Possession? Yes, Please!
In the world of analysts, depth psychologists, therapists and all who are interested in the workings of Psyche, the word possession is bandied about. It refers to the overcoming of the ego stance by the archetypal content, i.e., the complex. The definition of a complex is, ‘a quanta of energy organized around a particular theme’. It looks something like this: you’re at the office and the boss tells you to redo the last memo. Suddenly, the rage rises, the heat suffuses the body, the head starts fuming silently: I knew it! She never appreciates anything I do, it’s never good enough. I’m tired of always having to blah blah blah. The ego is gone, the complex (whether mother or father) has occluded the ego’s ability to perceive reality. You are back at the moment when either mom or dad or some other authority figure shamed you for not doing whatever it was perfectly. Any variation of that theme suffices to understand possession.
That is the one aspect of possession that gives therapists material to work with and explore. However, that is a one-sided approach to the reality of the Psyche, which contains all possibilities in each archetype. You can be possessed by the Wicked Witch of the West, or by Glinda the Good Witch!!! We tend not to pay too much attention to the positive and generative aspects of what is also a complex.
A month or so ago, I became a grandmother for the third time and had the occasion to be able to be home with the new parents their first couple of days at home. I understood deeply the need for the new parents to be cared for as much as the new baby needed care: food, comfort, ease. I was able to cook, hold, soothe, stay up the night with both baby and mother and found myself embedded in the old story. I was in the Mother, the generative life giving and life sustaining matrix of existence. That energy carried me for two days of doing what needed to be done: cooking, cleaning, laundry, store runs.
And then it was time for me to go home. I had been possessed by the Mother, flowing effortlessly into doing and being, carried on energy that was no longer mine at this time of my life. I hadn’t been without sleep for two days in decades! But in the middle of the night, sitting with the mother and the baby, I was not tired, irate or bothered. But it was time to go home.
Like the endings of fairy tales that break the spell of the story to allow us to re-enter the world, I had to do something to break the power of the Mother. Otherwise, I would continue to nurture and protect and care for anything that looked like it needed care. A leaf hanging on a tree, a squirrel looking for nuts, anything with big eyes could engage the mothering. So, on my way home, I stopped at the mall and bought myself a new iPhone. I had to interrupt the maternal possession with Logos, with the analytical, outer world of phones and lines and bills and decisions. While we cannot live completely in the archetypal world, we can take dips in the generative possessions and access the energy, power and wisdom available there.
Dr. Silvia Behrend is a Certified Pattern Analyst, educator and mentor