Some describe the emergence of Coronavirus as being an inevitable expression of an out of balance microbiome, a natural response arising from within an increasingly toxicified ecosystem, subsumed with pollution and ravaged by monocultural over-use, I wonder too if the powerful emergence of overly simplistic, divisive narratives at this time in our collective discourses is a similar expression of the loss of healthy habitat and indeed the desecration, of our psychological and mythic underpinnings.
Just as the ecology of our planet has been colonised and transgressed by a paradigm of domination, so our cultural narratives have become desperately degraded. Akin to the way the Coronavirus is toxic to the human body so too perhaps are our cultural narratives toxic to the human psyche. Simplistic and binary, obscenely outcome-oriented, good vs bad, hierachical, proliferating violence and domination, ensnaring us in the victim/perpetrator polarity, us/them, bereft of creative nuance or mythic ambiguity, they are banally happy-ever-after.
I sometimes wonder whether as a culture at large, or at least for many amongst us, we suffer from collective attachment trauma, in utero, birth, first years of life, childhood, adolescence. The unbearable affect that can present within the undifferentiated psyche of the child causing the authentic self to defend itself against feeling in order to survive its own existence, in the face of a lack of good enough co-regulation from care givers, in the presence of abuse/intergenerational trauma and/or the annihilating absence of care and soulful presence.
I believe the dominant overculture perpetuates an institutionalisation of birth violence and attachment trauma, it’s economic imperatives disinherit us from our profound capacity to attune and to devote ourselves to the non-profitable task of caring and tending, of fusing the soul to its earth-home, weaving a tapestry of integrated sensitivity through gentle presence, impeccable nurturance and timely nourishment, supported by a family, community, society that prioritises attunement and care, deep listening, depth and breadth, wisdom and embodied power. The Mamatoto of wholistic becoming.
Conversely our modern human world institutionalises care and compassion. There is a cultural somatics of loss. This becomes an intergenerational legacy of psychic dissonance, a breeding ground for mental health disturbance, addiction, suicidality, despair, dislocation, avoidance, aggression/abuse, dissociation from emotional pain. For many there is a ravenous dirth of belonging and connection to authentic self, dare I say it is a pandemic.
Just as the earth has been traumatised with the unrealistic demands of a ravenous consumerism, so the psyche has been violated and transgressed by a hollow and brutalising cultural legacy, of capitalism, consumerism, suppression of feeling, violence, economic inequality, systemic racism/sexism/ableism, all the ways we dismantle diversity of being, shaming “otherness” in terms of sexuality, identity, belief. This tyrannical and narrowing system impinges on mind, body and soul.
In a toxically imbalanced ecosystem viruses emerge and thrive, ultimately I’m sure as a deeper expression of intelligence within an ecosystem attempting to right itself. Is the burgeoning of these over simplistic conspiratorial theories an expression of the same thing? A transmitted virus of the psyche, a virulent expression of the toxicity of our psychic landscape, an inevitable consequence of the profound trauma of colonisation, as people are stripped of their ancestral roots of localised language and lore, story and medicine, connection to country and healing practices, birthing traditions and collective child-rearing, intergenerational cohabitation. Almost annihilated in the current cultural narratives is a mythological underpinning of meaning and morality, that binds a person in context and place, connects us to our ancestral inheritance, plants us deeply and with nuance into the fertile soil of community, earth and cosmos. Disease thrives in the psychic landscape of dislocation and emotional pain, that have been epigenetically instilled by the absence of a biodiversity of ecologically embedded selfhood.
In the absence of a cultural code of care for the soul, of a complex and nuanced relationship to the psyche, to emotions and the deep feeling body, of the immanence of spirit through deep ecological relationship to self and place, we can be tempted to cling to the narratives our brutalising culture offers us.
As we are force-fed movies of horror and violence, so we overlay and underpin these narratives of meaning and sensemaking upon a world in crisis. We are existing in a monocultural apocalypse of the mythic. The obtuse narratives of conspiracy theory are perhaps an expression of this dire lack of subtlety and nuance, of emotional intelligence and depth of feeling, tenderness and tolerance, of complexity and biodiversity that our psychically malnourished muscle for sense-making and myth-making has been acculturated to.
Those of us who are held in the grips of developmental woundings that inhibit our capacity to feel safe and embedded in a primal matrix of belonging, are in essence already and always in the grip of mythic and annihilatingly archetypal forces. Unable to meaningfully bridge self to other to culture to earth we are forced to draw on the archetypal forces for sense making and connection. It is our enormous task to tame the archetypal and the mythic so that it can be a life enhancing, enriching force, rather than a weaponised mechanism for justifying our severance from our own authentic self and truest nature, from the unity of human experience, the dislocation from the reciprocity of attuned human and ecological co-regulation. For those of us who are mythically wounded, archetypally defended, I wonder whether part of the remedy must also, by necessity, come from or through this numinous realm, this chthonic threshold, this mythic interface?
I sense that many of us alive today, disenfranchised by the ancient war against indigenosity, need to tend to the battered roots of our stories, our personal myths, repopulate the world with tender and generative, fertile and fecund tales of reclamation, mobilising the mycelium of complex reciprocity that is the true inheritance of life on this planet, complex and diverse, symbiotic and sustainable. How do we even begin to do this, from the tenuous brink, the barren wasteland, of a human world in such deep healing crisis?
Can we be akin to Psyche, tirelessly engaging the multitudinous tasks required of her, that she might at last arrive embedded within her own divine nature? Can we be like unto Isis, tenaciously retrieving, re-membering the severed pieces of her beloved Osiris, building temples across the land of our own grief and love?
Do we, as the fisherfolk, dare to dangle a dubious fishing line over the edge of our battered and scarred dinghy, into the deep waters of our timeless, collective origins, hoping, even as we dread, to hook ourselves to, inexorably entangle ourselves with, the plight of Skeleton Woman? So that even as we flee and hide from her in horror, we may begin the potent work, in the deep of night, by the glow of the ancient fire light, to reflesh the bones, restore the blood and muscle, enliven the sinew and ligament, drum back the heart, of a sensuously embodied existence, a permaculture of the soul.
Text and image © Lucy Pierce 2020