Last night I dreamed of being a child again, in a house where feelings and emotions were expected to be suppressed, kept tightly under wraps, oppressed by the dictum of the dominant force.
In the dream, I recapitulated the process of holding everything in, of tending to my feelings in the ways my child self had found to deal with them, but at one point in the dream I also snapped. I shifted out of the old obedient child self and ranted and raved at the oppressor. Soon I discovered that ranting and raving against the oppressor gave no real relief nor satisfaction, for it did not remove nor change the oppressor. In fact, my railings only sparked the oppressor to rail against me, to make me feel bad for having stepped outside of long upheld expectations, fair or not. In the dream I was made to feel the consequences of my actions, in the same way that my child self had once been made to feel them for breaking the rules.
In the dream, my child self soon realized that I could neither have an effect on the oppressor’s outburst, because the oppressor was not going to change, nor did I want to stay in the subservient role of being oppressed by this unchanging being. I soon turned away, saw the situation in all its clarity and let the oppression go on without me. It was okay to do so. In fact, the dream was a complete recapitulation process.
In true recapitulation fashion, I was able to immerse myself in an old situation, feel every aspect of it, go through all the questions that needed to be addressed—such as: Did I really want to do this again? Did I owe the oppressor anything? Who had originally decided the oppressive rules? Did I really want to uphold them? What is the reason that I am back here again at this time in my life?—and let the dream guide me to understanding who I was then, who I am now, and how far I’ve come.
In the dream, I was able to reassert that I am not willing to be oppressed, by anyone or anything that I do not agree with, that is not right for me. That may sound egotistical, but in reality it is only part of a process of actually learning to shed the ego’s attachments. For in shedding of ego attachments one learns that one does not need to participate in life according to the needs of others, either to be dominated or controlled by them or held back by their fears. In shedding of ego attachments one learns how to become an individual being. In shedding of ego attachments one learns what it actually means to love.
In recapitulating one is able to free the self from all the old rules that oppressed, held back, and curtailed the true spirit self, the part of us that holds the desire for life to be fully embraced and lived. In recapitulation one asks the question: Can I allow myself to live my life differently, according to my own needs, desires, wants and to extend those needs, desires, and wants beyond the ego self to eventually fully encompass the spirit self? That is the real challenge in life; to let the spirit self fully live.
In his book, Man’s Search for Meaning, Victor Frankl states: “When a man finds that it is his destiny to suffer, he will have to accept his suffering as his task; his single and unique task. He will have to acknowledge the fact that even in suffering he is unique and alone in the universe. No one can relieve him of his suffering or suffer in his place. His unique opportunity lies in the way in which he bears his burden.” —From page 99.
Victor Frankl spent three years in concentration camps during World War II. His spirit took up an observer’s role, allowing him to have experiences that kept him alive. He took up his own unique opportunity to bear his burden, under the direct eyes of the oppressor. Like a true shaman he took a journey of suffering and returned from it transformed, never having let his true spirit self be defeated.
The Seers of Ancient Mexico would agree with him that we each have a unique opportunity to perceive our world differently and to live in it differently as well, to dare to take the opportunity that life offers to transform ourselves. The Buddhists also see suffering as the means of reaching enlightenment, for only in samsara, the ocean of suffering, life upon this earth, are we offered, with each new lifetime, the opportunity to transform ourselves.
It becomes our task to shift away from the oppressive rules placed on us by society and others in our lives, accept our aloneness as necessary and liberating. This is just the opportunity offered when we recapitulate. We don’t need to go into a concentration camp to suffer and meet our aloneness; we all have enough of those opportunities in our daily lives. This leads me to the next point I wish to make today: Recapitulation happens all the time. We do not need to do anything. Life itself places our recapitulation squarely in front of us each moment of each day.
In my dream, I saw a recapitulation opportunity, but, in a sense, I had to be willing to see it that way and not get caught in feelings of sorrow for my child self, to not fall into depression and self-pity. I was offered the opportunity to remind myself just how free I really am, not only of the past, but of the suffering that once oppressed me so deeply.
It was pretty clear to me that I was being shown an old world, one I have come far from, but one that still exists. In many ways I must still encounter it, even though I no longer wish to live in it. As I did in my dream, in waking life I must remember to turn away from the oppressor, to leave the house that is oppressive because it does not feed my spirit. This must become a conscious process, yet my dream is reminding me that I must not become complacent or smug about it either.
In the house of the oppressor we are confronted with questions that will help us move on to new territory, to new perspectives, to new ideas of self and life. We must repeatedly ask ourselves to go deeper into our aloneness and ask ourselves to truly answer the questions that arise.
Some of those questions might be: Why do I live in the house of the oppressor? Who is the real oppressor? Have I taken on the attributes of the oppressor? What can I do to leave this place that I feel so stuck in? Can I allow myself to leave the screaming oppressor without feeling that I am bad, neglectful, inconsiderate, unloving, selfish? Can I turn away from an old world and allow myself to enter a world of my own creation? Can I keep going into the aloneness that is necessary to encounter all that I must encounter in this life? And, in the end, can I simply love the oppressor for having set me on my journey, and accept that my destiny is now completely in my own hands?
Recapitulation is a tool to use as we set out on our own journeys of individuation. It may take us many years to discover that it is actually what we are supposed to be doing with our lives. It may mean that we must return to the house of the oppressor many times, even when we think we have left it behind for good, because it still holds something of value for us. In the end, can we ultimately embrace our suffering as our most valuable asset? In the house of the oppressor, Victor Frankl discovered the key to man’s inner spirit and to his own future as a psychotherapist and student of human nature.
What value do I find in my own suffering? I ask myself this question each day as I revisit my own past. My three-year shamanic recapitulation allowed me to revisit the first eighteen years of my life and find the reasons for the oppressive qualities I carried with me into life. I saw very clearly where they came from, how I had attached to them, and how I continued to carry them forth. I learned to remove them one by one, freeing my spirit, the true self who lay waiting for me to return and find her.
Here is to taking the recapitulation journey that we do not have to do anything to jumpstart, it is jumpstarted for us each day of our lives, we just have to notice how it comes. How does it come? Perhaps in dreams, encounters, feelings, sensations, memories, thoughts, repetitive behaviors; in our actions, reactions or no actions; in complacencies and avoidances; in our likes and dislikes; in our political and social views and opinions. What is mine and what is not mine? Who am I? Who do I want to be?
I want to be me, and I want to be okay with being me, without worry, without fear, without needing to uphold things I just do not believe in or need anymore. I hope these ideas help make the journey a bit more clear.
Just being me,