Helpful Soul Articles, by Melissa LaFlamme, M.A.

MELISSA LAFLAMME, M.A., JUNGIAN THERAPIST & AUTHOR

MOVING THROUGH TRAUMATIC EXPERIENCE AND INTO AUTHENTIC TRANSFORMATION, by Melissa LaFlamme, M.A.

Perhaps we can be most fiercely hopeful and compassionate by treating this time and each other with mercy and with grounded grace built upon a foundation wise in quiet reflection, and with radical acceptance of the disorienting grief, weariness, anxiety and the mess hundreds of millions of people find themselves in right now. And as these are the indelible marks of transformation, they are here with us, to shape and re-shape us, for some time to come.


Perhaps this is a time to speak plainly. Financial worries, isolation, and death itself has a way of knocking the adornments off of speech and emotion. Making us more down-to-earth. With the earth, listening deeply. Perhaps this is a time, too, to be aware of not over bright-siding or re-characterizing this traumatic time as a pre-ordained, perfect moment for the evolution of consciousness, as so many of us are suffering in ways we are not yet even able to articulate. 


The reality is that millions of people are utterly broken by all of this loss right now. And folks were already having a hard time. Many millions more are now in a state of post-traumatic stress. Seriously worried about going broke with no social safety net in this rudderless time in America. People are terribly anxious about how they will take themselves and their family slowly back out into the world. If much at all. Whether their jobs or business will be there and be viable, how they will find work again having lost it, or seen it greatly diminished. And how they will feed and care for themselves and their families. 


So, compassion — in Latin, means “to suffer with” — to be in the this of this. To be with another in the messy muck and mire of what they're in. Not suggesting they be in a hoped-for far less anxious or griefy place because we care and we want them to feel better. 


As a Psychotherapist and depth psychologist, having held nearly 20,000 sessions with clients in the last 17 years, I know that no one has ever just felt better, less anxious, less afraid, happier, stopped crying, and become centered — just because we suggested they might feel better if they did. We humans just don't work that way, neither as children nor as adults.


To be healthy, we each need the spaciousness and the grace that comes with that, to go through what we're feeling. All. The. Way. Through. What we're feeling — the tears, snot, sweat and all — without being subject to anyone else's hidden or subtle need to "clean us up" and "get us back out there." So it really helps to have someone close to us who cares and listens to us without feeling like we are having our experience corrected, being cajoled into being more positive, or subtly feeling like we need to up-level our game/our attitude to be accepted by this predominantly extroverted and happy-addicted culture of ours.


It also really helps to be aware of not spiritually- or intellectually by-passing or getting out ahead of these messy and difficult feelings we naturally have right now. I know it's hard but this move is important for the wellbeing of the depths of the psyche, individually and collectively. To be where we are at, is to "suffer with" or be compassionate with ourselves. Rather than attempting to leap-frog over or transcend our thoughts, feelings and body so as to feel "better" fast.


To be in it just as it is. Here. Now. Chaotic as it is. Dark as it may be, makes us present. Human. To be in the heart, not the heady concepts of the head will help us live within it and eventually get through it — by leaning into it, not attempting to go around the difficult feelings. And to reach out and not go it alone if we get stuck.


It also can be very helpful to imagine holding the tension/anxiety and the hope, all at once. There is room inside us for all of it. Rather than slide into how we wish for and want it be one day. Or what "gift to humanity and the earth" this virus and economic crisis might bring. For at this moment, that would have us pretty insensitive to the suffering of millions, as well as, perhaps, too far ahead of ourselves.


Staying tethered to this moment is harder than leaving it somehow, but it's vital we stick with our Self, and all of our difficult feelings. That is, being in the thing as much as we can withstand  — no matter what the thing is — is a fundament of depth-psychological health, the health of our unconscious and conscious psyche both. It helps keep us real and connected to the reality both outside and inside of ourselves. Staying with it also aids in our overall capacity to be authentic with ourselves and with others.


After all, we are still IN this thing. Therefore, we're not yet in the full psychological impact of the aftermath of this, this dark and unprecedented phenomenon.


So, our presence in the present is vital. To be here and now in the difficulty, in what is truly heavy and the dark, in the grief — is sane. (Sané in French, means healthy.) A most healing and helpful thing, individually and collectively. As elemental as washing hands, wearing a mask, and considering the wellbeing of others, as our own.


I'd rather be whole than good, C. G. Jung said. And by whole, he meant real, messy, ensouled, deeply human, heart-broken open with compassion flowing first to ourselves, to resource and prepare to let it flow widely, to others. Being real — true to our Self, our soul — is gritty. And grit causes friction, makes fire to clear the way for living a revolutionary act. This act is marked by action that the earth and the soul of the world are crying out for. And the cry has become loud, more pain-filled, and grievous. We wonder when will enough souls answer wholeheartedly the cry of the earth and her people.


