Friday, August 29, 2014

Circle and Spiral Symbolism

``Circle'' is a symbol for repetition. Moving in a circle does not take you anywhere, you are always at a point that you have visited many times before.

``Descend''  (a downward move) symbolizes sadness. ``Sadness'' is an affect that works as a grievance mechanism for a loss by promoting withdrawal from external engagements and an inward focus.

``Downward spiral'' is a combination of ``circle'' and ``descend'' and symbolizes depression as a state of sad repetition, hopelessness, and helplessness.

Descend/sadness adds a direction to circle/repetition. Once we become aware of this direction, there comes the possibility to reverse the direction and start an ``upward spiral'' that symbolizes growth!

How do you change the direction? My standard answer is that deep and lasting change is the outcome of awareness and acceptance.

I came up with this symbolic image (circle and spiral) a few weeks ago. It is intriguing for me because it offers a framework for understanding and even appreciating my depression periods. My underlying assumption, and motivation, is that our emotions and affects do have a purpose and function. Depression is not an evil to destroy, it is a signal, containing useful information, and we can work with it!

In Eliot's Ash-Wednesday, we watch the poet painfully climbing a spiral staircase. This image is reflected in the twisting sentences of the verse, which often revolves upon itself, repeating the same words and phrases, apparently making little headway, but pushing steadily forward nevertheless. My own life has progressed in the same way. For years it seemed a hard, Lenten journey, but without the prospect of Easter. I toiled around and around in pointless circles covering the same ground, repeating the same mistakes, quite unable to see where I was going. Yet all the time, without realizing it, I was slowing climbing out of darkness. In mythology, stairs frequently symbolize a breakthrough to a new level of consciousness. ---pp. xix--xx, The Spiral Staircase: My Climb Out of Darkness, Karen Armstrong [Amazon Link]

Tool: Lateralus

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