Category Archives: Chuck’s Blog

Welcome to Chuck’s Place! This is where Chuck Ketchel, LCSW-R, expresses his thoughts, insights, and experiences! Currently, Chuck posts an essay once a week, currently on Tuesdays, along the lines of inner work, psychotherapy, Jungian thought and analysis, shamanism, alchemy, politics, or any theme that makes itself known to him as the most important topic of the week. Many of the shamanic and psychological terms used in Chuck’s essays are defined in Tools & Definitions on our Psychotherapy page.

Chuck’s Place: Holding Space for Trickster

Shining the light upon Trickster’s stupendous web…
– Photo by Jan Ketchel

Holding space means being with someone without judgment. Holding space means being fully present without seeking anything in return. Holding space means bearing the tension of opposition. Holding space means unconditional acceptance of all that is. 

Trickster is the child in all of us who simply refuses to conform to civilized expectations. That child will undermine our ego’s best intentions, as we find ourselves breaking our deeply fought for resolutions at trickster’s instigation. In a heartbeat, trickster will concoct a reason to open the refrigerator or peek at Facebook. Later, defeated and guilty, ego contritely starts anew on its road to self-improvement.

Before we completely demonize trickster, let us ponder a koan from Jesus. In Matthew 18: 2-4, Jesus is quoted as stating, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”  Clearly, the suggestion, on some level, is that, holding space for trickster is fundamental to spiritual evolution.

Trickster is a character that appears in the mythology of all cultures. Phil Jackson, of immortal basketball coaching acclaim, bestowed upon one of his star Chicago Bulls, Dennis Rodman, so called “best friend” of Kim Jong-un, the role of a Heyoka, a Lakota Indian trickster spirit, who both crossdresses and does things backwards to challenge the prevailing order of the tribe.

Phil Jackson recognized the necessity of holding space for this most unruly of characters, who would at times cost his team games and at other times help teammates to get over their self-importance and just have fun playing basketball. Like noted physicist David Bohm, Jackson knew the value of bearing the tension of full wholeness, over merely expecting goodness, in elevating a team to a higher level of play.

Jackson stressed the practice of patience in allowing another person to be who they were going to be, and while not protecting them from the natural consequences of their actions, not excluding them from the team either. In fact, he stressed the critical necessity of all-inclusiveness, including even the most vile trickster, in the building of a whole team.

David Bohm insisted that the way to advance civilization’s survival was to bring together all disparate characters at a roundtable of dialogue. All would commit to suspend judgment and merely express themselves and get to know their neighbors. The objective is not to advance one’s view over another’s, but simply to be part of this living wholeness.

Bohm predicted that this full presence alone, devoid of any attempt at convincing, would in itself give rise to the necessary resolution of difference. Perhaps his vision is similar to a Quaker service where, in the presence of the wholeness of the group, guidance spontaneously emerges in a channeled message. This was his social equation for human resolution, as he realized that at the most quantum subatomic level, only through the removal of subjective prejudice could science arrive at the fullest truth of energetic reality.

The trickster in all of us is our inner hero in the rough. Trickster is the ultimate Freudian slip, where the truth is most uncomfortably revealed. Perhaps that truth has laid bare one’s pretentious host at a party, or exposed one’s own most sensitive sore spots.

Trickster is daring, indignant, irreverent, ruthless, charming, hilarious, playful, spontaneous, sensitive, insensitive, attention-seeking, and highly self-centered. Trickster disdains reason and is far more driven by impulsive opportunity to shock and disrupt. Don’t expect trickster to be good at the party. Trickster is already eyeing the desert when you first walk through the door.

Don’t shut out trickster’s truth. Be patient and suspend judgment upon  the full truth of the self. See what might emerge as you bear this tension. If trickster appears outside the self, in the person of another, recognize its value as petty tyrant. In Carlos Castaneda’s shamanic lineage, trickster as petty tyrant is the person who most deeply offends us.

Typically, these are the characters one would prefer most to not have in one’s life. But, from a spiritual advancement opportunity, petty tyrants require one to completely relinquish the ego’s self-importance by not engaging in a defeatist argument in a futile attempt to defend oneself. Trickster also lays bare any proclivity to self pity, which in itself depresses the ego into immobilization.

Alternatively, if one can contain one’s anger and hurt within the cauldron of self, and travel down the rabbit hole of holding space beyond one’s hurt ego, one may be led on a journey of enlightenment to hidden memories and attitudes, which reveal previously veiled truths about the self.

Trickster may never mature, but trickster will challenge one to get beyond the limitation of self-importance that burdens all egos.  It may very well be that trickster’s irreverence persists only until ego truly grows up to the truth of right action, and assumes appropriate leadership. From that accomplishment trickster moves on, in its own mercurial way, to force attention upon another of ego’s many blindspots.

