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.

#461 Chuck’s Place: Embracing Impermanence

Welcome to Chuck’s Place, where Chuck Ketchel expresses his thoughts, insights, and experiences!

Embracing impermanence, now that is an oxymoron. How does one embrace that which changes? For me, it is not only doable, but necessary, to complete our reason for being here, in this life. The other night, in a dream, I was at the World Trade Center with a group of adolescents. There was an awareness of soon-to-happen terrorist activity that would bring the towers down. It wasn’t the focus in the dream, merely the backdrop. One young man spoke about his brother’s death, not pausing to mark the obvious grief he held within. I interrupted him, asking him to allow for the full truth of his experience to be expressed. I was asking him to drop his veil of machismo and fully live the truth of that moment. The full completion of that moment was all that mattered. Several moments later, the towers would fall, yet that fact was of no significance. To fully be present, to fully be alive, and to fully complete that moment was all that mattered.

My dream is instructing me on how to embrace impermanence. To be fully present and open to the moment, while fully aware, yet not attached to the fact that in another moment my personal towers will collapse and every thing of this world that I hold dear will vanish, instantly evaporate, disintegrate, resolve, and perhaps become meaningless, as I am thrust forward into new worlds. I know that I am here to master my ability to be fully present and embracing of all I must ultimately relinquish. I know that this is the necessary training to continue my journey in infinity. The shamans view earth as an interrupted journey, yet magical, in the sense that we can so totally be drawn into the poppy field of permanence, completely sold on that illusion. However, this pause in the journey allows us to learn to embrace impermanence.

It takes many lives, really one long groundhog day, to reawaken to the true nature of reality and prepare to embark upon, what the shamans call, the definitive journey. When I reference groundhog day I am referring to the movie, Groundhog Day, starring Bill Murray, where his character must relive the same day, countless times, until he awakens, remembers his lessons, and allows himself to move more deeply into the experience of love. (By the way, we are adding this to the movie category in our Store.)

How many times, how many lives, must we repeat before we get it? What does it mean, “to get it?” In a nutshell, getting it is really about relinquishing the big baby who insists upon the security and safety and soothing comfort of sameness. And so, we feed the big baby the elixir of permanence: structure, order, habit, predictability, solidness, definiteness, and rules. Only the adult can face the inevitable toppling of the towers. Only the adult can complete the moment in full awareness.

The training also requires that we experience deep emotions. My young adolescent in the dream tried to avoid his grief over the loss of his brother. If he does not allow himself to feel and release his grief then he cannot complete the moment and move on. He is sentenced to repeat that moment in countless moments and countless lives, one long groundhog day, until he can live that moment fully, in complete truth. Only then will he be able to resume his interrupted journey, freed of the burden of unlived life.

When we recapitulate, we complete all our groundhog day moments. Those moments are undoubtedly painful and utterly vulnerable, at first. Once we can allow ourselves to fully go there and complete those moments, we are fully released, allowed to go forward into new life, new experiences, with full awareness, and love for the journey and all our traveling companions. Embracing impermanence means fully completing each moment along one’s definitive journey.

Until the moment we meet again,

#456 Chuck’s Place: Healing or Possession?

Welcome to Chuck’s Place, where Chuck Ketchel expresses his thoughts, insights, and experiences!

One of the greatest contributions of the alcoholism treatment field was the identification of the inner child by such clinicians as Charles Whitfield. Through such techniques as writing with the non-dominant hand and focusing on photographs from childhood an individual learns to form an active relationship with a lost or dissociated aspect of themselves. Though most mainstream psychology dismissed inner child work, Jungian psychology had pioneered the technique of active imagination decades earlier. In active imagination the conscious personality opens to a direct relationship with sub-personalities and, through this interaction, integrates the truths and viewpoints of these other aspects of the self into a more comprehensive, adaptive personality, one that reflects the fuller truth of who we really are. Jung was careful to stress that the conscious ego, the mature adult self, must be strong enough to remain in command during such inner encounters or risk the possibility of being taken over by a sub-personality.

