Self Care and the Psyche . . .
It’s one thing to get well; it’s quite another to stay well and thrive. The psyche is such a confluence of negative and positive dynamics. One day we’re set on healing, the next instant we’re working against ourselves. Self care, its stabilization and furtherance, I’ve come to believe after nearly forty years as a depth psychologist, is the most challenging aspect of psychotherapy and personal healing and growth.
Dream images play out the necessity of self care especially when the dynamic has been impaired by adult or childhood chronic trauma. We learn to not take care of ourselves when we’ve been injured over and over, first by others or terrible situations, and then by the dark side of self. I dreamt of a patient showing me the rolls of fat on his abdomen, pointing to them as evidence of needed body sensitivity to the lingering aftereffects of trauma. Therapy needed to continue being sensitive to encouraging, within the context of empathic care, diet, exercise, time of appropriate relationality, and overall body sensitivity. He came to me at night, within a moving dream, and told me how much he needed support when it came to self care and his body.
This patient came into my office first thing the next morning and asked (right off), “Do I really need to follow through with everything we’ve talked about - diet, exercise, and all the rest? It seems like a bit much. This is psychotherapy, not body therapy.” Remembering the dream, I answered, “Of course we need to follow through. And, remember as we’ve talked about, the psyche is body and body is psyche. The psychological work we’re doing affects your body, helps it to heal. We need to follow through with everything that helps you to heal, including all the body work.”
Over time this insight settled in, self care becoming more habitual, not perfect but certainly good enough. In essence, our care of self is reflected in the care we provide for our body. Engaging in far-flung esoteric understandings of images, symbols and dreams are unnecessary if we but tend to the immediacy of self care, especially sensitivity directed toward the body. Self care, body care, will teach us all we need to know about well being of body, mind, and soul. Such body care is imminent, chthonic, inner, deep and tangible - the true reflection of how well we are caring for psyche, the treasure that is our soul.