The Tiger in India, who I am, and my Identity Constellations work.
I have just come back from India where I saw the most beautiful tigress on safari. She was a wonder to behold.
Before I went to India I made a mandala where two very beautiful tigers appeared. So, knowing how much the mandalas we make at my cabin mandala evenings start actually happening, I had a strong feeling that mandala might manifest and I would see a tiger at Ranthambore National Park when I visited Rajahstan. There are 17,000 sq kms in this jungle and approximately 70 tigers they think.
We set off at dawn in our open jeep in freezing temperatures, with layers, leggings, fleeces and, scarves and hats to keep the yellow-red dust off us. We were given heavy blankets which we wrapped round us to keep the biting chill out. We went over miles of dirt track roads, saw crocodiles, the largest stags I’d ever seen, monkeys, wild boar but, alas, no tiger.
It was mid-morning by now and I began to feel our chances of seeing the tiger were fading. Then we were taken to a hill with a large wall which the women in our party could pee behind. There were four or five other jeeps up there.
They all left and for some reason our driver stayed and took his time. I can remember the beauty of the silence as we waited looking over the valley. Then suddenly there was a flash and there she was down below us. I held my pounding heart – that would have been enough for me. Just that flash made me so happy. But our driver got down to her fast. And there she was four metres from me with three bars between her and me! Our guide told us not to be afraid but I had no fear, just felt mesmerised by her beauty. She walked through the trees and out on to the track in front of us. She lay down and stared right at us. And I’ll be forever rateful that she showed herself to us that day.
Since I’ve returned home, in the last two weeks, I have been feeling the energy of this beautiful tigress. Before I went, I was encouraging a close friend who also did a mandala with me to get his tiger out – the stored anger of early unconscious stuff showing itself which can contribute to ill health. I had shown him the cover of Peter Levine’s book: ‘Waking your Tiger : Healing Trauma’.
The founder of psychosynthesis psychotherapy, Roberto Assagioli MD, talked about transforming our anger to will and creativity. Piero Ferrucci, a well-k nown psychosynthesis somatic therapist, says in his book ‘What we may be’ (Ferrucci, P. Tarcher/Penguin 2004) that Einstein used his obstinacy to solve mathematical equations and indeed many poets have felt anger as the strong emotion that has fuelled their poems. Ferrucci’s chapter on ‘Tigers of Wrath’ describes the destuctive nature of agression on this planet and the amount of pain it causes if not transformed into something creative. He adds: “Moreover, millions of persons involuntarily direct their aggressive energy against themselves, causing such disturbances as heart disease, hypertension, obesity, stomach diseases, and intestinal, sexual, respiratory, skin and rheumatic troubles”. Written sometime ago now this book is still important as a meditation guide describing techniques for transforming the energy of the tiger’s wrath to will and creativity. Of course we now know so much more about the working of the body-psyche and its effects on dis-ease.
My simple knowledge of Chinese medicine also tells me that the liver holds the energy of Anger and Will. And what about the saying: “What am I, chopped liver?” an old Jewish expression of frustration, anger or indignation at being overlooked, regarded as not important. How much has early trauma triggered the need to say that? The unconscious very young child still held unseen in us that was left behind or too small to be seen.
These are all subtle relational traumas which go back to our first relationship with our mother and can bring a lot of strong emotions if not seen and resolved. Possibly the hardest of all strong emotions is shame and anger. When we are not conscious of where they come from, if they get too strong of course we can be in danger of acting them out.
For some years I was facilitating Family Constellations. It had been part of my psychotherapeutic training and I found it valuable, transgenerational work. Being the youngest of seven I had immediately related to it as a way of understanding myself more within that very large family.
However, six years ago I started being drawn by the Identity constellation process developed by Prof Franz Ruppert – IoPT- and it is in this process for me personally that I have resolved so much of who I’ve been and now am. Family constellations I realised can too easily distract us from ourselves and keep us within the loop of our story. In itself it can be a survival mechanism.
In my early 50s I went through a succession of major life challenges which culminated in twice receiving treatment for non-Hodgkins Lymphoma – the second time an aggressive form at Stage 3. My main understanding and healing of that on a deeper level, came many years after personal work in therapeutic training when I came across Identity Constellations. I write the story of my illness and personal IoPT process in ‘My Body, My Trauma, My I’ (Ruppert, F.& Banzhaf, H. 2018), Franz Ruppert’s latest book which he has co-written with a medical doctor exploring embodied trauma and ill health. Identity Constellations helped me understand and heal a successive number of early developmental identity traumas and adult challenges, including that of ‘cancer’ and its medical treatment, through the embodied resonance of that method.