Jung also noted that there are layers to the psyche, both personal and impersonal. The personal psyche begins with the experience of the individual from conception forward. The impersonal or collective psyche is the inherited experiences of humankind stored in the collective layer of the unconscious or the home of the archetypes, what I have previously referred to as the ultimate motherboard. When an individual develops a relationship with their unconscious it is possible to be interacting with a part of the self in the personal unconscious or a part of the self that has drifted into the non-personal collective layer of the unconscious. In the case of the inner child, one might be interacting with an unknown part of the self in the personal psyche, or a part of the self encased in the non-personal psyche by the archetypal lost child. This distinction is critical, and often confused, as the archetypal energies experienced as primal emotions may have attached to a lost part of the personal psyche, one’s inner child.

The personal inner child may be “housed” in what Jung called, the shadow, an unknown region of the personal psyche. This may have resulted from the impact of socialization, where aspects of the self were rejected and forced out of consciousness into this dark region. Retrieving the inner child from this region is consciously experienced in the release of creative abilities and faculties previously lost to the conscious self.

In more traumatic experiences the child completely retreats from life in a dissociated state, sinking more deeply into the protective womb of the deeper psyche, the collective unconscious. In this case the outer world and personal psyche have proven unable to house the child and a retreat to the motherboard becomes necessary. Consciously, the evolving personality may experience actual amnesia toward the experiences and existence of this inner child, so powerful was the impact of the trauma and the need to get distance from it (to dissociate). When the dissociated child enters the archetypal womb it merges with the archetypal lost or abandoned child, that is, the sum total experiences of the rejected child through eons of life on earth. Imagine the bottomless pit of pain this archetypal child feels. It simply cannot and will not ever be healed. It is the archetype of eternal wounded rejection, hell or Hades. That pain is a vortex that will consume and collapse a misguided ego. In other words, the ego must be able to distinguish personal from impersonal and not succumb to the vortex, which is difficult to climb out of without being controlled by the archetypal wounded child.

Herein lies the failure in healing of much inner child work. Often an individual will open to the experience of the wounding of what they believe to be their personal inner child and be swept under by the emotional tide of the eternal archetypal lost child, a wound that can never be healed, from a child entitled to unending attention. The trap here is the archetypal child gaining possession of the personality under the guise of healing. The ego becomes charged with having to eternally make up or compensate for the experiences of the archetypal wounded child, constantly pampering, tending, protecting, rescuing, and in return demanding forgiveness, protection, and parenting from others, who are perceived as re-wounding the child. This is not to dismiss the true traumatic experiences of the child self. These experiences must be honestly acknowledged, along with all of the truths. It is critical to free the inner child from the experiences of the archetypal child or we remain in eternal bondage to the demands of the wounded archetypal child.

Retrieving the personal inner child from the womb of the collective psyche is a heroic journey. Here the various Greek myths of journeys to the underworld are instructive. Firstly, the ego must, indeed, be in heroic form. That means we must be in strong possession of our adult mature self to undertake the journey. For when we go inward we will be confronted by powerful emotions and trickery. As I have previously stated the archetypes, or the gods, seek life through possessing our lives. We must be able to hold our own when we encounter them, or they take over. In everyday life, we enter the underworld when we are triggered, returning to a place of wounding. The challenge is whether we become possessed and re-enact an archetypal drama, such as deep rejection; or withstand that compulsion or dictate from the gods and arrive at, and stand in, the truth of the present moment, fully integrating the experiences of our personal past. This is healing. The archetypal psyche, with its recurrent drama, will recede from conscious experience if the adult ego consistently refuses its call to possession, i.e., becoming overwhelmed and inappropriately acting out an archetypal drama in everyday life.

