and the workshop I mention below will be repeated at the end of January 2015):

Outside, the wind is ripping jackdaws and rooks across the sky, but young light is breaking through the bare ash trees, above the snowdrops. Inside, we’re snug with the woodburner’s glow against the rain storming the windows. I’m facilitating a writing workshop. In a minute, we’ll burn our scraps of paper, on which we’ve written the things we are choosing to let go of from our past year, and our lives in general.

An important strand in the work I do with groups and individuals is reflective and therapeutic writing, sitting as it does between creative writing and depth psychology.

Writing in the way we are this weekend allows an uncovering, discovering, recovering. I know, as do those who’ve worked with me before, that participants will leave feeling clearer, stronger, rejuvenated and focused in various ways after exploring the story of our past year/s like this.

When we write, the imagination will always come into play as a connecting or associating factor, if nothing else. No surprise, then, that Freud said that his work of psychoanalysis ‘was better understood and applied by writers and artists than doctors’...

In the late 1980s and early 1990s I did a training course in Transpersonal Psychology, as a way in to offering counselling.

Transpersonal Psychology, growing out of the humanistic field and based as it is in Jungian thought and the work of luminaries like Maslow, Assagioli, Mare-Louise von Franz, Joseph Campbell, and more recently Ken Wilber, draws heavily on archetype, myth, poetry and visualisation.

A strong part of its focus, unlike the more behaviorist models of psychology, is to do with purpose and meaning. An important aspect of it, and one that has deeply influenced my own work, is the notion of the 'Hero's Journey' to wholeness; I followed this through the Grail legends in Celtic and early French mythology.

Once qualified (I also had a training in Astrological Psychology as taught through the Zurich/Jung foundation through the work of Liz Greene), I did do some one-to-one work, but as it happens, the groupwork took over, and this was reinforced by the then Element Books, who commissioned my first book, Riding the Dragon – myth & the inner journey. Since then, most of my work has revolved around groupwork involving writing, and my own writing.

I'm delighted, though, to be incorporating more one-to-one sessions in my working life. These, like some of the groups, often take the shape of writing as a tool for exploring and expressing life issues.

However, I have never felt that it makes any sense to separate out creative and therapeutic strands in relation to the writing process, though sometimes one and sometimes the other will take precedence in terms of the emphasis of that particular workshop.

In writing, even if it's heavily disguised as fiction, or a poem, it seems to me that we are bound, sooner or later, to come up against our woundedness – for who amongst us isn't wounded? And it may well be that our best creativity comes from touching that wound.

As I go on to explain in the article, there is plenty of documentation to testify to the fact that the very act of writing about something painful is healing; perhaps surprisingly, or perhaps not, since we know about the mind/body connection, our bodies can heal, measurably, as a result of that writing, too.

Healing, of course, doesn't always involve 'getting better from'. Sometimes it means learning to live at peace with what has caused, or still causes us, trouble, and this happens, I believe, through making it conscious.

The wound, in fact, is a prompt to staying alive. What's more, it may never actually leave us, but we will, perhaps, and likely as a result of facing it, maybe through therapy or through writing (or both together), be better able to learn from it, incorporate its teachings, and move on towards wholeness.

I've been rereading the wonderful James Hollis, a Jungian analyst and writer. He's sobering on this idea that the core wound may continue to be a motivating factor in our lives:

'First, you will have to deal with this core issue the rest of your life, and at best you will manage to win a few skirmishes in your long uncivil war with yourself. Decades from now you will be fighting on these familiar fronts, though the terrain may have shifted so much that you may have difficulty recognizing the same old, same old.

'Second, you will be obliged to disassemble the many forces you have gathered to defend against your wound. At this late date it is your defenses, not your wound, that cause the problem and arrest your journey...

'And third, you will not be spared pain, vouchsafed wisdom or granted exemption from future suffering....

'Therapy will not heal you, make your problems go away or make your life work out. It will, quite simply, make your life more interesting. You will come to more and more complex riddles wrapped within yourself and your relationships. This claim seems small potatoes to the anxious consumer world, but it is an immense gift, a stupendous contribution... Consciousness is the gift, and that is the best it gets.'

In taking the 'hero's journey', I've written elsewhere, whatever healing we manage of our own woundedness is also a gift to the collective; and that, in our fractured world, may be the pearl beyond price.

© Roselle Angwin, 2014


  1. Roselle – I feel such a sense of affirmation reading this fascinating, vitally important, post – particularly: 'Therapy will not heal you, make your problems go away or make your life work out. It will, quite simply, make your life more interesting.'

    And: '. . . whatever healing we manage of our own woundedness is also a gift to the collective; and that, in our fractured world, may be the pearl beyond price.'

    Thinking about this, knowing it, believing it will sustain me whenever I doubt that what I'm trying to do with my life is worthwhile and can benefit others. It's what I tell myself constantly and this confirms it and strengthens my resolve. For so much of my adult life, going back to adolescence, this subject has been a passion of mine and yet it is so difficult to maintain in practice. At last, I think, I'm living it more and – in the main – feeling better able to weather the storms of life. Best of all it gives me faith.
    As always, my thanks to you and your constant, always timely, wisdom.
    With love, Miriam.

  2. Miriam, thank you - again; and I'm reminded (again) of Margaret Mead's words: 'Never doubt that a committed group of citizens can change the world; in fact, it might be the only thing that does.' We're not alone! - With love to you. Rx

  3. I too was comforted by your comment that the wound is always with us. And I've been trying to get rid of it- thinking I'd be better if... Yes, living is more interesting and I like the idea that just living that way makes a difference to others.

    Thanks, Marg

  4. Marg - hello, and thanks. Yes, it's kind of a revelation, isn't it, when we realise that the wound won't necessarily go (any more than complexes), but that we CAN learn to live with it? - helps stop all the crazy striving.

    I think we need not to under-estimate the power of individuals' steps towards consciousness within the collective. After all, the collective is made of the fabric of us all...

    Love to you - Rx


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