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Chronic illnesses affect many, creating diminishment of physical ability and energy for life activities. There can be loss of agency, loss of one’s expected future, and a sharpened awareness of loss of life. There is a new need for conscious intention and reality-based decisions in order to avoid denial while adjusting to limitations and managing self-care. Deb, Lisa, and Joseph discuss emotional factors in the loss of the healthy, autonomous self –and the possibility of a profound shift in inner life. The blindness of mythological figures like Tiresias and Oedipus symbolized the development of inner vision; Jungian Harry Wilmer used active imagination to personify his tuberculosis bacteria. And Jung believed that chronic illness could serve the process of individuation.
In this latest dream, it was a massive, hard, dry poo that wouldn’t come out so I had to get my fingers in and stretch my skin around it to help it pass, thinking as I did about how it must be like giving birth and I understood why doctors cut the skin. The scene was back in the home I grew up in with my parents and brother who is 18 months older than me. In the dream, the toilet looked straight into the kitchen. Mum was in the kitchen the whole time encouraging me but not directly helping. Dad was in and out of the room aware of what I was dealing with but not getting involved. I think to myself, for a man who has always been so embarrassed by his own bodily functions, even that is an impressive level of involvement. Our neighbors over the fence – a house full of boys – could partially see and hear what was going on as well. When the poo finally passed my brother and Dad both came in to inspect it with me. It was the size and weight of a house brick and my brother was fascinated by it. He picked it up and took a photo of it and laughed a little bit with me about it. I didn’t otherwise find the situation funny but went along with him. Then there was still a small bit in there so I had to repeat the ordeal again to get rid of that too.
Edinger, Edward. Anatomy of the Psyche: Alchemical Symbolism in Psychotherapy.
Wilmer, Harry. Huber the Tuber: A Story of Tuberculosis