Countless techniques have been developed to help people heal their inner wounds, i.e., cathartic psychodrama. This may offer a genuine healing for the inner child; however, it often becomes an archetypal enactment and release, which does not accrue to lasting healing. This would be the equivalent of being deeply moved by a movie that triggers a personal inner wounding. The wounded child is experienced, acknowledged, and offered emotional release, however, continues to resurface, seeking another opportunity to enact its drama. This is archetypal possession controlling the personality, not healing. Healing is final. There are no more triggers. An archetypal drama is eternal and will never be healed, simply re-enacted anew. A personal drama can be healed and moved on from, never needing to be repeated. There is no personal wounding that cannot be healed. If one insists otherwise, I suspect archetypal possession.

To complete healing the adult ego is challenged to withstand the fire of emotion of the archetypal psyche, primal pain, without identifying with it or succumbing to it. The adult ego is, as well, charged with finding the personal child, opening up to the full truth and experience of this dissociated part of the self, in full acceptance, fully owning the experiences, no longer rejecting them. We call this recapitulation. Finally, the adult ego is challenged to merge the truth of the child self with the mature adult self, with the adult self maintaining the leadership or parental role. Here the child is completely freed from the archetypal womb as the conscious self assumes appropriate parental responsibility for the total self.

If one continues to experience triggers of wounding these become opportunities for the adult self to more fully retrieve fragments of the lost personal self, dodging the ever present vortex of archetypal energy that seeks to lure one back into a state of possession in the form of primal pain and eternal woundedness. True healing is final. It may require encountering many triggers as guideposts signaling where to retrieve the lost personal self, but ultimately the personal self can be fully retrieved, as the personality moves forward, unencumbered by any previous wounding, fully healed.

Emerging from the underworld, I bid you adieu,

#452 Chuck’s Place: Impermanence

Welcome to Chuck’s Place, where Chuck Ketchel expresses his thoughts, insights, and experiences! Today, Chuck thanks Jeanne and Jan for help with this essay.

Several times last weekend my thoughts and feelings were energetically drawn to a dear woman I knew, though had not seen in some time. On Monday a voice mail from her husband, asking me to call, confirmed what I had already sensed: her passing; the reality of impermanence. I thank her for sharing her passing with me from her energetic form.

The Buddha, in deep meditation, discovered why we suffer: we cling to the false belief that things will never change. To be born in this dimension, on earth, we indeed reside in a physical form that will age and wither and we will die. Sorry folks, but that’s the truth! We will love, we will attach to those we love, we will decay, they will decay, they will die, we will die. Death, for the body, truthfully, is rarely a pleasant process. Morphine is, indeed, a godsend.

Personally, I have done that journey. My depth of love for Jeanne, in this world, knew no bounds. Her death, for me, truthfully, was utter joy. I was given the privilege of delivering her to the next step, at the right time, in alignment with her truth. For me, that was the ultimate fulfillment of our earthly love.

The gift I have been given by Jeanne leaving this world is the opportunity to experience the evolution of love beyond the body, beyond this world. This is not an instantaneous occurrence, but a long process, taking several years, perhaps a lifetime, as I make decisions and choices on my journey without her physical presence, learning to reconnect with her in infinity as a spiritual being. Part of this process entails learning to release myself from my old contracts that no longer work, such as upholding old ideas of the self, expectations of society, expectations of family, and mental constructs about love, about being a man, a father, and the nature of family, all illusions of permanence.

Furthermore, I am offered the opportunity to experience reincarnation without death. I have entered a new life, fully connected to and aware of my recent life with Jeanne. I have opened to new love, relationship, and marriage. I accept, from hard earned experience, that all love, attached to the physical form, is impermanent. Earthly love tempts us to grasp onto our physical form, to stay young, to keep things permanent. Like the young Siddhartha, we are barricaded behind the walls of our illusion that everything we see is permanent, especially our physical bodies and our loved ones. In fact, now, with the advent of Viagra, we are treated to the fountain of youth, offering eternal erections, undying physical love!

