#573 Chuck’s Place: Daphne, The Big Baby & The Pit of Annihilation

Welcome to Chuck’s Place, where Chuck Ketchel expresses his thoughts, insights, and experiences! Many of the shamanic and psychological terms used in Chuck’s essays are defined in Tools & Definitions on our Psychotherapy website.

We are instinctual beings. As infants we are completely dependent upon the world to meet our instinctual needs of hunger, security, and love. At best we can scream, cry, smile, or withdraw to communicate the state of our needs. If you are reading this, it is a fact that your basic needs were met, “good enough,” to emerge into adulthood, capable of some level of self-sustenance. However, the quality of our adult lives rests upon our own ability to find fulfillment of our deepest instinctual needs.

In the hexagram of The Well, in The I Ching, it is stated, “we must go down to the very foundations of life. For any merely superficial ordering of life that leaves its deepest needs unsatisfied is as ineffectual as if no attempt at order had ever been made.” (From the Richard Wilhelm translation of The I Ching, page 186.) Foundationally, the quality of our early parenting sets the stage for our own ability to be good parents to our instinctual self. Our ability to nurture and soothe ourselves, find safety and security, pleasure and love, rests completely in the hands of our adult selves. No one else is responsible for our fulfillment but us, our adult selves. Our adult selves may be severely handicapped in our ability to successfully parent ourselves and meet our instinctual needs; however, we remain completely responsible for solving this dilemma.

In a dream the other night I was on vacation, yet having to baby sit a child named Daphne. Daphne, in Greek mythology, was sworn to virginity and when chased by Apollo turned into a tree rather than acquiesce to a sexual encounter. Here we have a person choosing to completely physically rigidify and refuse instinct altogether, rather than face the onslaught of instinctual energy and desire. Many of us, at least in part, become trees rather than open up to the torment of unmet needs and face the vulnerable feelings related to the failures of those who supposedly loved us. In fact, we often elect to become rigid rather than vulnerable. Actually, the decision to become a tree is driven by an over-attachment to the instinctual need of self-preservation. My dream depicts the dilemma of clashing instincts, for how does one have fun on a vacation when saddled with babysitting the overpowering dominance of self-preservation, the Daphne in all of us.

This constellation is a common dilemma for many adults. The instinct of self-preservation can so dominate the adult self that the rest of our instinctual needs become relegated, by way of compensation, to the big baby who screams for attention. In fact, the big baby is really a bundle of frustrated instinctual needs demanding, with cries of entitlement, to be integrated into our lives. Often the adult ego-self avoids this dilemma by projecting responsibility for the inner child upon the world, like the helpless infant who needs to be cared for by others. This enables the rigid instinct of self-preservation to continue to reign by blaming and lamenting the failures of others to meet its obvious basic needs. Generally, the world greets the big baby with rejection, which leads to further disappointment, bitterness, and deep sadness. Unfortunately, this approach will never solve the challenge of fulfillment, which requires the individual to assume full responsibility for life, regardless of all crimes perpetrated by others upon the self. The individual must realize that the true culprit, at this stage of life, is the adult self, the real parent to the whole self. It is the up to the adult to forge the connection to the instinctual self. No one outside the self can do this.

Jan shared a dream the other day that reflected her current recapitulation of her recapitulation as she writes her book. She and three other women stood at four equidistant points around a deep circular black pit, the Pit of Annihilation. This configuration formed a perfect mandala, the psyche’s symbol of wholeness and healing. The task was for all to descend into the blackness facing all the truths, all the traumas accumulated through life experiences. At the bottom of the pit they were to face the Truth and Reconciliation Committee, after which they were freed of the burdens and limitations of their painful experiences, in fact doing a complete recapitulation, becoming fully released, opening to a full relationship with the instinctual self.

As the women stood beside the pit, contemplating their plunge, they experienced extreme tension; this is Daphne fleeing from Apollo. What was required was for the rigid adult self to let go and take the plunge into the abyss of truth, to relive all the experiences of feared annihilation in order to release itself from the rigid hold of self-preservation, to the exclusion of all other needs. This is the path of wholeness and healing. The adult self is the only parent who can solve the dilemma of the big baby. If the adult refuses to take the plunge the individual will end up controlled by, and catering to, the deeply saddened big baby, behind whose cries lies a bottomless pit of unregulated instinctual forces demanding attention, a true pit of annihilation. Only an adult self that has totally withdrawn the expectation that the outside world parent its baby can take the journey through the pit of annihilation to arrive at truth, reconciliation, and release. From this place the personality is in a position to integrate the instinctual energies of the deepest self and achieve fulfillment in this life.

As usual, should anyone wish to write, I can be reached at: chuck@riverwalkerpress.com or feel free to post a comment.

Until we meet again,

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