Comfort & Destruction

Comfort & Destruction

(originally posted on on June 14, 2015)

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about comfort. It’s a theme that has been implicated in many ways as I deal with living in a city with rapidly rising cost of living while trying to build a practice in the “healing arts.” My general go-to emotional state at this point is one of either apathy or depression – depression in the sense of being out of touch with my heart and soul as I get stuck in the inertia of making ends meet. Sometimes I just get cranky and annoyed, especially as I realize I’m living the cliché of “oh yeah, youth are idealistic, but once you get to a certain age you have to give up your dreams and just realize that the 9-5 job is what pays the bills and allows you to be comfortable.”

At the collective level, I’m seeing the comfort theme rise up in a multitude of ways. Didn’t spirituality and religion used to fill the role of providing people with comfort? Wasn’t there comfort to be found in finding big picture meaning, or just solace that some mysterious “other” was listening and supporting? Now that belief in the mysterious other has been deemed largely infantile, we find comfort in swaddling ourselves in the glow of huge screens, and perhaps if we’re “progressive,” some $80 yoga pants as well. That’s not the comfort I’m looking for at this point at all. I’d just like to be able to afford to live where I work, eat fresh food, keep good walking shoes on my feet, and retreat to the mountains or ocean occasionally.

It seems that in many ways at the same time as our vital mechanisms for meaning-making have been eradicated from mainstream culture our souls are waking up, which can be a scary thing when there is no reference point. As we stumble into our futures we are still accompanied by salvation mentality in which we are waiting for some thing out there to come save us rather than actively co-creating our futures.

At the same time, we have all of these deep soul memories of cataclysm, natural disaster, war, and chaos that are being triggered. As these memories awaken, we no longer have the constructs to deal with them in any way but the superficial, or perhaps medical. I’m somehow suddenly surrounded by people facing medical crises and sudden physical symptoms that then often seem to just “magically disappear,” after blood tests or x-rays show abnormalities. Underneath it all seems to be this rippling fear, sometimes speaking of loss of control, loss of comfort, loss of mortality.

As the earth shakes, which I’m told is happening increasing amounts, it’s triggering those big fears of suffering and loss experienced after eruptions and quakes or hurricanes. Or perhaps it’s the trauma of being in a village suddenly attacked by outsiders. We all hold these memories within us, and as events on the outside trigger the trauma held in our fields, our emotional and physical bodies can respond as if the core trauma is happening all over again.

I’ve been thinking about the ways in which landscapes hold the memories of the events that have occurred within them. Craig Chalquist has done some work with Terrapsychology, and the energy held by the land that then sculpts the human made landscapes and experiences. It’s fascinating stuff. On the surface, we can rebuild after cataclysm, but the land and the space hold the energy, which affects the populations that inhabit the land moving forward.

I look around at what is going on in my fair city, with it’s 75 active cranes in the city’s core and skyrocketing rents, and I marvel at how quickly entire sections of the city’s culture are being bulldozed. I’m reminded of something I once read in a book by James Hillman. He was overdramatizing a bit, as we all tend to do, and speaking of the function that capitalism thrives on – creative destruction. He pointed towards the WWII era and the destruction of cities, many of which were entirely leveled as the prototype for our current development trends. The landscapes in WWII Europe held the trauma of sudden air raids, but at least the people had a reference point for understanding what was happening. The images they were seeing of rubble and chaos could be attributed to the war, senseless as it might be.

Then the war stopped, but the destruction of the cityscapes continued, as signs of “progress” this time. The leveling of the old to make way for the new, heaps of rubble, holes in the ground all erasing history and memories. We’ve internalized an acceptance of destruction in order to make way for creation. I type that and realize that that transition is something I discuss regularly as a positive thing, at least at the psychic level. But that’s the difference – it IS at the psychic level, and is seen as a facilitator to positive change. Our cultural tendency towards concretizing and literalizing psychic and emotional processes without understanding the links between the inner and the outer is disconcerting at best – and absolutely perilously destructive at worst. The capitalistic premise of creative destruction spirals outward without limit with the reference point is that “progress” is good and that newer is better.

There are certainly comforts of the modern world that are beneficial, and many that are frivolous that I wouldn’t want to do without. It seems like we might be able to maintain ways of living with our desired quality of life, with all of our creature comforts, if we could resurrect a worldview that values imagination and critical thinking. If we brought meaning back into life using those old spiritual systems as a springboard and combined that with our scientific knowledge, might we start heading towards comfort at all levels?

Basic trauma theory, or at least my semi-professional synopsis of it, says that trauma is held in the body and the impulses that were not able to be completed at the time of the trauma. This leaves the individual in a state of constantly magnetizing similar situations so that the body, mind and soul have the opportunity to complete the impulse and resolve the trauma. As a culture that seems to compulsively create destruction while at the same time being compulsively drawn to comfort – the lure of which is pretty strong when we’re considering a population with so much collective experience with PTSD, it’s time that we stare that compulsion in the face, dig deep to face it, and work together to get through destructive phases so that we can get on over it, already.