I recently had the good fortune of standing at the shore of the Pacific Ocean. The water was crystal clear, I could see through the waves, the light illuminated the water and I was entranced. Partly, of course, that euphoric feeling is due to the ionization of the air as the water and the air particles combine. But that is too scientific, too analytical perhaps for the feelings of peace and tranquility that permeated the miles of almost empty sand, sea and sky.
Not only did I watch the waves coming in from the ocean, I played in them. I rode the waves, sometimes catching the break at the right time and being brought to the edge of the shore in a glorious body surf. Sometimes I missed it, and sometimes I tried to withstand the crashing with various degrees of success. Some waves were buoyant and I could just slightly ride the up and down motion as it came through me and other waves gave me more resistance. I had to really stand my ground, all the time knowing that I had to carefully assess the waves strength and submit to its greater power.
Sometimes, I even dove under the crashing waves, especially the big ones when catching a ride was not possible nor would standing firm work. When I dove, I had to get the timing and depth just right. Then the power of the wave would wash over but not throw me. I could feel it breaking over me and when it passed, I came up for air, facing the ocean, always facing the ocean so that the next wave would not catch me unaware.
That is how it is with our relationship to the unconscious and to the complexes that would throw us, overwhelm us, carry us on their energy and obviate any conscious awareness on our part. As I played in the water and stood on the shore, I was given a key to understanding the nature of complexes and the ego’s relationship to them in yet another way.
The Unconscious and its contents are constantly in play, in dynamic relationship to one another and to the ego. They are, indeed, like the ocean, which crashes on all the shores of the world all the time. Day or night, from the beginning of time, it is one unceasing undulation, whether we are present or not.
What I understood as I stood on the edge of the conscious and the unconscious, is that when we are able to see the demons clearly, when we see the approach of the unconscious in the wave, we have choices. We can ride it out, we can sometimes withstand it, we can dive under it and get to the core of the complex without being destroyed. And, when we are inevitably taken by a wave, we must get right back up and face the onslaught yet again. We will never stop the complexes from rising and falling, but when we see them clearly and name them, choose how to respond, they lose their fearsomeness. This is not a negation but an acceptance of the reality of the psychic contents, their power and our own ability to engage with awareness and courage - and live to see another day at the beach.
Dr. Silvia Behrend is a Certified Pattern Analyst, educator and mentor