You have been forced to enter empty time. The desire that drove you has relinquished. There is nothing else to do now but rest And patiently learn to receive the self You have forsaken in the race of days.
“For One Who Is Exhausted,” John O’Donohue, excerpt
I recently offered a class on restoring creative energy based on a short story called “Three Golden Hairs” from Women Who Run with the Wolves by Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes. In the story, an old man is battling to keep upright as he pushes on through the forest, finally collapsing at the door of a cabin where he sees a glowing light. An old woman tenderly picks him up and rocks him all night, saying “there, there,” until he is shrunk to the size of a baby. In the morning he is reborn.
Dr. Estes describes the animus (a Jungian term) as the active part of us that goes out in the world and makes our dreams become a reality—a psychic intelligence with the ability to act and manifest in concrete ways. But in this story, the animus is worn out, withered, and needs to return to the Old Woman Who Knows for rejuvenation.
I have had experience with this archetype of the Tired Animus. My year of being tired coincided with 2020, the year of the Big Pause. For SoulCollagers all over, Covid-19 forced us to cancel or postpone classes, retreats, and trainings. My busiest spring turned into the quietest one. I was also dealing with grief and personal loss: our Shitzu, Mollie, died in March, and my 89-year-old mother passed away after an emergency operation. My seven siblings and I spent the summer emptying her five-bedroom home of more than fifty years, which meant digging up family stories and old traumas, as much as we bonded over the Herculean task.
Although I had a list of writing projects to work on, and had just been accepted as a Facilitator Trainer, I was overwhelmed and frozen by uncertainty, grief, and Covid fatigue, which I thought was just a kind of creative block. I turned to an art therapist and SoulCollage® to help me get unblocked. Both of these helped me identify the inner voices that were pressuring me to soldier on and to keep striving to be productive in spite of my body’s putting on the brakes. It was a year of unfolding awareness and deep healing work.
Reading the lovely story of the Tired Animus helped me to visualize the part of me that needed stillness and rocking instead of pushing and striving. My inner taskmaster had been beating me up and my inner critic thought I was just being lazy. The solution lay in surrendering to the Wise Inner Feminine, and letting go of the need to get things done until I could gain awareness of my emotional states.
This going down and in is an opposite journey to the Hero’s outward-centered tasks. The feminine journey involves descending into the feeling parts of the body, finding our capacity for self-compassion, and reconnecting with the natural cycles of life. Yes, there will be high-energy times of productivity, but also fallow times of receiving and resting. The challenge for each of us is to consider how we can provide this downtime or rocking for ourselves when we experience low motivation or energy.
Tired Animus (Council Suit) by Jennifer Boire
I Am One Who is exhausted, tired of pushing my burdens around. I need to rest, to lie down in the lap of Old Grandmother and be rocked. My heroic stance, my striving and soldiering on, has tired me out so that I have lost my creative focus—all I want to do is to be coddled, rebirthed in the container of Great Mother. Close my eyes to the noise and stimulation of the outer world that irritates me, so I can hear my inner world. The feminine state of repose is what I need, near a waterfall, with a colored carpet of flowers and leaves soothing me like a lullaby. I will rest here and renew my spirits, be rocked and held. It is not time to rush around looking for solutions. Rest and rejuvenate.
Using the wisdom of SoulCollage®, we can access the archetype and dialogue with it, for instance by making a card for our Tired Animus and asking it what it needs from us, and what its gifts are. The great gift of this card for me was the image of the old man with an eye pillow covering his eyes. He balanced the woman who was covering her ears and telling the world to go away.
I needed to name the parts who were resisting rest: the Inner Taskmaster, the Responsible One driven by a sense of duty and obligation, the One Who Feared Being Lazy or unproductive. Naming and claiming our challengers and asking for help from our allies is a big part of the SoulCollage® process.
Inner Taskmaster (Committee Suit) by Jennifer Boire
I Am One Who cracks the whip! I Am One Who is determined to get a move on, be productive, Get Things Done! I am the dominant one, the one who gives orders that must be obeyed. I brook no dissent. I despise whiners and complainers. Get up off your duff, I say, and get to it. I have little to no sympathy for your excuses of being too tired, too unclear, too foggy brained to get started. Like the leader of the pack or Ring Master, I snap the whip of Duty, Obligation, Necessity for Action. When I am in imbalance, or excess, I am relentless and merciless. My Gold is in my motivation to keep moving in the face of Self-Doubt and Apathy. I can help keep you on track.
The tendency is to rush around looking for answers as if the creative energy will never come back unless we chase it. This story coaches us to slow down to the pace of a heartbeat. Sometimes, we are forced to it; like the old man collapsing at the cabin door, we have pushed our bodies beyond what is reasonable and they say stop. Re-ground, breathe deep, decide what is critical. And watch our creative seasons come and go—like the weather.
Some restorative practices that help:
1. Accept help, even ask for it, and receive nurturance; let someone serve you a meal; practice deep self-care with loving kindness.
2. Create boundaries around your creative time; give yourself permission to play.
3. Live connected to your inner guidance and trust it; and
4. When you feel off kilter, stop and recenter; don’t push. Pause, rest, nap. Reboot!
Pushing the River (Committee Suit) by Jennifer Boire
I Am One Who feels she has to hold back a tsunami. I Am One Who feels she is responsible for everything, even making the river run. I am responsible for getting things done, being in charge, controlling the flood of “things to do.” I Am One Who is not able to let go and go with the flow. The flow is a huge River coming at me. I struggle in the current, it feels too big, too much is coming at me. I need to flow with the current and let go, but I don’t know how. It takes so much effort to push the river.
After a year of this inner work, getting in touch with old emotional blocks and resting way more than I thought was needed, I slowly felt energy and inspiration returning. For instance, this summer I was able to lead an online Training in French for twenty-six new Facilitators. Although I was anxious about getting started, I absolutely loved it and my energy was there. It has turned out to be so creative to flow with the river current!
Originally written for Facilitators of SoulCollage(R) Newsletter The Neter Letter, November 2021