Thursday, September 26, 2013

More About Passages

My reflection last week on passages left me wanting to reflect more about this topic. I had quoted from a web source about rites of passage. Passages can be lengthy or brief, depending on what they involve. These passages must involve a shift or change from one state of life to another, either totally or partially. A passage can also be called a journey, a pathway, a pilgrimage, a quest.
Last week described "Rites of passage" which involve three dynamics. Rites technically refer to ritual ceremonies, but these dynamics can also refer to life transitions or crises. Again from last week: First there is a separation from one’s ordinary routine, which involves an entry into a different place or even relationship or time, etc. Then there is the stage of confrontation or struggle to integrate new insights into one’s life. Struggle and confrontation can sound daunting, and really we are talking about being challenged to change or grow. Finally, the third dynamic is to return to one’s normal existence, but to return with new insights, new purpose or identity to face one’s ordinary life as a changed person. A passage has occurred, then, from one reality to another.
Very closely related to this topic of rites of passage is the Heroic journey described extensively by Joseph Campbell (1904-1987), an American professor and author whose work was in  comparative mythology and folklore. When chartedthe Heroic journey  has more details than the three dynamics listed above, but it describes the same reality of passages. We may not think of ourselves as heroes but nevertheless we may make several heroic journeys in our life.

Hero's Journey (taken from HERE)

What is of interest to me was that  last week’s quote noted that the therapeutic process has the same dynamics as rites of passage: "Therapy also follows the same structure–the client enters the therapeutic realm in relationship with the therapist, confronts and integrates painful material, and emerges with healing and greater inner resources."
I have found that to be  true. For a long time I had been weighed down with some issues from my childhood which carried into my adult life. I had experienced verbal abuse as a child from my father who was weighed down with his own issues. (Later we would both find healing and have a very good relationship in his later years)
As a result of this verbal abuse, I had a hidden sense of being flawed, defective, worthless. Most of the time, I was OK and achieved many things and had many friends; but at other times, especially under stress, those feelings would surface and all I wanted to do was escape the pain. That’s when I started abusing alcohol as the way of escape. Even after ordination this emerged as a problem, even though I tried to hide it. That kind of escapism was not the solution and it was beginning to affect everything in my life. Some 20 years ago, Bishop Snyder, the Bishop at the time, compassionately sent me to a place which helped wounded priests and religious sisters to heal.

Journey to Freedom
So there were those three dynamics. I separated from my normal environment and priestly duties and went to a place outside Philadelphia. There I had to confront the past and understand that my desire to escape (through alcohol or any other way) was not the answer. Instead I learned how to identify when I was feeling that way and what the healthy response is. Then, I was returned to my assignment with greater inner freedom, healing and insight.

The odd thing is that when I was abusing alcohol I knew that what I was doing was wrong and destructive; but I kept doing it. In retrospect, I think that my soul was trying to get my attention that I needed to go on a quest of healing, a life passage. I needed to become a hero for myself! I needed to battle the monsters of the past and vanquish them by God’s strength and the very passage to new life itself. I came to realize that sometimes when we are sick in our soul, God rallies the soul to take a heroic journey which will sometimes involve therapy, and always need compassionate support, and prayer and reflection.