I am almost half way with the course I am attending: Art of individuation. It is a very stimulating and thought provoking course and is based on the psychologist: Carl Jung’s theories. It incorporates art as well, so it is a trans-disciplinary course. Along the way we learn words like trans-disciplinary, post-modernity, hyper-modernity and the difference between individuation and individualism. It is a highly intellectual course on the one hand but also very practical on the other. It would be very hard for me to explain the theoretical content and it would be better for you to join the course next time it is run if you are interested in art and psychology. What I am going to attempt to do is share a little about my practical application without getting too personal as well as theoretical. At a later date I will also speak about the experience.
Today I will explain my first step in the application of the subject. We were asked to think of an image (either visual like a painting or sculpture or a piece of music, dance, poetry or even a dream that meant a lot to us and over time helped our development ) preferably the image should be from one’s childhood memory, and the earlier the better. This would be our creative symbol that we would work with over the duration of the course. It was easy for me because as soon as the lecturer mentioned the task I remembered an image.
A description of my image: “Butterfly wings” ballet dance.
My creative symbol is a ballet dance of the butterfly in a pantomime. The wings were red chiffon painted with a gold glitter in a pretty pattern. The chiffon flowed and fluttered in response to the arm movements. I was 6 years old and I was one of the dancers. As I put on the wings I became the butterfly. The beauty was captivating and dazzling. I had recently heard about the Garden of Eden and in my mind I was a butterfly in the Garden of Eden.
I was enthralled by the costume wings and how they changed the dancers into butterflies (in character) in that dance on stage I existed to dance, to be beautiful, to dazzle, flutter and twirl: independently existing from the observer – totally in my own world; observers being the audience – parents, teachers and friends. I was me, totally free.
My knowledge of butterflies grew as I grew older: metamorphosis and symbolism
At first I only knew that butterflies existed, and I connected with the beauty and grace of the butterfly costume. The ability to fly and float on the air and the breeze; to move effortlessly as it pleases as opposed to being stuck. I was particularly fond of butterflies and suitably horrified when I discovered one of my classmates use to catch butterflies and pin them to a board while still alive.
Five years later I learned that they have a life cycle: egg, worm, pupa and butterfly. I became very interested in the process called metamorphosis as I had a school project of drawing and studying the butterfly. As I passed into puberty I felt like I could identify with the worm becoming pupa and eventually the promise of being a butterfly. It was the message to a floundering young girl to have hope and hang onto becoming (mature) or growing up. It’s the typical metamorphosis symbol of changing, growing, and transformation. I felt ugly but I had hope. I felt lost but I had hope.
In adolescence, when I was 14, I was given a beautiful dress by a man in my life. The dress was soft, shiny and white with little black spots that reminded me of butterfly wings. The dress made me feel like a beautiful butterfly and womanly. In my innocence I didn’t realize what in retrospect I think was an inappropriate gift and feels much more like grooming but the dress continued the red thread in my story. Later I designed and embroidered a butterfly emblem which I was going to sew onto my clothes but coming out of the 60’s culture my 70’s culture that I lived in told me that it was an evil symbol and that I should get rid of it; but I still have it now.
Still later, days after the birth of my first child, I had a dream that I was a Butterfly-Woman wearing that same white dress. In my dream I floated up above and hovered over a Knot garden; my dress lifted up like butterfly wings. I felt beautiful and complete. When I awoke I knew that having given birth was like a rite of passage into motherhood. This dream was acknowledging my journey. It felt like ecstasy.
Today the butterfly metamorphosis symbolizes my soul or spirit becoming more and more whole. As I look back over my life I have journeyed the lifecycle of that butterfly many times over. Each part of the many pieces of me has had to do battle: strive, survive and thrive; and each part has had to call up the endurance of the worm, the patience and faith of the pupa and the belief that I would fly with dignity, grace and beauty. Metamorphosis has become the sophisticated symbol with its roots in the childlike joy of the butterfly dance; I change and transform many times over in life; letting go of the old, the past and the former me, expanding into the ever present.
How this image speaks to me now:
Let go, let go of the past, and don’t let it define you. You change: yes you were a baby, a grub, a worm but now you are that beautiful butterfly dancer now. Let your wings dance upon the breeze, move and flow and don’t get stuck. Step out of your cocoon (your comfort zone). You have your exoskeleton that protects you. You don’t need that cushion around you anymore. Believe you are free because you are. You do not need to take on or put on a costume or dress or perform to be who you are meant to be; you just have to be you. You are already you. Enter in with that child’s joy and total abandonment.
Well, that was the first step and I am going to leave it there for today. Do you have a symbol that comes to mind that has been helpful to you over the years?
Have a great week ahead,