The denial of death abounds despite the overwhelming evidence of decay and death all around us. In spite of the underlying reality of our inevitable death, we live encased in the illusion of physical immortality. We are shocked when our dear friends and loved ones become ill and die. We cling to ignorance, it simply won’t happen to me! And so, we suffer. Not because of decay and death, but because we stubbornly live in the illusion of permanence. In order to complete the reincarnation cycle now, in this life, we must embrace impermanence. This requires releasing our illusions of physical immortality, which, in essence, is detachment from the illusion of permanence.

Most important is to remain fully open to life in a world of impermanence. This is the gift Jeanne has given me and presents to all of us. In practicality, this means entering a new life with no illusions. Fully opening to life without illusion is opening to infinite love, reconciling something that dies with something that doesn’t. Opening to new life, fully, requires a release from all prior contracts and grief, what Jeanne calls recapitulation. Through emptying our selves of the burdens of life lived, we are freed to enter new life, fully open, fully capable of loving, and fully aware and connected to the truth of our prior life. That is opening the door to infinity. There is no longer a need to reincarnate, as we have completed unfinished business, because, with truth, there is no need to remain attached to the illusion of permanence. We don’t have to hide from anything we have ever done and we are fully open to any experience. We are ready for the truth and full experience of energetic infinity.

From this stance, we can fully enjoy the impermanence of our life, in this world, as we reconcile the paradox of what we are, finite and infinite. What is finite is our body; it will end. What is infinite in us is that which attaches to nothing and continues to ride the eternal wave of energetic change, fully engaging, experiencing, loving, and releasing when it’s time to go, with full memory and love of where we have been.

Until we meet again, in one form or another,

#448 Chuck’s Place: Mother, Father, Where Art Thou?

Welcome to Chuck’s Place, where Chuck Ketchel expresses his thoughts, insights, and experiences!

Today, I am performing idea alchemy. In an effort to arrive at the “prima materia” of these two archetypes, mother and father, I have distilled these entities into their single essences. Perhaps this can be challenged on many grounds, but I invite you to suspend judgment and take this journey with me, to discover mother and father inside us all. Who are they; where are they; and how do they get along inside you?

I begin with mother. Mother is our body. We come from mother, having once been physically merged with her, as one, then delivered to the world in our own body, our mother. Our motherbody carries all the knowledge of where we came from, and where we may evolve to, in every cell. The wisdom accrued through countless eons of life in the flesh is stored within our motherbody, the ultimate motherboard. The structures, systems, balances, healings, gleaned through centuries of evolution, all the secrets of survival and material manifestation, are wholly contained and known within our motherbody. Our motherbody knows only truth, records and registers all facts of life, and our life in particular. Our motherbody deals in concrete physical fact, communicating truth through sensation and emotion. To know our mother is to experience our body, understand its communications, and attend to its needs and requirements.

Father is mind, total abstraction, devoid of any material substance. Father is thought, interpretation, and idea. For idea to manifest, mother and father must cooperate or join. Idea cannot manifest without matter (or mother). Idea can create a blueprint, but without matter there will be no creation. My ideas for this essay, from my father mind, will not manifest without my body’s participation, to give form and substance to abstract thought, as I physically write.

Every man and every woman is mother in body and father in mind. When we think, schedule, set goals, and make decisions, we operate from father, with our ability to abstract. Our mother self is always active, balancing and releasing energies and messages in the form of physical sensations, emotions, instincts, and direct knowing or intuition, which is instinctive knowing not mediated by thought. These functions can manifest as dream, image, automatic movement, or feelings. Mother presents impulse and image to father-thought, to be converted into plans of action. In these instances, abstraction is generated by body knowledge, where, in fact, the mind is not the architect of thought, but instead the converter, to thought and plan, of mother’s impulse. Of course, in many instances, pure abstract thinking dominates the body. For instance, a diet, an exercise regimen, a sleep schedule, clothing decisions, grooming behaviors, the use of drugs for medicinal or recreational purposes, are all at the behest of mind deciding what body will be subjected to. Western civilization, perhaps beginning with the Christian innovation, which decided that mind is more trustworthy than body, has increasingly supported mind over matter. This alienation of mind from body leaves many people disconnected from their physicality and all its accumulated wisdom, looking instead to science as the ultimate guide to decision making.