There comes a point in this process where you sit back and realise just how much you’ve changed. I think for me it’s an ongoing process but for others it may just be a short period of work or even one session. Everyone takes it as far as they want. Our autonomy in the process is crucial.
How has it changed me? At the risk of bullet-pointing myself this is how!
• I feel more grounded, and embodied. • I find myself smiling at my foibles and very self-accepting. I
know what I can and can’t do.
• I feel a lot of self-love and compassion for myself, less self-
judgement which, of course, means I feel the same for others.
• I have stronger boundaries, know who I am and don’t take on what
isn’t mine. Or am aware of it when I do!
• My drive has changed from aggression, suppressed anger and self-
bullying to a clearer motivation and will to bring what I want to
my life now. I have clarity of vision.
• I have more energy and feel healthier in my body-psyche.
• My relationships with others is more honest, open and intimate.
Of course, like anyone, tough times come and they go. Last year I had some of the strongest emotions of my life which, given everything I’ve been through, knocked me back. This may not be an advertisement for some of you! But what would be better for me – walking through life half-frozen, controlling, deluded, obsessed, depressed, self-destructive, addicitive, self-critical, distracted, ungrounded? A long list and I’ve been in some of these places for much of my life and this is what has changed for me through IoPT self-enquiry.
Anyway back to the emotional tsunami of last year. Of course it was about love, why would so many songs and poems be written if this isn’t the strongest of emotions and least expected – when your earliest maternal attachment taps again at the door. With all the resources I had to see me through it and the close friends around me that held me through it, I was able to break the strong projections of early love and see this other person for who he is. Much richer, more real emotions develop the more we take responsibility for these strong emotions and projections we put on others.
I learnt a lot about who I am now in that year. And I ‘m glad it happened, that I am a woman later in life open to love, actually feel love more than ever – not just for a man. And I am glad I feel so deeply my emotions, my humanity, my life energy.
And more to the point, I never thought I’d have the guts to stand up and sing in public, read out my rap-style poems in pubs ! Nor thought I’d be in such good health and have such very special friends in my life who love me for who I am as much as I love them for who they are. The Taj Mahal, one of the world symbols of love.
Somehow the tigress I saw in India is out and living! And I’m integrating the split between who I am and what I do in my work with others. I am no longer a conventional counsellor / therapist who has to limit their self-disclosure but a facilitator and as such can just be myself. And I believe having the courage as a facilitator to talk about the challenges you have is important for others. Because we all have them all the time.
Some say you go to India for spiritual awareness. One acquaintance asked me: Did you find yourself there? None of my close friends would ask me that! They know I found myself spiritually a long time ago. But on the level of integrating this on-going process of self-enquiry and self-awareness, somehow my answer would have to be, Yes I did.
I never realised I was going to India to meet my tiger. I knew there were other reasons for going. But that tiger on my mandala has in some shamanic way brought out who I truly am, my courage to show the world and, well frankly just be, be with whoever I become as the days and years shift me and I change. And it’s never too late to find out more about yourself. In fact the splits – the cracks where Cohen’s light gets in – tend to show themselves as you get older and you do not have the job, family and all the survival ways of being in your life anymore.
Does this resonate with anyone of you? The tiger has the courage of the warrior of the jungle. To look at ourselves deeply we need that courage, we need to see how the younger parts of ourselves still hold us in a destructive or suppressive pathology and cry to be seen by us. We need to give voice to a roar which releases the emotions of our trauma and allows us the pain of loss, and we need to bring love to who we are.
I often experience participants in a workshop release entrapped trauma emotions they may have held as far back as their pre-verbal infancy. It may be held in their aches and pains or more serious dis-ease they bring to explore.
It’s unresolved trauma that gets city kids on to the streets with their knives. Acting out on their anger imprisons them mentally and literally and that is one of the saddest things I see at so young an age.
So what does that beautiful tigress I saw in the wild symbolise for me?
• She represents the release of implicit, embodied trauma memory –
often physically frozen through unexpressed fear and grief or hot
from trapped anger which we feel in the self-enquiry of IoPT.
• She represents the integrating that comes from giving expression
to those parts of ourselves we start seeing in a constellation
• She represents the roar that expresses trapped emotional energy –
the anger we need to safely transform to will and motivation,
• She represents the courage of the jungle warrior needed to do
• She represents the beauty and self-awareness that comes with it
• and she represents the gentle and gradual knowing deep down in
our soul of who we are and how we want to just be.
• And of course she was a She but she could have been a He.
We need to be honest, real and healthy at a difficult time in our collective evolution and that takes personal work and a hell of a lot of personal joy.
The identity constellations process, poetry, writing, art and music are mine. What are yours?
The aliveness we find when we do that is what the world needs right now.