He is usually a mild man, known for his gentle demeanour and care for others. His smile is almost never absent from his face and his efforts are always on behalf of someone else. An e mail or call is never going to be a selfish one, contacting you to try and help someone, making connections, offering his services. We have known each other for a number of years but this is the first time he has asked for help for himself. This time he couldn't make it work with what he had, the winning formula had run out of steam and he was lost.
More than being lost, I was most concerned by his lack of smile when we greeted each other. His mop of hair, round face and glasses, framed by a painful circular frown, arching over dark brown eyes. His back was aching - it wouldn't let him sit down for long so his story was interspersed with slow movements up from the chair, a walk around the room and then a slow lowering back into his seat. He was struggling with a boss who couldn't be satisfied, no matter how much he tried to do what had always worked in the past.
“I felt he was complaining and how unfair the accusations were, it was unrelenting aggression and I couldn't escape from it. I just listened quietly after trying a couple of times to put my point across.”
“What would you like to do to him?” I asked after a particularly long story of suffering.
There was then another ten minutes of explanation that it wasn't really his manager's fault and what all the extenuating circumstances were.
“Yes but what would you like to do in your most wild state?”
“I would like to knock his block off.”
He says with his hands shaping up to circle something.
“That looks more like a strangling motion than a punching one” He laughs out loud, looking at his hands. “Yes. Ok then strangle him.”
“Go on, have a go, pretend that is his neck you have in your hands.” That was too much, he is embarrassed and looks down, puts his hands away.
I apologise. “Sorry I should have said none of this is intended to hurt anyone. My hypothesis is that you have a wild part of your nature that doesn't get enough expression. It is ending up causing you difficulty with your energy and your physical symptoms”.
He is slumped on the desk, hands over his ears, elbows on the table, energy drained from his body, but makes a strong connection with the suggestion. I sense that the slump is an expression of how he feels during some of the interactions he describes.
We worked a lot more with what he wanted to say, it wasn't immediate but slowly as he accesses this wild man that was hidden behind the jovial exterior, the symptoms began to alleviate. We started with journaling, building up to saying it loud in private and then on a very emotional day finding the voice to speak it in person to the offending party. His expression wasn’t inappropriate in any way despite accessing some wildness in order to express it.
We have long since given up on our wild nature, through some consensual process of socialisation, being wild is seen as being unprofessional. Instinctually wild men and women who can’t let the wildness out surround us. But the Flawed but Willing know they have to build a channel that can withstand this part of themselves and others. There is a creative use for our wild natures if we can find an expression of it that doesn't hurt others; sometimes the seed of the phase shift is buried inside a scream.
We can cope with socially permitted aggression in the Establishment. That is not what I am talking about. That is often just about dumping your stress on others or acting out some psychological need to demean other people around you. Neither am I talking about a wild state of anarchy that characterises chaos, breakdown and fragmentation. But at the edges of these states - what is the part of you that just wants to shout out loud at the injustice, limited thinking, avoidance or lack of integrity around the place? That is what we are after.
· How do you picture the wild man expression of yourself?
· Could you draw or describe the figure?
· Are there any archetypes of wild men or women that you identify with? e.g. woodsman, hunter, criminal, hermit, warrior, wolf woman or herdsman?
· How is this version of you kept in check in relationship with others?
· What are the benefits and sacrifices of this mechanism?
· Where do you want to let him or her out and what would the positive consequences be for you and others?
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