Most importantly, trickster offers us the opportunity to recover our lost innocence, the awe that leads to spiritual advancement.

Holding space for trickster,

Chuck

Chuck’s Place: Unbending Detachment

Look to the skies for guidance on how to remain detached and yet fully energetically connected!
– Photo by Jan Ketchel

The key to actualizing our human potential is energy. If you have enough energy you can do just about anything. Recognizing the value of conserving and retrieving energy, shamans discovered that the human being’s most lethal energy drain is offense.  Being offended, by anything and everything, costs humans the lion’s share of their vital energy.

When we feel offended by the words and deeds of others we have emotional reactions, like anger, fear, and resentment that tax the central nervous system. We lose our balance, as we become emotionally charged, seeking relief in some kind of action. Often, obsessive thinking continues to replay the offense, which sustains and feeds this state of emotional tension.

Is it possible to have an objective reaction to another’s offensive behavior without being personally offended? Yes, through gaining conscious control of our instinctive emotional reactions and deciding, on the mental plane, to not be offended by the behavior of others, regardless of how ruthless it might be.

Who could forget Robert De Niro’s “Are you talking to me?” in the movie Taxi Driver? Instinctively, we feel the growing tension of his mounting anger, as he incessantly repeats this famous line. Truthfully, many are drawn to such unabashed expressions of rage and contempt, which vicariously satisfies our own unexpressed rage and resentment.

Now, if Robert De Niro had simply walked away, the movie would have flopped. On the other hand, if we want to start saving our vital energy, we must be willing to let go of the many dramas our internal dialogue ignites through its constant interpretation of offense, throughout our everyday lives.

This is not to say that there is not significant horrific behavior that must be addressed. At issue is the subjective state of offense that accompanies one’s reactions to those behaviors. One can assess a situation and decide upon a course of action, unencumbered by emotional reaction. In fact, this is a core teaching of all martial arts.

When one becomes emotionally offended by an opponent’s move, one loses one’s edge, fights poorly, and generally loses. As in shamanism, in the martial arts the key to success is to not become attached —offended— by one’s opponent’s behavior. The objective is to stay present to what is and completely conserve one’s energy in order to be fully engaged in one’s most efficient counter response.

In fact, when one becomes offended one actually gifts the opponent one’s own energy. Offense can lead to hopelessness, powerlessness, and surrender, as one’s vital energy reserves become depleted. Bullying behavior is actually a strategy to catch one’s opponent in the net of offense, weakening their game. Muhammed Ali was a striking example of such tactical behavior leading up to a fight, as he would mercilessly insult and demean his opponents.

Instinctive reactions can be, and often are, life saving. What we take as an instinctive reaction, however, is very frequently the ego’s decision to be offended, whereby calling forth the troops of passionate reactions to exact retribution, in some form. This is a hybrid, instinctive reaction that serves only the ego, not the true needs of the self.

Ego must learn to be a servant to the true needs of the whole self, rather than just its own self-aggrandizement. Even if the ego has been directly insulted, the ego must consider the energetic impact on its central nervous system, and its energy reserves, before determining its course of action.

If the ego faces the fact that we live in a world where life feeds upon life, it can come around to the fact that we live in a predatory universe and not get offended by it. Of course, this does not stop our need to defend ourselves, but how much stronger and more clearheaded we would be if we didn’t burden ourselves with being offended.

When the shamans speak of detachment, they are targeting what we typically judge to be offensive behavior. They promote inner silence to avoid offensive dramas when navigating oncoming time, to best be prepared to respond appropriately, with the least taxing of our energetic reserves. Inner silence entails quieting the mind, pulling into the heart center, and waiting patiently for the guidance that shows us how to act in a way that is truly right.

In addition, they recommend a thorough recapitulation of one’s relationships in life, particularly circumstances that left one feeling offended. Recapitulation frees one’s energy stored away in offense, but also frees one from being triggered by current circumstances that reflect one’s unresolved past.

The truth is that there are highly sadistic, abusive people who commit horrific acts. Recapitulation does not change this fact, but it does free one from draining one’s vital energy by being eternally offended by them. Detachment means accepting the truth of what was, and fully harnessing one’s freed energy to be redeployed in new life.

I send out the intent for unbending detachment, as we collectively advance our world into new life, beyond offense.

With Unbending Detachment,

Chuck

Chuck’s Place: The Power of Belief

“There is nothing that is not divine.” – Aurobindo
– Photo by Chuck Ketchel

From a shamanic perspective, the cosmic dance of now lays bare the power of belief in generating the reality we live in. Our belief system is largely shaped by the messages we internalize from the outside world that become the internal dialogue that interprets our reality. The belief system we sign up for becomes our reality.

