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fire and water
“If you try to capture running water in a bucket, it is clear that you do not understand it and that you will always be disappointed, for in the bucket the water does not run. To “have” running water you must let go of it and let it run. The same is true of life and of God.” Alan Watts The Wisdom of Insecurity
Psychosis, for me, was an unravelling of all the stuff going on inside my head and heart, all the shit that was tangled up inside. It involved emotional and psychological unpacking, just yanking away all the supports and tossing them aside, until there was nothing left but a raw gaping heart-wound exposed to the air. All the anxiety of my inner life coalesced into a sense of damnation, bleak and visceral.
Three years later, the unpacking took a joyful turn. I kept digging, down past all the inner crap, and stumbled upon something quite beautiful. A bubbling brook of running water, if you will. It was immensely fun, playing in that water, splashing my own loveliness into the air and into other people's faces.
I am still learning from these experiences. The emotional shit doesn't just go away; it's still there. But so is the beautiful flowing water. I feel like I'm coasting along waves, up and down, with all the stuff that life is throwing at me these days. I have terrible wobbles of self-doubt, where I pine and grieve, and squeeze myself into a box of little-sisterhood and nobody-ness. What is the point of me? Then, like a miracle, I step into the running water and feel refreshed. Self-respect wells up and I realise that this cruel universe must bow down before my hara power. It is no match for me. (And it's not just me, dear reader. It's you too. In all your imperfection lies that source of running water.)
One of the arguments for not “treating” madness is that it, like any experience, will pass. Yes it may be deliriously difficult, it may be horrifically disruptive, or indeed it may be like flying free into a wild spinning dance. But like the running water, it cannot be contained. It will run along and become something else again, in infinite iterations of moments that transform from present to past in an instant. Rather than stifling this unfolding with tranquilisers, why can we not create spaces which simply hold the unfolding? Why do we try to gather up madness into these medical buckets, and squash it into sanist conformity?
It may be a romantic notion, but I think we should embrace madness, and love it for the tremendously tender teacher that it is. I think we should allow it to flow, in all its mayhem and nonsensical non-logic, as a valid and worthwhile human experience. And I think we should trust that running water, always – because it won't ever quench the fire within.