Turns out, when we get real, it is actually not about us. Our individual program is only the ground from which we step. From which we step and choose whether we will make this life of ours a walk of grit and beauty, or one of accommodation to the forces that insist we do it their way — be perky, positive, well-behaved, producing, consuming, making nice, and paying our taxes. 


In contrast, being compassionate and authentic happens in the guts and bowels of our life. Being authentic is the grunt work of the soul, of any deeply human, spiritual path. Being half here, half there, half-hearted, faking it to look good, strategizing to make things easier for our self — that's the common way of the unconscious clotted middle, driven by our egoic, culture;


a culture that is addicted to presenting as invulnerable, happy, extroverted, and worst of full of hubris. Hubris is deadly. We've always known that. And we see it writ large now.


Being authentic and compassionate, unadorned and soul-centered costs us our ticket to ride from the collective mainstream to the illusion of safe and secure. And opens the door to our bloody and glistening, broken, open heart — reveals to us the honey of this wildly messy life. Leaves us and those we touch, feeling radically free. 

Authenticity strips away all that is NOT real. All that is not made from love, to love and care for our self as we do others. All that is of enriched soul and in-spired Spirit remains. There is no living a soul-centered life without being authentic and compassionate — without mustering the courage to do the excavating in the dark: the Shadow work. 


Again, C. G. Jung: 

'People will do anything, no matter how absurd, to avoid facing their own souls.'


What will you do? 



© Melissa La Flamme, M.A.

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melissa laflamme, ma — jungian psychotherapist & author

ON AUTHENTICITY: INHABITING WILDLY TENDER REVOLUTION

I hope this article, an excerpt from my new book, What You Are For: Inciting A Revolution In Your Soul, is both inspiring and helpful to you.

For the last decade, in private practice as a Jungian Psychotherapist and Shamanic Counselor, I've seen this tangled issue, more than any thing else, arise to wrestle with my clients' psyches. Mine too, of course. It's how I've come to know this terrain. So, this article on authenticity became the prologue to my book, What You Are For: Inciting A Revolution In Your Soul:


AUTHENTICITY: INHABITING WILDLY TENDER REVOLUTION 

by Melissa La Flamme


When you live from your intuitive core, your belly, your heart, let your soul lead and spirit guide you, your words and actions will be naturally subversive.


You will go to your edge. You will soften. Become wildly tender.

Question is, will you wholly inhabit your own revolution? In beauty? This inner revolution is a perpetual ceremony of the heart. It's what you are for.


When you are real, cooked down to essence, rather than half-baked to get approval, to look good, the projections from others may fly, seek you out and try to stick to you. Don't let them. Instead, let your authenticity support you in carrying on whole-hearted, vulnerable conversation to resolve whatever arises. It is hard work. Uncomfortable. Deeply human. Can be harrowing. And often downright delicious. Intimate. Naked. Courageous work marked by your solid presence. Here. Now.


I'd rather be whole than good, C. G. Jung said. And by whole, he meant real, messy, ensouled, deeply human, heart-broken open with compassion flowing first to ourselves, to resource and prepare to let it flow widely, to others.


Being too comfortable, amenable, pliable to the point of contorting yourself — is a ticket to selling your soul right up the river. Don't buy it. When you live from your own knowing-ness, from your gut and your wildly-rooted intelligence, you feel alive. Genuinely, madly, creatively alive.

Being real — true to your Self, your soul — is gritty. And grit causes friction, makes fire to clear the way for living a revolutionary act. This act is marked by action that the earth and the soul of the world are crying out for. And the cry is going to get louder, more pain-filled, and grievous before enough souls answer wholeheartedly.

When you get real, it is actually not about you. Your individual program is only the ground from which you step. From which you step and choose whether you will make this life of yours a walk of grit and beauty, or one of accommodation to the forces that insist you do it their way, be well-behaved, produce, consume, make nice, and as the poet, Mary Oliver says, "barely breathing and calling it a life."

Thing is we're not talking a self-improvement project; that's only the gateway. We are being used. By Spirit. One way or the other: we go consciously or we are abducted — individually and collectively, now. So it's a great time to dive in.

When we realize we have no choice but to offer ourselves up — like a sacrifice — to the mystery of Great Spirit's guidance, this guidance insists on shaping us as a soul-centered contributor. And we're in it! Soul's got us.  We're goners to those egoic, mechanistic, competitive ways; the ways that have undone the earth and so many souls who walk the earth, swim her waters, send roots down into her and watch from the skies.