As with any family, the relationship between mother and father is fundamental to the health of the family. When we examine the health of our own being we must explore the relationship between our mother body and father mind. This can be a tricky assessment. For instance, a muscular, well-toned body may reflect a cooperative relationship between mind and body, or might equally represent a controlling father mind, completely dominant of, and alienated from, the true needs of motherbody. An overindulged motherbody might represent an alienation from body, both necessary and directed by mother. The body will often, when assaulted by trauma, register and absorb the experience in a body part, which it protectively numbs for the sake of survival. Motherbody has learned much about survival. Every living being is the product of billions of successful survival adaptations discovered over time, which is evolution. These are stored in the cells of the body, as archetypal strategies of automatic action to be released, as needed, to survive. Sometimes, some parts of the body are sacrificed for overall survival of the body, regardless of the resulting limitations. Sometimes, motherbody pushes awareness completely out of the body to survive. Ultimately this can result in an over-reliance on father mind, which only has abstract ideas of what body is, or may not even be aware of body at all. Realize, however that this extreme alienation of mind from body might be the necessary balance for survival. Often, motherbody waits until the appropriate moment to reunite mind with body, through the form of physical triggers that return awareness to the body and, in a successful recapitulation, restores optimal unity of mind and body.

Another consequence of the interaction of mind and body is that the artifacts of successful strategies for survival, that originate from mind, end up in the historical record of motherbody and become available as direct knowledge in the future, through motherbody/the home of the archetypes. An example might be where the world rests at this moment in time. By all objective accounts, we find ourselves on the brink of destruction. We have elected a new president, a new father. He now begins a redirection of energy and resources, as manifested through changed economic, social, and environmental policies, which may, in fact, lead to a successful adaptation to facilitate continued survival. The experiences of our time will be recorded in our motherbodies, becoming available to the future evolution of our planet. Here father becomes mother, as what originates as idea becomes manifest in body and is carried into the future through the body’s eternal registry, which becomes available, through mother, to future generations. Of course, it is likely that the impulse to act, leading to the current change of direction, came from motherbody herself. Certainly the breakdown of mother earth has generated images and emotions that have awoken consciousness, or father, to the need for change. Ultimately, mind and body are converging here and are, in fact, inseparable, and may be the ultimate energetic prima materia, as one.

I return you now to the exploration of your own inner family.

Until we meet again,

#444 Chuck’s Place: The Archetypes That Bind Us

Welcome to Chuck’s Place, where Chuck Ketchel expresses his thoughts, insights, and experiences!

Yesterday, Jeanne spoke about achieving detachment through viewing our lives from a different perspective. Three archetypes that are the foundations of family life are mother, father, and child. These archetypes provide the energy and structures that guide and define a significant portion of our lives. Once we choose to become a parent we open the door to being caught by the mother/father archetype for the rest of our lives. When a woman becomes a mother the archetype provides the energy to give, bond, and nurture another being at an unprecedented level of self-sacrifice. This energetic flow is completely appropriate and necessary to sustain a new life. The child, governed by its own archetype, must be completely open to receiving, in order to flourish and advance in growth. The father archetype empowers the man to provide shelter and supplies to support the developing family. Of course, there are many examples where these archetypes are insufficiently activated in individuals, seriously limiting their ability to fulfill these most necessary roles. However, this is not the focus of this essay, which takes up the challenge of “appropriate” detachment from an archetype.

