As much as we might work on ourselves, the phantoms of childhood and adolescence are always able to reappear. Feelings of abandonment, rejection, deprivation, and of not being seen, understood, appreciated,or desired may reemerge. We may feel those old pangs of jealousy, rage at others who are pursuing their own agendas when we want them to accommodate ours, low self-esteem about our appearance or other attributes, humiliated pride and self-pity. Sometimes others strike out at us, or neglect, or misunderstand us because they are caught by their own phantoms of childhood and adolescence, and their phantoms succeed in activating ours.
Somewhere there may be sages who have reached such permanent states of enlightenment that the shadows of childhood and adolescent emotions can no longer affect them, but I am not one of them. As much work as I do on myself there are still moments when those difficult feelings erupt, and the chain link fences of the old school yard once again seem to enclose me.
When those old feelings reemerge, and you are caught up in some new drama, ask yourself: When have I felt this way before? If you are honest with yourself, your answer will probably be: Many times. The phantoms would like your attention and energy to be bound up by the present drama, and do not want you pulling the curtain back on the old machinery of stagecraft which has been used to produce similar dramas in your past, and for others who lived and died before you were even born. You are not the first or the last person to be oppressed by shadows and phantoms.
When I am eclipsed by my old phantoms and dark feelings, it can feel as if no progress has been made, and that I'm back to where I was in childhood and adolescence. But this feeling is itself another phantom, because although the feelings haven't changed, I now have so many more inner resources with which to deal with them. If you are able to reflect on your feelings, to see the present drama in the context of other dramas, then you also have more inner resources than you possessed as a child or adolescent when you became the phantom feelings and had no distance from them at all. If you are able to name your feelings — rage, sadness, jealousy, etc. — then you have more power and inner resources to deal with them than most of our fellow mammals.
Begin by expressing compassion for yourself and the countless others who have been similarly eclipsed by dark feelings and thoughts. Bring mindfulness to the state of your agitated emotional body. Observe the changes in your body as the waves of emotion ebb and flow. When are the dark feelings peaking? When do they seem to subside a bit?
When phantom feelings powerfully reemerge, there are usually trigger events that stir them out of the murky depths of our personal unconscious. The phantoms would like to captivate our attention by keeping us focused only on the trigger events and the present drama. Often it will turn out that we very imprecisely saw the trigger event, because phantom feelings and thoughts so quickly emerged to distort and stereotype our powers of observation and empathy.
In composing this card, I worked through a present case of phantom thoughts and feelings. As I gained perspective from the trigger event, I saw that I had contributed to the phantom that at first seemed to come only from the other, blind-siding me. The turning point was an oracle consultation, in this case with the I Ching. I drew hexagram 59, "Dispersion," which is about dispersing hardened and alienated feelings. I'll close with some excerpts on Hexagram 59 from three excellent modern versions of the I Ching:
"The hexagram Huan comes to indicate that there are rigidity and harshness present, either in yourself or others, and that they should be dissolved now for the benefit of all. Whenever we fall into a negative state such as judgment, anger, fear, anxiety, or desire, our attitude becomes structured and inflexible. As long as we remain in this condition we cannot receive the assistance of the Higher Power. Therefore, if we wish for a return of good fortune now we must take steps to dissolve the hardness…employ music, prayer, meditation, a common project, or some other form of sacred concentration or ceremony to release the pent-up energy in yourself and others." (Brian Brown Walker, The I Ching or Book of Changes — A Guide to Life's Turning Points)
"Before you can tackle obstructions in your outer environment you must first look at the emotional blockages which isolate you from others. If you are holding on to anger or resentment, bring them out into the open. Light needs to be shed on areas of darkness or confusion. Do not bear grudges. They create obstacles to further progress, whereas forgiveness clears the air and opens the way forward. Try to be flexible and appreciate other people's point of view." (Sarah Dening, The Everyday I Ching)
"Dispersion refers to dissolving feelings and thoughts which lead to a rigid viewpoint, such as 'I'll never do this again…' Such thoughts lead to giving people up as hopeless and incapable of changing.
We experience such hardening thoughts when we have opened ourselves to others, only to find that they are less receptive than we anticipated. It is important to disperse or dissolve doubt, hurt feelings, or anger, to return to an unstructured, innocent, and independent attitude. Once our inner independence is restored, others will relate to us more sincerely…
We disperse egotism through gentleness rather than through brusqueness. We are gentle with ourselves, in spite of our errors, and we are gentle with others who suffer from the pressures of pride, alienation, and feelings of inferiority…"
"We also need to disperse feelings of hopelessness which would lead to breaking our ties to others. It is important to disperse the inferior element, whether it be doubt, fear of continuing to follow our path, anger, inner conflict such as 'Why are things this way,' or the temptation to lapse into indifference. This includes all emotional reactions and frustrations about the deficiencies of ourselves or others."
"This line also refers to rigid feelings that we must do something. When we feel pressured it means we are emotionally entangled. We need to step back, detach, and allow a new perception to break through."
"On realizing we have made such mistakes, rather than lapsing into despair or self-flagellation, we should hold firmly to what is correct and wait. With this attitude, the harm will be corrected and the tension will dissolve…" (Carol Anthony, A Guide to the I Ching)
Children and adolescents are in states of accelerated metamorphosis. Consider the occurrence of this card a propitious time to move through the phantoms of adolescence and childhood and accelerate your own metamorphosis.