Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Shadow work

So there's Egypt. There's the weather. There's my favorite little children's toy store, Wonderment, closing because it can't make it...but oh, the toy store that sells all the plastic crap isn't going anywhere. And I'm really angry. Don't worry - I'm probably not angry at you. I've just been doing some "inner work" - reading, working with my acupuncturist and learning about anger. I have learned that you don't have to be mad at anyone in particular. Dr. Hafner explained anger this way, according to Chinese medicine -

Anger (or frustration) occurs when one's energy meets resistance.

So, you can imagine this. You want to do something - your energy is into it - and something or someone is in your way - is a block. You want to make Chicken soup and you are out of chicken broth and your car is in the shop so you can't go to the store. You get frustrated or angry. By contrast, you DON'T want to do something and there is pressure to perform. You are tired, frustrated, angry. This happens every day in everyone's life. It is the three year old in all of us (the "id" as described by Freud.)

I LOVE this - because it is maybe the first time in my life I felt like anger is normal - not something to "manage", avoid, control, etc, etc. I mean, yes, I talked about anger with a psychoanalyst in my 20's - he was a wonderful Freudian / Bionian and was all about anger expression. But, it did me little good then. I was raised by a Norwegian mother - anger was NEVER expressed. Instead you made kringla. All anger was repressed (and maybe occasionally projected.)

So, here is what motivated me: I've had this painful back for nine months - like crazy painful - I can't bend over, I can't do yoga, just nutty because I have never had a "bad back". I've seen chiropractors, osteopaths, a massage therapist, and my acupunturist. It's never gone away. So my friend Mark Powell recommended a book by Dr. John Sarno, an orthopaedist at NYU, who wrote a book called the Bodymind Connection. Over the course of 20 years, he has come to believe that MOST back pain (including shoulder, leg, knee, and even headaches) is the result of repressed feeling - especially rage. Don't read too much into the word "rage". He points out that we ALL have it. We've had it since childhood - and continue to have it. The question is....what do we do with it? So I began to research anger...

He suggests that once you understand what causes the pain - it will disappear in a rather short time. Well...I can report that mine has dissipated by 50%! I can now bend over without supporting myself on a table, chair, etc. I can roll over in bed without wailing. It's just nutty!

But, the crazy part is that you have to pay attention to your rage, so I am a raging maniac. Poor Lee. I just tell him that I am rageful about having to go to work, having to make up my face, having to take out the garbage, having to put washer fluid in my car, having to look attractive at all when you are 57, having to keep your body in shape, having to keep my house clean, having to change the cat box, having to use a lint brush on my clothes because of the cat, having to get up in the morning! This is just crazy! I am rageful about everything - so I now realize that I am an incredibly entitled brat of a human being. I think I should only do what I want to do when I want to do it.

Now, my dear depth psychologist husband tells me this is very, very good - that Jung said that only a very small percentage of the population "have the moral courage to look at their shadow and do their individuation work." So, bless his heart! he thinks I'm okay - doing my part to become more conscious - and not complaining about my tantrums in the interim. He's encouraging them. God love him. Maybe in a week or two I'll be charming again.


  1. thank you for this post--and for your others.

    your acupuncturist's description of anger takes a lot of the shame out of that feeling.
    one of my old acupuncturists recommended fresh pineapple as medicine for a troubled back.

    i'm commenting now -- after several views of your blog -- so that you know that this is one thing you do that is appreciated by another person.

    all good wishes to you and your circle of dear ones.

  2. I love to read your blog. And I think your sense of style is brilliant and inspiring. I am friends with David Anger, (we've talked about how nice your work is) and he and I both adhere to the minimal Scandinavian look. I had a little Swedish store on Grand Avenue for a while called Cardamom. David helped me out a lot. But, I always long to live in a house that mirrors your taste. No big Marimekko prints! Hollywood Prarie is what I call it.

    I just read your post, and I am also so saddened by the closing of Wonderment. I bought the wooden pulley for my children's room a week ago! The German wooden candleholders, the beeswax candles, mushroom toys!!! No plastic. They were genius at what they did, and our city has a hole. I hope someone fills it. My kids go to Montessori, and I know NYC has a great Montessori store. Maybe someone will come to the rescue with something similar.

    Also, sorry about your back and your raging of the moment. Your body of work and your stamp of style far outweigh your recent feelings. You are a fabulous woman. Cheers, Suzie

  3. Thanks for sharing this. We are about the same age, and I have been attributing my hair-trigger rage to loss of estrogen. (Up til recently, I have always been among the most laid-back of humans...) Interesting to consider it from a completely different point of view. Always enjoy yr blog!

  4. Hi, Alecia. Thank you for your kind words about Wonderment. We are very sad to be closing too. Joyce is planning to continue classes at a different location and I am trying to do another retail shop, maybe even in the same Linden Hills location Wonderment. Financing is the hurdle--I am looking for a community of lenders. Loans would be for five years, with 5% interest, in amounts ranging from $1500 to $10,000. Can you help spread the word? Interested supporters can contact me at for more information. Thanks!
    Lisa MacMartin, Wonderment Inc.