How much can we really change – Alchemy and transformation

How much can we really change – Alchemy and transformation

What can we expect in terms of the psychotherapeutic process?

If we embark on a psycho-spiritual journey, what can we reasonability expect? Can we really change? How much can we change about ourselves?

Alchemy as a metaphor for transformation

Through the decades of exploring the human psyche, C.G. Jung used the metaphor of alchemy for the individuation process. Because the core of alchemy is the transformation of lead into gold,  through the analytic process, we transform the base aspects of ourselves into something more refined. Thus, alchemy is a metaphor for human transformation. The transmutation of non-precious metals into gold is a symbol for the soul being freed from a “dead, leaden state of mind,” to realize its potential and to live its experiment in this life.  We can think of the alchemical process as a process of purification of our undifferentiated selves to reveal our essential and authentic self.

Psychological work is a slow process

The reality is that our psyche works at a snail pace. This can be frustrating for our modern mind that is accustomed to quick fixes and instant gratification. In my opinion, our fast paced life and “instant everything” adds to our suffering and dis-ease of our souls. This is the fallacy of our current dominant attitude towards psychological health: that is, we must fix and cure everything. We have lost our connection to the soul and the sacred. We have become trapped in a constant striving for something that is unattainable out of a sense of “not being good enough.”

To effect lasting psychological change, we must circle around our issues time, and time, and time, and time again. It might feel that it is an endless hopeless task. However, each time we confront the baser aspects of ourselves, we distill and extract needed lessons and insights. We bring more of the unconscious into the light. We gain a deeper understanding of what makes us tick; and, we clear away those aspects of being that block us from being completely present in the moment and living a rich full and authentic life.

The Reality is . . .

The reality is that we cannot be transformed into another person. We only become more of who we are as we clear away the hardened mud of our defenses. These defenses build up from the survival strategies that we learned as children. With successive hurts and frustrations, the layers of mud trap our true authentic nature. Most people, if not everyone, fear showing the true self. It is safer to stay hidden. Over time, as the layers of mud become thicker from fear and the need for safety, we lose the connection to ourselves. It is our neuroses which then become who we are.

Several wisdom traditions speak of our true nature as a jewel or a diamond. It is a beautiful image that finds resonance in the alchemical gold. Precious metals are sacred symbols that capture the essence of our true selves; the priceless eternal kernel that is the center of our being. It is the part of us that is conscious, aware and has self-reflection. Often this center appears in our dreams as a radiant divine child, a jewel, diamond or a precious metal. This symbol carries the qualities of the eternal, unbreakable, purity and innocence.

The goal of the psychotherapeutic or analytic process is to find our way to the center of our being in order to live in life, to be authentic in our actions and words, and to cultivate the capacity to purify the overlays that prevent us from being completely present.

What can we change

Here are the things that we can change:

  • We can work with our conditioned and defensive reactions to life that have formed from our childhood complexes.
  • We can cultivate our ability to engage fully with life no matter what the circumstances.
  • We can examine our beliefs about life, the nature of reality, and our inherent self-worth.
  • We can open ourselves up to our authentic feelings.
  • We can find ways to love more deeply.
  • We can cultivate the qualities of compassion and peace.

There is no destination. There is no “there” that we are trying to get to. Life is the process. The path is the goal. The jewel at the heart of ourselves is in an ongoing process of self-discovery and realization. In my experience, it is a fundamental truth of life and one that needs acceptance for what it is. Once we accept that being on the path is the goal of being a human being, we can make the journey so much easier.

Christina Becker
August 2017

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