To inhabit your own core, your vital, knowing center and a soul-centered way of being, you need to do the inner excavation. What we call, in Jungian psychology-speak, Shadow work and in shamanic-speak, Underworld soul work, including ego-dismemberment work to heal old wounds and retrieve parts of your soul you had otherwise disowned or split off. We need these pieces of our souls, as well as aspects of our bodies, and our connection with Spirit, and with the earth, along with the Other-than-human-ones and wild intelligent forms of life — to feel deliciously alive enough to serve this crying earth.

This is real adult work, asking everything of you. And will alter your world completely, but before that happens you'll be met with severing old ways, dismemberment, metaphoric death, dreams, visions — both lovely and horrifically heart-pounding, yummy, gut-wrenching, Beauty, raging tears, sweet snot, broken open heart, blue-shimmering darkness, warm, comforting light. Rebirth. Love. Hope. A deep sense of connection with it all. And a palpable knowing of what you are for.

So it's a slow dive, a conscious descent into the depths of your soul, the dark ground of your being and your dreams: the Underworld of your psyche. This is vital work — no way around it — to discover what you've tucked away in the archetypal Shadow of your own psyche. If you're lucky you will unearth what you had otherwise disowned to adapt to the egoic, mechanistic, competitive, earth-ravaging ways of modern Western culture. And most often, these pieces of your otherwise whole psyche that you had disowned are what makes you utterly You. Beautifully. Creatively. Wildly alive. Authentically so. You. And you are needed here.

Your essential soul's powers — what you were born with before you lost track of them and they, you — are to be found there, in that excavation into your dark depths, awaiting you to carry them home, like mama leopard carries kitties. With a fierce tenderness, knowing that all life — yours, your beloveds, the earth, humans and other than humans — is at stake. The world needs you to be fully alive. Real. The world needs you to find, bring home and embody your soul's gifts and healing powers. It's messy work. It's what we are for.

When you are transparent, you will stand out as you are truly seen. When you are transparent, others can "see through" you into you as your heart and true essence shines. You are clear, direct and kind. You are not an enigma; you don't leave people scratching their heads wondering what you just said and did.

You do not hide. You are honest to the bone. You are courage enfleshed.

When you are congruent, you are wholistically aligned. What you think, say, feel in your heart, feel in your body and the actions you take line up to support and reflect each other. You know it in your body, often in your gut, when you put your attention there.

Congruent. Authenticity happens in the guts and bowels of your life. Being authentic is the grunt-work of the soul, of any deeply human, spiritual path. Being half here, half there, half-hearted, faking it to look good, strategizing to make things easier for your self -- that's the common way of the unconscious clotted middle, driven by our egoic, addicted culture. It's a way that lacks wholeheartedness. Lacks real courage to let the heart break. Shatter. Broken whole and holy open to finally know compassion for self, others, earth. To live and love — on-fire, fully alive, juiced and ready to serve.


Being authentic and soul-centered costs you your ticket to ride from the collective mainstream to the illusion of safe and secure. And opens the door to your bloody and glistening, broken whole heart -- reveals to you the honey of this wildly delicious, messy life. Leaves you and those you touch, feeling radically free. Without choice now. Solid and light. Authenticity strips away all that is NOT real. All that is not made from love, to love. All that is of enriched soul and in-spired Spirit remains. There is no living a soul-centered life without being authentic — without mustering the courage to do the excavating in the dark: the Shadow work.


Again, C. G. Jung:  “People will do anything, no matter how absurd, to avoid facing their own souls.”

What will you do?

 

© Melissa La Flamme


This article on authenticity became the prologue to my book, What You Are For: Inciting A Revolution In Your Soul. Available on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/1478753250.

What You Are For: Inciting A Revolution In Your Soul, by Melissa La Flamme, MA.

What You Are For: Inciting A Revolution In Your Soul, by Melissa La Flamme, MA. 

melissa laflamme, ma — jungian psychotherapist & author

ON LETTING YOUR HEART BREAK & YOUR SOUL LEAD THE WAY

I hope this article, an excerpt from my new book, What You Are For: Inciting A Revolution In Your Soul, is both inspiring and helpful to you:


LET YOUR HEART BREAK

by Melissa La Flamme


With heart splayed open, glistening to serve this one throbbing life, you are fully here.


If that calls to you — by way of allurement, bewilderment or something else altogether — walk with me.


"Forget safety. Live where you fear to live. Destroy your reputation. Be notorious. I have tried prudent planning long enough. From now on, I’ll be mad," Rumi said.


Seems that life invites us to conceive the impossible. Life asks us to let our heart break. Yes, mad, right? But it's okay. Listen.


