Adventures in Process Work: The 'synchronistic birds' edition
Many of us have experienced what Jung described as synchronicity. Examples of these 'noteworthy coincidences' include: glancing up at the clock for the third day in a row at exactly 11:11; noticing an obscure concept turning up in conversation, then in the newspaper, and then in a film; or hearing an old song in your head and switching on the radio, only to hear the same song playing. Sometimes, synchronicity is fun and intriguing but also seems somewhat trivial. At other times, it can feel very meaningful and there is a strong sense that it carries a deep and important message.
But what about when synchronicity is disturbing?
Dancing with the disturber
In Process Oriented Psychology, we often (but not always) work with the thing that is most disturbing, or has the most 'charge'. For example, if you had a nightmare about being chased by a terrifying wolf, I would be very interested in learning more about that wolf and what it means for you in this particular dream at this particular moment in your life. Often, a big part of what makes these 'predatory' energies disturbing is we disavow them -- they are alien, or repellent, or secretly appealing but taboo. The idea is that once you strip away the story and get to the essence or energy of the disturber (what it means to you personally) you can find something helpful to use in your everyday life.
In my case, the disturber showed up in the form of a drama being played out between two birds, and it kept showing up in synchronistic ways ...
Once upon a time, I came across a lorikeet being attacked by a crow. For various reasons, I was unwilling and unable to intervene (even though there was a part of me that was screaming that I should save the poor little bird). What stayed with me was the size and strength difference between the two birds, and the lorikeet's defiant and desperate screeching as the crow relentlessly swooped in from above.
When I got home, still shaken by what I had witnessed, I noticed I was wearing leggings featuring crows, and I felt a wave of revulsion and shame. I had always found crows beautiful. "What does that say about me?" I wondered.
For the next few weeks, the incident was never far from my mind. However, I was determined to ignore it and forget about it. This was difficult, because I kept seeing lorikeet images popping up -- on television, in a greeting card at the local newsagent, on a tea towel at a friend's house. You get the drift ...
At this point, I'd like to make it clear I do not believe this was happening because I 'wasn't learning the lesson'. This concept is something that I see being promoted all too often; it has an over-simplified, superior, blaming, judgemental,'you're not good enough' quality that I strongly disagree with. Instead, I believe it was one thread of a vast, rich, multi-layered, lifelong personal tapestry that was never meant to be unravelled quickly or simply -- and will continue to unfold over time. This is a subtle but important difference.
A month or so after the incident, I was walking along the street and passed a yard with a birdbath featuring ceramic figures. You guessed it -- they were lorikeets. At that moment a crow came swooping down, looked at me, knocked one of the ceramic lorikeets over and flew off. "OK, you win," I thought. "There is clearly something for me to explore here, even though it feels painful and scary."
The resulting Process Work session was one of the most profound, integrating and healing experiences of my life. Without going into lengthy detail, I can summarise by saying that I was able to lovingly liberate and transform a part of myself -- a small, defenceless, terrified part that was frozen in time. I did this with the help of an archetypal psychopomp (in this case, the Morrigan) whose job it is to guide us through cycles of life, death, and renewal.
Author Doug Dillon suggests that coincidences "give you opportunities to look more deeply into your existence.” What synchronicities are showing up in your life at the moment, inviting you to go deeper?