Yesterday the snows came in the form of persistent flurries that left 1/2 inch of powder on the ground, then largely melted off when the sun came out in the afternoon. Overnight they returned, and continue this morning. The cold has settled in; we had a fire in the wood stove most of the weekend. Very seasonable!
Now the leaves are down we can see areas in the woods where some of the more invasive shrubs have taken hold. One of our naturalist friends believes they will not be able to thrive in more dense woodland, but here they are doing quite well, at least along the margins. Some of them are undoubtedly escapes from our yard. We inherited Burning Bush when we purchased our home. Neighbors also have the plant, which has striking red leaves in Autumn. It also is quite invasive, defying all our efforts to eradicate it in our yard, and now spreading into the wooded parkland behind us.
Invasive plant species push out native plants. Burning Bush and other shrubs take over the forest floor, displacing the far less aggressive native species. This is an old story. Given time, these invaders will settle into their new niches and become the norm for this woodland ecosystem. The same pattern is repeated throughout the living world.
We see this cycle in the lives of people, too. In psychotherapy we witness the suffering that arises when the thoughts, beliefs and demands of others displace the native knowing of our young people. These aliens, called “introjects” in the clinical literature, push the deep knowing of Self far into the recesses of Psyche. Introjects weave together a False Self. Yet this false self is also natural. Often, psychotherapy is a process of exploring these alien ideas and perceptions, examining them closely, keeping those that have real value for Self, and discarding the others. From this careful weeding arises space for the real Self to return from exile. Yet the Self will be changed by the interaction with others.
From a shamanic point of view, we see energies and energy beings attached to the energetic fields of those who come to us for aid. Usually those disturbances are clearly not Self, and can be removed. If they have long resided with the person, we may have to support the individual (or family) in resisting the urge to invite those aliens back into Self. (Over time, thoughts and entities can begin to feel like Self, making separating from them particularly challenging.) Often, this means removing those energies several times.
In the wider world of human experience we witness the clash of cultures, warfare, and genocide. Ethnic cleansing is nothing more than the displacement of one people so that another may utilize the resources of an area. Inevitably, the invaders develop elaborate stories to justify their actions. Those who are displaced suffer profound physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual trauma. Invaders, and the displace, experience long-term disturbances to Psyche and culture.
Shamanism and psychotherapy are restorative ecologies. Each seeks to remove that which does not belong so the vibrant ecosystem waiting below can grow and flower. Given the opportunity, ecosystems return to balance, often blossoming into great beauty. It is the task of the healer to hold a vision of wholeness, to imagine restoration, and to make a space for healing. From our work with individuals, families, and communities, we are slowly learning how to extend healing to entire cultures and societies, and discovering such healing is a multigenerational process.