My recent essays show that I’ve been struggling with mood and behavior, and the pattern of more frequent dips makes me think it’s time to consider a meds adjustment. In the meantime, I must turn to one of the few non-destructive coping mechanisms I have: science fiction and fantasy metaphors.
Today’s metaphor is brought to you by the great Marion Zimmer Bradley, author of a series of books set on the planet Darkover. Some of the Earth-derived humans on this world have evolved and refined intense psychic abilities of various kinds, and the books often deal with conflicts and dilemmas influenced by these.
One of these books, called The Forbidden Tower, tells the story of four psychically gifted people who begin to use their gifts in ways not approved by the current power structure. Obliged by life circumstances to live outside the reclusive communities, or Towers, that specialize in psychic work, they begin to heal their neighbors’ injuries and such. They get into trouble for this. It’s a quite complex plot, but for the purposes of the metaphor I will focus on the climactic conflict.
After much back-and-forth, the rulers of the psychic power structure decree that unless the four outlaws can defend themselves against the psychic might of an entire Tower, they will be psychically mutilated as punishment–their gifts stripped from them and their very brains damaged so that they can never reacquire the abilities. To people like these, it’s a fate more horrifying than being blinded, deafened and paralyzed.
So, on a kind of astral plane, a fierce psychic and psychological battle occurs. In this realm of consciousness, perception and reality blend…the Towers manifest themselves as visualized structures, and the rebels’ point of contact has become their own small, rogue Tower. The attacks and responses are guided by thought and imagination. If their Tower survives the assault, they will win the right to live free of interference. Since this is a mental conflict, doubt and insecurity can be fatal–our heroes must have faith in their ability to endure, even as they fight off terror at the consequences of losing.
Against the odds, the four stand firm. The attackers rain putrescent, choking slime down upon them…but they thicken it into rich earth and cause flowers to bloom. The others blast them with fire strong enough to turn everything to ash…but they imagine themselves as a phoenix and emerge unhurt. Their passion and creativity is strong enough to meet and transform every attack.
Even though we can’t manipulate psychic energy the way these characters can, I believe that we are under a similar kind of attack frequently. It can come from those around us, from our culture as a whole, or from parts of ourselves that are carrying old patterns. The attacking messages come in: Here’s a new thing you should fear. Here’s a new thing you need to buy. You’re not good enough. What’s the point? There’s not enough of anything. You should do more, be more, be something else. You’re weak. You’re going to die, so life is pointless. Nobody will love you unless you change.
It helps me to imagine that I am defending my Tower. I give form to the destructive intruders and then answer that form with creative power. I grow roses from the slime of shame; throw sunbeams from my heart to melt the freezing shards of fear. My purest Self emerges from fire like a phoenix, swims joyously instead of drowning, coalesces into a shining jewel impervious to creeping acid.
It works best when I am obviously under attack; when I have the observing ego to see it. It’s harder when the enemy is a general effect like a heavy depression, because I have trouble mustering energy for passionate thought. At a time like this, my Tower is harder to visualize. It seems shrouded in fog or buried in mud, and I am seeing it from a distance rather than standing on its battlements.
How can I defend my precious Tower if I can’t reach it; if it doesn’t seem real to me? Ah, but remember, this isn’t a physical world! There’s no such thing as impossible here. If I ask it to, my Tower will heat up and glow through the fog, or shake so hard the earth crumbles away around it. I can be drawn into my Tower at the speed of wishing. I can make my Tower look like anything I wish; furnish it with all the objects that have meaning for me.
Right now, as I fight a high level of depression and anxiety, I have to remember this. Remember that my worries and fears are powerless over that transcendent and creative spirit guarding the seat of my deepest truth. Is it God? Is it me? Is it a blend of both, or are they one and the same? I don’t know. To tell the truth, I’m not sure I care. It is; it just is, with no need to justify itself.