First, let’s look at motherhood as an example of acquiescing to the mother archetype, which means becoming infused with its energy, as one’s life becomes structured by an array of needs, demands, and expectations of self and others. Our world is particularly reluctant to ever allow a mother to retire. Once a mother, always a mother. Is there any more serious crime than a mother who refuses to mother? A mother who would drown her children is, by archetypal standards, more despicable than any mass murderer. Deep within each individual rests the archetypal expectation that mother, at any age, should nourish and be a caretaker. This archetype finds its way into many marital relationships, where the woman is expected, at any age, to cook and take care of her husband. Clearly, once children have been launched, generally by their late teens, it is appropriate for a woman to begin the process of launching her individual self, as she detaches from the archetypal mother structure, which has possessed and defined her life through the child rearing process. In fact, failure to do so can undermine the developmental process that enables the child to become an autonomous, self-sufficient adult, as childhood dependence continues to be encouraged. There are many forces that discourage detachment from the mother archetype. There is the archetype itself, which resists accepting a minor role in life’s drama. There is the mother’s resistance to letting go of such a defined purpose in life, entering the unknown. There is the child’s reluctance to trust its own wings as it leaves the nest. And finally, there is the immaturity of society at large, which places its demand to be taken care of on mother, who must always remain mother. It takes tremendous courage to embrace one’s right and necessity to evolve, as an individual, discovering one’s true purpose for being in this world, and finding completion through detachment from the archetypal role of mother, when it is time to do so.

The archetypal father is responsible for providing and leadership. The challenge for the father becomes letting go of control, allowing for novelty and difference. I think that is the meaning of the phrase, “the king must die; long live the king.” In effect, the rules of the father must acquiesce to change. This is the challenge we are currently confronted with in America. The father archetype, which controlled our economy, eventuated in the extremes of capitalist greed. This ruling system has long outlived its usefulness. It must die and be reborn in some new format appropriate to the real needs of the world. The election of Obama reflects this death and rebirth motif, however, what is currently happening is the struggle to fully accept that the old way must die. The father archetype, seeking to maintain its control, is evidenced in the halls of Congress where arguments continue to be made that the old way is, essentially, sound. The FOXy fear mongers attempt preservation of the preexisting reign of the Bush father archetype by, literally, splicing speeches and rewriting reality. Within the family, the father is challenged to relinquish control and dominance over the decisions and directions of his wife and children toward individuation. How else can those, whom he so deeply protected, learn to trust and protect themselves if they are not allowed to do so? Within his own psyche, the father is challenged to dis-identify his ego with the power of the father archetype and take up the path of his own individuation.

Then there is the child. The ability to remain receptive, vulnerable, and innocent, open to life and the world is the appropriate connection to the child archetype in all of us. Jeanne would suggest that the inappropriate attachment to the child archetype is the big baby, who remains eternally needy, demanding, and entitled. Fixating on the big baby creates a world of security through the veil of narcissism. Detachment from the big baby is assuming adult responsibility in a changing world. That, in fact, is what is being demanded of all of us now. The great mother earth is compromised in her ability to nurture as a result of insatiable demands of greedy babies, supported by the rules and practices of a greedy father who manipulates the truths to maintain his dominance, at all costs. This is the father archetype that must die like Kronos, who ate all of his children until fooled by his wife by being fed a stone, that Zeus might be born to usher in a new era.

Only through allowing ourselves to appropriately detach from the archetypes that bind us, can we see reality clearly and become adults, assuming responsibility for the health and future of our lives and our planet. Yes, it is frightening to see reality clearly, as we are in the midst of death and disintegration and we cannot be taken care of in the old ways. However, the reality is, yes, you can choose to sail on the Titanic, but it is going down. There are alternatives, but they require detachment from the old securities and an appropriate connection, as adults, to the innocence, vulnerability, and receptivity of the child archetype to change and find new life in this world.

Until we meet again,