At present, the mass of humanity is engaged in a civil war of conflicting belief systems. The consequence of such disagreement is an instability of worldview that threatens basic security, both within the individual and in the world at large. Without a collective boundary of belief, the world is subject to a barrage of all that has been suppressed and repressed in the individual and in the collective human psyche as well.

Civilization has, at its root, civility, defined as a politeness and courtesy in behavior or speech. Clearly we are in a time that has overturned politeness and courtesy in behavior and speech. What’s been unleashed is the repressed energy that lies beneath the surface ripple of civilization, what Freud called the Id and what Jung called the shadow. Civilization is currently overrun by the power of these discontented parts of its psyche.

Our fragile civilization is charged with addressing the truth of its discontents. A new balance is called for. This balance must consider the animal within the human being. That animal has long been the sequestered Minotaur, lost in the labyrinth of the unconscious.

That shameful human, with animal head and tail, is filled with rage toward the civilized human it blames for its rejection. Meanwhile, its human counterpart is both terrified by its power and hungry for its passion. Clearly these two spheres of existence have a place in human reconciliation. Domination of the unconscious as a defense strategy to protect civilization is unstable and cuts off a wellspring of vital energy needed for a fulfilling life.

The opportunity of now is to construct a belief system that values and reconciles all parts of being human. Thus the human animal and human spirit are recognized as valid parts of a human being that both contribute to and enhance human life. Both centers of being are valued for their inherent knowledge and creative potential.

Alexander Lowen, Wilhelm Reich’s protege, pointed out that human beings rarely experience full orgasm in their sexual contact because they have lost their connection to their animal core that truly knows how to physically move. Thus, human sexuality is rarely fulfilling, dominated as it is by the ego’s mental control and expectations.

A belief system that incorporates both our inherited nature and our ability to elevate it to the spiritual heights of love, offers a reconciliation of the human condition that may better serve our evolving civilization.

As always, be empowered to begin within. All the forces without that both attract and repel us are also our own projections from within. All that we hate and fear are as much a part of us as all that we love and long for. A belief system that accepts this equation is poised to find true stability and wholeness within. Wholeness within, wholeness without.

Optimistically,

Chuck

NOTE: Taking a week off, so no writings from either Jan or I next week, including Soulbytes. We look forward to reconnecting starting the week of September 14, 2020.

Chuck’s Place: How A Change Might Happen

Change is happening all around…
– Photo by Jan Ketchel

Our bodies are governed by deeply embedded evolutionary programs, the stuff of DNA and archetypes. These programs are housed in the operations of the subconscious mind and operate quite unconsciously through the autonomic nervous system. Thus, the heart beats at a rate governed by its inherent instructions, not by conscious intent.

However, as has been definitively proven by advanced Yogis, consciousness can assume control even over the heart rate. In fact, Yogis have been able, under laboratory conditions, to stop the heart for several minutes, and then resume normal beating.

The operative principle here is the shaman’s credo: suspend judgment and see what happens. If we dismiss attempting to do something because we don’t believe it is possible, then we stay aligned with this now blocking-belief, based on principle.

In addition to these inherited programs are the socialized messages we have internalized as beliefs, which also take up residence in the subconscious mind and automatically influence our body, mind, and emotional states. Thus, being told, for instance, that we have an incurable disease might result in a subconscious acquiescence to such a prediction.

In this case, we are faced with two powerful influences upon the subconscious: inherent and socialized.

The inherent influence might be a genetic predisposition to a disease. The influence of this genetic coding might indeed challenge the body in a predictable way. This is real.

However, as successful placebo interventions demonstrate, the power of suggestion can have an impact on the course and even elimination of a disease. If one is able to suspend the judgment that upholds a blocking belief and engage the power of intent, anything could happen.

The socialized dimension upon the subconscious might be triggered by the power attributed to an authority figure. A doctor is a person of high authority that easily triggers the commandment to honor one’s parents, holders of omnipotent power in our very impressionable childhood years.

Honoring the parents may have generalized to all subsequent authority figures in life. Thus, one may feel too inadequate to question the pronouncement of such an authority figure. Hence, engaging the possibility that one can influence the course of one’s encounter with disease might never be allowed, due to the influence of subconscious beliefs.

It is extremely difficult to talk oneself out of a belief. Once installed in the subconscious, beliefs act autonomously and with a great deal of power, as is easily seen in the intensity of emotions that are aroused when a belief is challenged. Just try having a rational discussion with anybody about their current political beliefs—I guarantee you’ll see a display of emotion!

The best approach to working with a limiting belief is to acknowledge it but not stay under its domination. So, for instance, if I am told I’m dealing with a disease, I will acknowledge that fact, that my symptoms fit a diagnostic category.

