A man dreamed: “I see a soft bluish light emitted from wounds and sores on someone’s body. I’m to understand that there is a luminescent component to all wounds and to the organs of the inner body. Fascinated, I show this to my children.”
One of the things that make this dream so interesting is that it challenges us to see wounds and illnesses in a way we usually don’t. Wounds cause suffering and we generally want to be rid of them as quickly as we can. But, as light is a symbol of consciousness, this dream implies that our wounds can be a portal to consciousness and the wisdom of our inner self. To examine the light emitted from the wounded body, as did the dreamer with his children, is to discover some of the meaning behind suffering.
Paradoxically, suffering can make us more aware of the force of healing active within the psyche, the body, and outer life. For example, a cut on your skin triggers your body’s natural healing process (e.g., clotting of blood, scab formation, and skin regeneration). A burned forest is re-populated with plants that will protect and re-stabilize the soil, minimizing erosion and providing food for animals. Emotional and psychological injuries call forth healing dreams, support from friends (or strangers), or the care and assistance of a therapist. It is likely that you have been an instrument of healing to the people and world around you on many occasions. Was this done only out of a sense of obligation or from a more instinctual urge of compassion and love? If we care to see it, we will find that this transcendent force of healing and redemption seems hardwired into the very fabric of the universe and our psyches. Our wounds and illnesses can help us develop a personal awareness of the forgiving, redeeming, and regenerative background of life.
Despite this innate urge toward wholeness, healing does not always take place. Sometimes, for a variety of reasons, we will suppress the natural movement of this healing energy and wisdom. At other times we may earnestly assist in the healing process, but the healing we hope for does not occur. Perhaps not all wounds or illnesses are meant to be cured. For example, a terminal illness or injury may be the specific vehicle of our birth into the next “world.”
Various religions have different explanations for persistent wounds and illnesses. For example, they may be interpreted as bad karma, or a retribution/punishment for past sins. Others explain them as a disharmony in our body which reflects disharmony in our relationship with God. In light of these perspectives it can be helpful to also realize that our wounds and illnesses are never just our own. From a depth psychology standpoint, our wounds and illnesses are borne on behalf of humanity as well. In this regard, modern physics has found that consciousness and the psyche are non-local phenomena. That is, they are not tied to a specific body, but experience effects, and have effects upon other entities, across the universe. We are one mind and part of a shared mind at the same time. We are one body and the “cell” of a much larger body simultaneously. To illustrate, it is not uncommon for one member of a family—often a child—to develop behaviors or illnesses that reflect unconscious tensions residing within the family as a whole. And, within larger society, one segment of the population may act out some of the anger or aggressive tendencies repressed by its other, more law-abiding, members.
Thus, the way that we work with our own wounds and illnesses affects all of humanity. When we carry our wounds and illnesses with creativity and humor, when we try to learn from our symptoms for the sake of growth and consciousness, we give an invaluable–though often uncelebrated–gift to the world. We transform our own suffering, and clear a path that may be helpful to others.
Another positive aspect of our wounds and illnesses is that they reconnect us to our humanity. The word human, like the words humility and humble, is derived from the Latin word humus, meaning earth. To be human is to be of the earth. We are mortal; not gods or God. We are vulnerable, incomplete, immensely fallible, and in need of redemption and healing. Through our wounds and the awareness of our inherent incompleteness we are, paradoxically, made more whole and free. Laboring under the illusion that we are God–or should be God–rather than human beings, is an insidious form of oppression. Although it can be hard to accept, we need our wounds and illnesses, our compulsions, phobias, and neuroses, our nagging ailments, our scars, our unreliable cars, leaking roofs, annoying neighbors, defiled nature, dying loved ones and all of the things that we would like to control but cannot. Sometimes it is only through suffering, and the recognition of our limitations and finite power that we are most fully opened to the pain of others and the depth of our own capacity for love and forgiveness.
To be human means that we suffer for others, and others suffer for us. There is really no way around this; it is the nature of life in this universe. However, we will sometimes try to get around this reality by refusing to ask for help, even when we really need it. Often, there is a certain element of pride, or egocentricity, involved here. Do yourself a favor; ask for help. When we admit our dependence on our fellow (wo)man by asking for help, we give others permission to acknowledge their own limitations and dependence, thereby strengthening the feelings and fabric of the human community. In truth, it frequently takes more humility and courage to ask for help than to refuse it.