To follow up a little bit on what I was writing last night, one of the things that occurred to me as I was reading the astrologer's article on the Saturn-Neptune square (while eating ćevapi at the diner for lunch) was that I have had the impression that some of my therapists have sometimes become impatient with me for apparently remaining "too long" in grief, or for spending "too much time" exploring the nuances of difficult feelings. One way of expressing this seems to have been to have cut me off and to have told me to stop talking or to be less "heady" and to "get into" my body more directly. While taking periodic breaks to check in with subtle somatic cues can be useful, I usually experience these kinds of interventions as attempts to take me out of feelings that the therapist appears to find disturbing. That leads me to feel misunderstood and criticized, and ends with my feeling angry and with my beginning to make plans to terminate therapy. After all, if I can't have a properly qualified witness to what I'm exploring about my life, why am I even bothering to go to therapy?
I think that this is why I found myself drawn to approaches like those advocated by Peter Wilberg or David Smail, which stress that it is important to stay with difficult feelings until they begin to move naturally. In Smail's case, he has criticized the tendency of lots of therapists to engage in "myth and mystification" about people's suffering, as if the economic and social challenges of the neoliberal era could somehow be effectively challenged by such approaches. From reading Holley's article, I have the impression that he might "get" the way of working that feels natural to me. At one point he writes, "Working consciously with Saturn-Neptune means that we must accept the loss of the concretized and idealized images of the past and the meanings we have given them, and face our grief as other unbidden or forgotten images arise. ... At one end, unconscious Saturn would have us rigidify in denial; at the other, unconscious Neptune would have us accept, and even forgive, prematurely--ironically, also a form of denial. But these planets together mean that we also have to face the stormy seas of anger, sadness, and despair that lie between denial and acceptance. This is incredibly difficult to do. It is hard to admit that a relationship is over--to give up the fantasy of unconditional love, or the image of what we hoped the relationship would be. It is hard to accept betrayals and disappointments by our parents, friends, family, nation--to give up the images and idealization of them that prevailed before. It is hard to accept that one has harmed someone else, or that one's body has changed with age--to give up idealized images of self. Yet, there is no peace without such recognition. As long as these truths remain concealed by frozen images, there will be discontent and a vague sense of sinking."
I would add to this list idealized images of what one's "career" is supposed to be like. This brings me back to reflecting on who I have been and how I came to do the kind of work that I do, with all of its possibilities and limitations. And who are my students, and where are they headed in their lives?