Next, I quite definitely would state my intent: “I intend to heal!” Here I am speaking to Intent itself, a power in the universe that I seek to engage in my healing process. If one has no belief in such a higher, independent power I would suggest stating the intent anyway, regardless of doubt.

Intent may be the language that activates one’s link to what physicist David Bohm termed the Implicate Order, the deeper interconnected oneness that underlies our surface experience of separateness in reality. Communication from this dimension utilizes synchronicity to guide consciousness on its journey of change.

The intent to influence the subconscious is critical, as the subconscious is the warehouse of our belief system, as well as the executor of most bodily activity. Taking conscious leadership of the directives we want our body to follow is directly linked to the suggestions we give the subconscious. Never assume a subconscious program can’t be overridden by conscious intent.

Next it is critical to be very patient. Subconscious programs are shrouded in powerful defenses to protect the sanctity of these default positions. We must calmly but incessantly repeat our intentions to the subconscious. If we are impatient we will easily be defeated in our intent.

Furthermore, the course the greater Intent might take us in might be quite counterintuitive. We may need to suffer many surprises that actually might be a course of recapitulation, necessary to journey through to free our energy from the roots of a disease. Perhaps an ancestral problem embedded in a disease may need to be experienced and solved before it can be released.

Finally, and most challenging, we must suspend attachment to the outcome of our efforts. The goal is to be impeccable in stating our intent and meeting the challenges that unfold. Attachment to outcome taxes our energy in wish-fulfillment and depression when things don’t unfold as we expect them to.

Be definite in intent, be patient, and take the journey that is presented, the journey of a lifetime. See what happens!

INTENT!

Chuck

Chuck’s Place: What Happens to the Heart

Heart transformed…
– Photo by Jan Ketchel

The feature song of Leonard Cohen’s posthumous album, Thanks for the Dance, asks the deepest question of all, what happens to the heart when we leave this world? The heart, after all, houses the deepest treasure of our Earthbound odyssey, love.

Love, as we experience it in this life, is a developmental process that begins post-birth in the raw emotion that cries out for attention, for comfort, food, and security. This is the love of primal attachment, facilitated by the inborn post-uterine archetypes triggered upon arrival at birth. Thus the rooting reflex in the infant, and the instincts to nurture, protect, and bond in the parents, combine to initiate the love odyssey of a lifetime.

Emotion is the love energy that roots us to this Earth as it compels us to attach through sensual desire and hunger for fulfillment. Without emotion we exist only on a mental plane, out of body, or in the head. No disrespect to the mental plane, but without emotion, there is no real connection to life.

Nonetheless, emotion as experienced through passion, need, and want is merely the outer wrapping of love that must be peeled away for love to truly take up residence in the heart, where love loves all. The overwhelming tantrum of  anachronistic narcissistic, infantile entitlement to attention in adult years must transmute, to include the world beyond its own self, before it can reach another in the utter calm of true love.

What makes love such a powerful driver in this life is its intent for us to rediscover our lost wholeness. Life in this world of time and space, where people come and go, highlights our experience as distinct separate human beings. This is contradicted in quantum physics, where it can be demonstrated that, at a subatomic level, everything and everyone is energetically ONE. And that ONE only becomes separated into distinct physical particles when human beings interact with it.

Thus, we are fundamentally an interconnected ONE, having the solid dream of a life, that begins and ends as a separate human being. This manifest dream is merely a surface version of our true underlying interdependent Oneness. Thus, the love dramas of our lives are our surface attempts to find our way home to the latent reality of our underlying wholeness.

When Carlos Castaneda asked don Juan Matus which was the true reality, energetic or physical, don Juan’s reply was that both were real, although energetic reality was the ultimate reality. Physicists would agree. Newtonian physics and quantum physics are both right. One deals with the dream of physical reality, the other energetic reality. What is solid and separate is ultimately energetic and ONE.

We are apparently in this dream of separateness to fully experience the glue that binds us in our ultimate oneness, love. From childhood attachment to family, onto adolescent crush beyond the family, then onto the multiplicity of adult relationships throughout the life cycle, we project all that is missing in us onto people and objects, as we desperately seek to unite with, then mercilessly must let go of, everything, in death. This labyrinth of love teaches us, in dream after dream, to arrive at our One true love, love that loves all.

Though I know Leonard Cohen now knows the answer to the question he posed before he left this world, I venture an answer from this life.

Q: What happens to the heart when it leaves?

A: Transformation into the love of pure equanimity—love that loves all.

Beyond the stormy and cloudy skies of now, this is the love that our physical world dream is inevitably approaching. Full steam ahead!

With love,

Chuck

Listen here to Leonard Cohen: Happens to the Heart