It is astonishing how much energy we expend trying to keep our heart from getting broken, poet, David Whyte reminds us. So in the desert of southwestern Utah, where these things are said to happen, where winds whip up a hot springtime and sand sticks to sweaty skin, I, instructed by Dream and flanked by guides, offered up my heart to be broken again and again. Best thing I ever did.


This tremulous move dropped me to my knees. To the place where we are met by no choice but to be wholly, messy human, ready to serve others, including the more than human others --those enfleshed and incarnate and those intelligences who are not. On our knees, this is the place of sacred reciprocity; the place of an archaic, upwelling of grief and life-force that opens the door to a deliciously alive, life-giving way of being. We land in this place when we turn down the chance to invest one more drop of vital attention in any attempt to avert the inevitable — to avert heartbreak.


Think about it. How much energy have you invested in trying to protect your heart from breaking? It's wasted energy. And worse, it keeps you distant from your depths, your core, your animal humanity. From every one. Every thing. We're meant to be broken. To shred. Melt. Burst open. Come into compassion and exquisite empathy for every thing.


The world is screaming for you to let your heart break. To be fully human is to let your heart break. And open. Over and over. To not deny it when it happens. To mend it when you can, when the blood stops flowing. I know; that's bewildering. And I invite you; be beWILDered. Be deliciously human. Poet, Rainer Maria Rilke suggested, “let everything happen to you — beauty, terror; just keep going.” And Buddhist teacher, Pema Chodron tells it like this: “Lean into it...Let the hard things in life break you. Let them affect you. Let them change you. What is the lesson in this wind? What is this storm trying to tell you? What will you learn if you face it with courage? With full honesty and — lean into it?”


Let it rip you open. Tear your eyes away from distraction, and turn you toward the thresholds that beckon you. The ones that matter because they know that grief is the doorway to Love; the step into crystal. Into expansive, generative, natural, sweaty, more-than-human-including- human love and purpose. Don't ask me how. Mystery knows how. I am a servant. I will tell you, you may come to a no-choice place. And there, you may find utter freedom in that no-choice.


I think the world, now, is begging us to let the breaking happen. Within. To mirror and heal the breaking happening all around, without. 


We are being asked to break. Break Up. Break down. Break out. Shatter. Bleed. You're on the right track now. The right track to break into radical loving like a thief hungry for soul, ready to serve sweet, dark humanity and the earth's tangled questions that insist we return her urgent call to let our hearts break into compassionate action.


So what about joy, right? Doesn't joy break our heart, open? Well, not really. You see, the heart, body, and psyche are often (but not always) fabulously receptive to joy, open to receiving joy, naturally. And yet, here's the rub: It is a more apt metaphor regarding joy and heart break to say, perhaps, that joy melts the heart. And still, the heart has to be radically opened —  often as a result of having been torn open — so that it can, like a raw egg — become soft, runny and transformed into nutrients for the soul. Melting, along with heart break, especially melting down, is also not something our egoic-"just-get-over-it-culture" will tell you is "good for you." Then again, nearly unutterable grief will melt our hearts as well — but usually only after the grief shatters the heart into kaleidoscopic shards, like the shell of the life-giving egg.


The heartbreak and ensuing grief induced by loss of loved ones, beloveds, health, work, homes, capacities we once had but have no longer, for example, is enormously powerful as it tends to be wildly psychologically transformative by way of often (but not always) bringing about an ego-level shattering; a drive-us-to-our-knees shake-down, drops us hard and packs the velocity that produces the impact that affects a "break down." Stay with me, now; we're almost through to the other side: and so, with our full attention and grace, the break-down may become break-through, and shift us from outmoded and no longer enlivening ways of encountering and reacting to life into a wholly reorganized (if we do the heart-breaking inner work, that is) way of being and belonging in the world that is generative, creative and organically wild — juiced and ready to go.


This sort of heart-break is a wholistic psyche and soul re-organizer. It tends to be transformative at the depth psychological-level of the psyche — the unconscious and archetypal layers of the psyche on the individual and the collective levels.


The way of the deliciously alive broken open heart is radical; it's not what we might expect when we talk about heart-break. Turns out, heart-break is a portal to aliveness, to living a life with freaky artistry, to Mystery, to raw, wild creativity in-born in each of us. An intelligence rips through our heart, invades our lives, giving way to a ravishing and natural way of thriving in reciprocity with every thing that moves like a river in and through the soul of the world, on the earth, not forcing and not holding back.



© Melissa La Flamme



*Excerpt from the poem, Bewildered, by 13th century, Persian poet and Sufi mystic, Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi. Translated by Coleman Barks.

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Melissa LaFlamme, MA

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